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Steel Open First Round of Playoffs against Gamblers

April 15, 2024 - United States Hockey League (USHL)
Chicago Steel News Release

GENEVA, ILLINOIS - After mounting an in-season turnaround after losing ten of their first 11 games, the Steel will begin their quest for their third Clark Cup Monday night after qualifying for the playoffs for the eighth straight season, taking on the Green Bay Gamblers in a best-of-three First Round series with the entire series taking place at Resch Center in Green Bay, WI.

The Steel are the #6 seed, while Green Bay dropped to the #3 spot Saturday following its final regular season game.

This marks the first time the Steel and the Gamblers will meet in postseason play.

Series Schedule: First Round (best-of-three series) #6 Steel at #3 Green Bay Game 1: Steel at Green Bay, Monday, April 15, 7:05 pm Game 2: Steel at Green Bay, Tuesday, April 16, 7:05 pm Game 3: Steel at Green Bay, Wednesday, April 17, 7:05 pm (if necessary)

The winner of this series will advance to take on #2 Muskegon in a best-of-five Eastern Conference Semifinal series starting April 20.

At the halfway point of the season, the Steel sat in last place with a 10-17-1-2 record. Since then, the Steel went 17-11-2-2 to finish the season.

The last time the Steel were a #6 seed in the playoffs was the 2017-18 season where they defeated Muskegon 2-1 in a best-of-three First Round Series before falling to USA Hockey NTDP in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Prior to the final two games of the regular season in which the club rested many of its most experienced players, Chicago had won six of its last ten games, clinching the final playoff spot in the East on April 5 following a 4-3 shootout win over Dubuque.

Green Bay has lost four consecutive games, including the season finale Saturday that dropped them to the #3 seed.

The Steel finished last season as the #1 seed, earning a First Round bye before sweeping the Dubuque Fighting Saints 2-0 in the best-of-three Eastern Conference Semifinals. Chicago advanced to the best-of-five Eastern Conference Final and fell to the eventual Clark Cup champions, the Youngstown Phantoms, 3-1.

Green Bay was the #4 seed last season and hosted Dubuque for a best-of-three First Round series. The Gamblers won the opening game but lost the final two games of the series.

This season, Chicago played Green Bay better than any of its other conference opponents during the regular season, finishing with a 6-2-0-1 record in head-to-head play. On the road, the Steel lost just once (4-1-0-0) at Resch Center, scoring at least four goals in each matchup.

The teams split their final regular season series on March 29 and 30, with Green Bay getting its only win against Chicago on home ice after scoring the winning goal with eight seconds left in regulation. The Steel responded with a 5-4 overtime win the following night.

Chicago's top-producing line of Michael Hage, Charlie Major, and Mick Thompson were one of the top lines in the league this season, with each player ranking inside the USHL top 20 in scoring. The trio combined for 208 points, with Hage blazing the path with 75 points (33G-42A) in 54 games, the fifth-most points in the league. His 33 goals ranked sixth and his 42 assists were tied for tenth. The Michigan commit scored at a 1.39 points per game clip, sixth-best in the USHL.

In his final 17 games of the regular season, Hage tallied a point in all but two of them. Nine of those games were multi-point performances.

Major finished close behind Hage in scoring, wrapping his second season with the Steel with 70 points (30G, 40A), ninth-most in the league. Major registered 14 points last season with the Steel. Only nine players in the USHL surpassed 70 points this season. Thompson finished his third and final season with the Steel with his best campaign yet, recording 63 points (24G, 39A) in 54 games. He ended the season with a team-best +24 rating.

Hage and Thompson excelled against the Gamblers this season. Thompson scored in all nine games played with five goals, six assists, and a +6 rating, while Hage recorded 17 points (7G-10A) in head-to-head play.

Another crucial piece to Chicago's run has been the play from its goaltenders. Quentin Sigurdson, who was acquired by the Steel on Feb. 6, won four of his last five starts with one of them coming against Green Bay He allowed three goals or fewer in each of his last four wins. In his win at the Gamblers on March 13, Sigurdson stopped 34 of 36 shots, his second-best performance in his eight starts with Chicago. He finished the season with a 5-3-0-0 record, .896 save percentage and 3.11 goals against average.

Louka Cloutier finished third among league goaltenders in save percentage (.904) while seeing the fourth-most shots in the league (1,262). He played the ninth-most minutes (1,973) and helped the Steel earn a point in eight consecutive starts from Jan. 6 to Feb. 2.

Gamblers forward Julian Lutz led Green Bay in scoring and finished as the 11th-highest scorer in the league with 68 points (24G-44A). He had the longest point streak in the USHL this season at 17 consecutive games spanning from Dec. 1 to March 1 with 30 points and 10 goals. He had two goals and six assists in seven games against the Steel this season.

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Adam Gajan reigns as one of the leading netminders in USHL play this season. He finished with 43 games played, third-most in the league, and played 2,509 minutes, also the third-most among goaltenders. The Slovakian netminder finished the season with 23 wins to just 12 regulation losses, along with six overtime/shootout losses.

Gajan played in eight of the nine matchups against the Steel and was dominant in the first four starts, posting a .920 save percentage, 2.83 goals against average, and a 1-0-1-1 record. In his last four outings against Chicago, Gajan went 1-1-1-1 with a .814 save percentage and 3.99 goals against average.

Group tickets and experiences are on sale now for potential Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff home games.

Season ticket plans for the 2024-2025 season are now on sale starting at just 5 games for just $50. As part of the team's "Ticket Plan Madness" campaign, for a limited time, fans that secure a new season ticket plan for next season may receive complimentary tickets for playoff games this season.

For more information, call 855-51-STEEL.

Chicago Steel Upcoming Schedule presented by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:

First Round (best-of-three series) #6 Steel at #3 Green Bay

Game 1: Chicago at Green Bay, Monday, April 15, 7:05 pm

Game 2: Chicago at Green Bay, Tuesday, April 16, 7:05 pm

Game 3: Chicago at Green Bay, Wednesday, April 17, 7:05 pm (if necessary)

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