( Photo Credit: Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Last night the United States Hockey Leagues Green Bay Gamblers beat the Chicago Steel by the score of 7-4 and continued the hot start to the 2020/21 regular season. With the victory last night, the Gamblers now have a 4-1-0-1 record on the year and sit in the top position in the USHL Eastern Conference. This was the third straight game Chicago and Green Bay did battle in as many days. The Steel handed the first regulation loss to the Gamblers 7-3 in the first matchup of the season on November 20th, 2020, lost to the Steel via a 4-3 shootout on November 21st, 2020, but Green Bay was home at the Resch Center last night and refused to be beaten a third time.

One of the bigger stories of last night’s game was the emergence of rookie Jackson Hallum who played his first game for the Gamblers stealing the show scoring three goals on four shots. Hallum wasn’t the only Green Bay player who made noise last night as the Gamblers continue to be the best team in the USHL in this early regular-season campaign. As noted in the title above, two Boston Bruins prospects below also had big nights mentioned below.

Mason Lohrei

( Photo Credit: Mason Lohrei / @Mason_lohrei20 )

The Boston Bruins second-round selection in the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft is playing in his second full season for the Gamblers and is off to a hot start. With a goal and an assist in last night’s 7-4 victory over the Steel, the former Culver Military Academy blueliner and Ohio State commit now has points in every game this season. In six games thus far this season, the 6′-4″ 204-pound defenseman had posted 3-5-8 numbers and so far in his development, making the naysayers think twice about his so called reach when the Bruins selected him with the 58th overall selection.

Last season in Mason’s USHL rookie year, the Verona, Wisconsin native posted 8-29-37 totals in 48 games. If the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t derail this 2020/21 regular season, Lohrei could easily have a career year and certainly be ready for his freshman season with Buckeye’s next year.

Having not known much about Lohrei before he was drafted by the Bruins and what I’ve seen in his first six games, I can say that he’s a solid work-in-progress for the NHL Bruins. His skating east to west for a bigger defenseman and crafty hands have been what’s most impressed me thus far. Mason has a long reach that he uses to his advantage and even though he might get beat on the wide side in the defensive zone, that reach is a serious weapon when the need to break up a play or create a disturbance to the opposition when needing offensive transition.

What I like about the selection of Mason was the projected timing of his NHL arrival. This is his second season in the USHL, and being a commit next year to the NCAA allows continued development as he works up the higher levels. As Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara has groomed the next ones such as Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, I look to Carlo and “Mac” to do the same for up comers Lohrei, Jack Ahcan, and Uhro Vaakanainen as the B’s defense continues to grow.

Jake Schmaltz

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Jake was selected in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2019 entry draft and is currently in his third season in the USHL, playing with his second team in the league. In his rookie season, he played for the Chicago Steel, where he posted 5-13-18 numbers in 60 games. In the 2019-20 regular season, Jake’s point production would double in his second season in the USHL, playing with a new team in Green Bay. Appearing in 47 games (13-19-32), and this season, the 19-year-old is off to a tremendous start along with his Gamblers club.

In six games this season, the 6′-1″ 170-pound forward has 5-3-8 numbers and offensively had his best game of the season, beating his former Chicago team 7-4. Schmaltz had 2-1-3 totals in last night’s victory and is currently on a five-game point streak where he has 4-4-8 numbers during that timeframe.

Schmaltz is certainly being given every opportunity to take a stranglehold on his development with the increased workload of Green Bay Head Coach Brock Sheahan. The University North Dakota commit next season has played on the top offensive line, on the first power play with teammate Lohrei operating the blue line, and the first line penalty kill. Jack, much like fellow Bruins prospect Lohrei is setting himself up for a career year in his final season of USHL action. Another giant step for the late-round draft pick as he gets set to join an NCAA North Dakota club head coached by Brad Berry, who’s been the bench boss for the last six seasons.

Schmaltz being a late-round selection and entering the NCAA as a freshman next season will certainly test the Bruins prospect and give more time for management and scout for evaluation. Regardless of how long he stays at the college level, I believe he and most young players under the umbrella of the organization should at least play a full season in the American Hockey League before making the NHL jump. I’m not saying Jake will definitely make his dream come true as an NHL player, but you have to be happy with his increased production as he continues to develop.

The next game on tap for the Green Bay Gamblers is set for this weekend on Friday November 27th, 2020, against the USHL Team USA at the Resch Center. The Gamblers did have a game scheduled for the following night against the Waterloo Black Hawks, but that contest has been postponed to a later date due to the Covid-19 concerns. If you want to view Friday night’s game against the Team USA game, please go to the HockeyTV subscription steaming platform for hundreds of hockey games from multiple levels of development for your viewing pleasure.