Steel Win in Overtime, Advance to Clark Cup Final
GENEVA, ILLINOIS - Chicago Steel left wing Gunnarwolfe Fontaine scored 73 seconds into overtime to close out a wild Game 4 and Eastern Conference Final as the Steel defeated the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3-2 Saturday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena. The win sends the Steel to their second Clark Cup Final in the past three seasons as Chicago defeated Muskegon 3 games to 1 to become Eastern Conference Champions.
The teams played a very tight first period with both goaltenders coming up with big saves to keep things scoreless after 20 minutes of play. One of Chicago goaltender Justin Robbins' eight saves in the first period came early in the first period when he denied a breakaway chance for Muskegon forward Alex Gaffney. Robbins was also helped by Steel center Nick Abruzzese who sacrificed the body to deny a Lumberjacks chance midway through the period. Muskegon's netminder Brandon Bussi also came up big for his team, turning aside some of Chicago's best shooters including a wide open shot in the slot from defenseman Matteo Pietroniro.
A late powerplay for Chicago nearly resulted in the first goal of the game but Pietroniro's shot rang off the post to Bussi's blocker side.
The second period was controlled by Muskegon, who outshot Chicago 11-1 in the middle frame, including 3:50 of consecutive powerplay time for the visitors. The Steel killed off 1:50 of the first call against before a second penalty call gave the Lumberjacks 10 seconds of 5-on-3 time. Muskegon was established in the offensive zone for much of the second powerplay chance but only registered one shot on goal. Steel defenseman John Spetz broke up what would could have been the first goal of the game as Robbins made the initial save before he lost the puck trickling to his left but Spetz dove to break up a wide open net chance for the Lumberjacks.
The scoring opened in the third as each team's powerplay generated a goal. Steel center Nick Abruzzese opened the scoring as he finished off a beautiful pass from Pietroniro on a 5-on-3 advantage. After a call against Chicago, Muskegon answered back just less than two minutes later as forward Egor Afanasyev tipped home a feed from forward Mikael Hakkararinen to level the score 7:15 into the third period.
Chicago regained its lead midway through the third when a point shot from Fontaine flew past a streaking Uula Ruikka and past the glove of an unsuspecting Bussi with under nine minutes to play.
The lead lasted until Muskegon forward Ryan Savage struck for the tying goal with the extra attacker with just 29 seconds remaining in the game. Muskegon was swarming the net in the final minutes and finally snuck the late equalizer past Robbins during a net-front scramble.
Robbins again came up big for Chicago stopping 30 of 32 shots to earn his sixth postseason victory.
With the win, Chicago has advanced to its second Clark Cup Final in the last three seasons and will face the Western Conference Champion Sioux Falls Stampede in the best-of-five series. The series will begin Friday, May 10 before returning to the Fox Valley Ice Arena for Game 3 on Friday, March 17 and Game 4, if necessary, on Saturday, March 18.
Clark Cup Final tickets will go on sale Tuesday, May 7 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 Playoff games is just 10 people, and the Budweiser Lounge and Steel Suites are available for playoff games by calling 855-51-STEEL.
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United States Hockey League Stories from May 5, 2019
- Steel Win in Overtime, Advance to Clark Cup Final - Chicago Steel
- Late Heroics Not Enough, Jacks Ousted by Steel in East Final - Muskegon Lumberjacks