Series Preview: Clark Cup Final
GENEVA, ILLINOIS - The Chicago Steel are set to meet the Sioux Falls Stampede in the franchise's second Clark Cup Final in its 19-year existence. Western Conference Champion Sioux Falls will host Games 1 and 2 before the best-of-five Final shifts to Chicago for the Eastern Conference Champion Steel to host Game 3 on Friday, May 17 and Game 4 on Saturday, May 18, if necessary. If a Game 5 is needed, it would be played Tuesday, May 21 in Sioux Falls.
Sioux Falls earned home ice advantage in the Clark Cup Final with 85 regular season points in the standings compared to 78 for Chicago.
Clark Cup Final (Best-of-Five Series)
Game 1: Chicago at Sioux Falls - Friday, May 10 at 7:05 p.m. (Denny Sanford PREMIER Center)
Game 2: Chicago at Sioux Falls - Sunday, May 12 at 5:05 p.m. (Denny Sanford PREMIER Center)
Game 3: Sioux Falls at Chicago - Friday, May 17 at 7:05 p.m. (Fox Valley Ice Arena)
Game 4*: Sioux Falls at Chicago - Saturday, May 18 at 7:05 p.m. (Fox Valley Ice Arena)
Game 5*: Chicago at Sioux Falls - Tuesday, May 21 at 7:05 p.m. (Denny Sanford PREMIER Center)
Single game tickets for Clark Cup Final home games are on sale now and may be purchased in person at the Steel Box Office, by phone at 855-51-STEEL or online at ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com. Tickets start at just $10 and fans can catch the action up close with seats on the glass available for just $20. The group ticket minimum for Clark Cup Final home games is just 10 people, and the Budweiser Lounge and Steel Suites are available for Clark Cup Final games by calling 855-51-STEEL.
Chicago and Sioux Falls have never met in the Clark Cup Playoffs and both are looking for their second Clark Cup Championship in recent history. Chicago won its only other Clark Cup Championship in 2016-17 while the latest Sioux Falls Championship was in the 2014-2015 season and its first was in 2006-2007.
Chicago's (37-21-4-0, 78 pts. regular season) path to the Clark Cup Final as the No. 2 seed included a First Round bye followed by a pair of 3 games to 1 series victories, first over No. 4 seed Cedar Rapids in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before the victory over top seed Muskegon in the Conference Final.
Sioux Falls (39-16-5-2, 85 pts. regular season) finished third in the Western Conference during the regular season and swept Sioux City in the best-of-three First Round series that included a four-overtime contest. The Stampede then defeated the No. 2 seed Waterloo 3 games to 1 before sweeping top seed and Anderson Cup Champion Tri-City in the Western Conference Final.
Sioux Falls took both meetings during the regular season as each of the offenses exploded for a combined 25 goals in two games. The Stampede won 8-6 at home on February 8 before coming to Fox Valley Ice Arena for a 7-4 win exactly one month later.
The February 8 meeting was a back-and-forth battle as each team led twice in the first two periods and entered the third period tied 3-3. The final frame was a scoring frenzy as the teams combined for eight goals including three in a row from Sioux Falls to seal the victory. Forward Andre Lee recorded a hat trick (3-1-4) in the win for the Stampede while Steel forward Nick Abruzzese scored twice (2-0-2) and forward Mathieu De St. Phalle collected a trio of assists.
The March 8 contest started with a pair of Chicago goals 2:23 apart early in the first period, but it was all Sioux Falls from there. The Stampede answered back with six straight goals including three on the powerplay. The Steel clawed back with a pair of powerplay goals early in the third to make it 6-4, but an empty-net goal from Stampede forward Artem Ivanyuzhenkov sealed the 7-4 win.
Ivanyuzhenkov was lethal against the Steel, picking up five points (2-3-5) in the regular season meetings while Lee (3-1-4) and forwards Anthony Romano (2-2-4) and Ethan Phillips (2-2-4) trailed closely behind. Chicago's De St. Phalle led the way for the Steel with four points (0-4-4) while Abruzzese (2-1-3) and forward Robert Mastrosimone (2-1-3) each picked up a pair of goals in the series. Ivanyuzhenkov has been suspended for Game 1 of the Clark Cup Final, the second game of a two-game penalty due to a kneeing infraction committed in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
Abruzzese (7-6-13) and Mastrosimone (6-7-13) are currently tied for the USHL lead with 13 points in eight postseason games. Sioux Falls defenseman Max Crozier is just behind the Chicago duo with 10 points (3-7-10) in nine games this postseason as he is currently third in the league while leading the Stampede in scoring.
Both starting goaltenders have been stellar in the postseason. Justin Robbins has backstopped the Steel with a 6-2 record, 2.31 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Sioux Falls netminder Jaxson Stauber is 8-1 with a league-best 1.49 goals against average and .943 save percentage. Stauber split time in net during the regular season with Alec Calvaruso who was injured on April 6 and has not played since.
KEYS TO THE SERIES:
* Abruzzese and Mastrosimone Firing On All Cylinders: * The Chicago offensive duo are currently tied for the USHL lead with 13 points each through eight games this postseason. Abruzzese (7-6-13) leads the league with seven goals while Mastrosimone (6-7-13) is tied for second in the USHL with seven assists, behind just Chicago defenseman Matteo Pietroniro. * Abruzzese and Mastrosimone are also both currently tied for the franchise lead for career playoff points with 17. Both are tied for second with eight career playoff goals and tied for fifth with nine career playoff assists. * Goalie Duel: * Both starting netminders have been phenomenal for their teams in getting them to the Clark Cup Final. Chicago's Justin Robbins is 6-2 this postseason with a 2.31 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Sioux Falls' Jaxson Stauber is 8-1 with a league-best mark for both goals against average (1.49) and save percentage (.943). * Both will look to rebound from a forgettable regular season head-to-head performances as Stauber won both matchups but had a 4.92 goals against average and .839 save percentage. Robbins was saddled with both losses, a 7.83 goals against average and .647 save percentage in a pair of games that featured 25 goals combined between the teams. * Break the Two-Goal Barrier: * Sioux Falls is 8-1 this postseason with their lone loss coming in the only game they allowed more than two goals (6-0 at Waterloo). Sioux Falls has allowed two goals four times, one goal three times and Stauber shutout Anderson Cup winning Tri-City (April 30). * Chicago has only scored less than three goals once in eight games this postseason run (2-3 at Muskegon). * Backend Scoring: * Sioux Falls defenseman Max Crozier leads his team with 10 points (3-7-10) and is one of only three players this Clark Cup Playoffs with a double-digit point total. Pietroniro is just behind Crozier with nine points (1-8-9) including a league-leading eight assists in eight games. The Steel have four other defensemen who have three-or-more points this postseason including John Spetz (2-2-4), Jimmy Dowd (0-4-4), Uula Ruikka (2-1-3) and Luke Reid (0-3-3). The Stampede's Ryan Johnson (1-4-5) and Matt Kessel (1-2-3) have also added offense from the blue line through the team's nine games. * Pietroniro has 11 career points in the Clark Cup Playoffs, which is second in franchise history, and his nine assists is third. He and Uula Ruikka are two of only four Steel defensemen with multiple Playoffs goals in franchise history. * One-Goal Games: * Chicago has split their one-goal games (2-2) this postseason while Sioux Falls is a perfect 5-0. In one-goal games during the regular season, Chicago was 12-3-4-0 while Sioux Falls tied for the most wins (17) while amassing a 17-3-5-2 record. * Special Teams Play: * Both team's postseason special teams numbers have palled in comparison to their respective regular season numbers and could prove a difference maker in the Clark Cup Final. Chicago finished the regular season with the second-best powerplay unit (24.6) while Sioux Falls finished sixth (21.3). In the postseason, the teams are sixth (16.1) and ninth (11.5), respectively among the 12 playoff qualifiers. Sioux Falls had the seventh-best penalty kill unit during the regular season (81.4) while Chicago finished 12th (78.6). Both teams have struggled on the penalty kill during the playoffs as they are ninth (80.5) and 11th (75.9), respectively. * Chicago has registered a powerplay goal in each of its last five games after an 0-for-9 start to the Playoffs. The Steel penalty killers have also been better after a rough start as they are 9-for-10 in the last three games. Chicago has been stellar (19-for-21) outside of an 0-for-2 performance in Game 2 against Cedar Rapids and 3-for-6 outing in Game 1 against Muskegon. * Home Ice Advantage: * The Stampede are a perfect 5-0 on home ice this postseason at Denny Sanford PREMIER Center after finishing an impressive 23-5-1-1 at home during the regular season. Sioux Falls led the USHL in attendance for the fifth consecutive season, averaging 6,360 fans per game. Chicago is 3-1 at Fox Valley Ice Arena during the playoffs after going 19-9-2-0 during the regular season.
All Steel games are broadcast live on HockeyTV (video) and mixlr.com/chicago-steel (free audio).
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.
• Discuss this story on the United States Hockey League message board...
United States Hockey League Stories from May 8, 2019
- Series Preview: Clark Cup Final - Chicago Steel
- Former Defenseman Kivihalme Signs with Toronto Maple Leafs - Fargo Force
- Former Defenseman Kivihalme Signs with Toronto Maple Leafs - Fargo Force
- Stampede to Blue out PREMIER Center Friday Night - Sioux Falls Stampede