Weekly Preview: Collectable Snow Globe Giveaway Highlights Stellar Home Weekend
GENEVA, ILLINOIS - The Chicago Steel will put their franchise record 13-game home winning streak on the line as they host a pair of pivotal conference matchups this weekend against the Eastern Conference-leading Muskegon Lumberjacks on Friday and NHL prospects-filled Team USA U18 on Saturday. The games will not only feature great on-ice action, but also a pair of fantastic promotions including Military Appreciation/Hometown Heroes Night on Friday and a collectable Rusty Snow Globe giveaway on Saturday. Both games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. faceoffs.
Friday is Military Appreciation/Hometown Heroes Night at Fox Valley Ice Arena as all active and retired military, as well as any first responders, are invited to the game with a complimentary ticket. Discounted tickets are available for any family or friends who also attend the game. Saturday's Snow Globe Giveaway is a must-have for any Steel fan as it features mascot Rusty playing hockey atop a puck with "Steel" on the front and his name emblazoned on the back. The unique collectable is available to the first 500 fans in attendance Saturday night.
Tickets for all Steel home games are on sale now starting at just $10 and stadium seating on the glass is available for just $20. Parking is always free. The Steel offer discounted tickets for groups.
Chicago (26-14-1-0, 53 pts.) enters the weekend second in the Eastern Conference, 10 points behind the conference-leading Muskegon Lumberjacks (30-9-2-1, 63 pts.) on Friday night. The Lumberjacks have taken all four of the matchups this season with the last matchup being a New Year's Eve 2-0 thrill in Muskegon. Friday's matchup will feature the highest scoring teams in the league (Muskegon - 168, Chicago - 161).
The Steel have been led offensively by center Nick Abruzzese (1-3-4) and defenseman Matteo Pietroniro (2-2-4) who each have four points in four games against the Lumberjacks this season. Abruzzese comes into the weekend as the USHL leader in points with 54 (18-36-54) and is the reigning USHL Forward of the Week after a five-point weekend Feb. 8 and 9. The Harvard University commit is currently riding a three-game point streak (2-4-6) and has a point in seven of his last eight games (5-7-12). Pietroniro is currently third among USHL defensemen with 33 points (14-19-33) and his 14 goals is also third amongst blueliners.
Muskegon's high-octane offense has been a well-rounded attack this season as four players have five points against the Steel, including forwards Egor Afanasyev, Bobby Lynch, Mikael Hakkarainen and Colby Bukes. Afanasyev leads the team with 44 points (20-24-44) and has recorded a pair of multi-point games against Chicago this season. Lynch is tied for 11th with 42 points (15-27-42) while Hakkarainen is tied for 14th with 39 points (14-25-39) this season. Bukes is the only player to score in all four games against Chicago and he currently has 28 points (4-24-28) on the year. The Lumberjacks will also look to the backend for scoring as defenseman Alex Yakovenko currently leads USHL blueliners with 42 points (17-25-42) this season.
Saturday's matchup comes against Team USA U18 (16-13-2-3, 37 pts.) and a roster that features many top NHL prospects for the 2019 Draft including possible No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes. Chicago and Team USA U18 battled to a 5-4 final on February 1 at USA Hockey Arena as Team USA came out victorious in the lone matchup of the season thus far. Chicago tied the game early in the third as forward Josiah Slavin scored his second goal of the night but USA defenseman Alex Vlasic found the eventual game winner midway through the final frame.
Team USA was led by forward Danny Weight who had a pair of goals and an assist in the lone matchup. The Steel got goals from forwards Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Neil Shea in addition to Slavin's pair.
* Chicago forward Nick Abruzzese enters the weekend as the USHL leader in points with 54 points (18-36-54) in 41 games this season. His 1.32 points per game is third among USHL scorers with 20-or-more games. The Harvard University commit was named USHL Forward of the Week on Monday for the second time this season.
* Goaltending will be pivotal for the Steel this weekend against a pair of very talented offensive teams. Justin Robbins has won eight of his last nine games but was saddled with three of the four losses against Muskegon this season. Reilly Herbst enters the game with a combined .903 save percentage and 3.07 goals against average in three combined games against this weekend's opponents despite an 0-2-0-0 record.
* Josiah Slavin has seven points (4-3-7) in six games since being acquired by Chicago last month. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect scored a pair of goals against Saturday's opponent, Team USA U18, on February 1 in just his third game with the team.
* Forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine enters the weekend on a nine-game point streak that has seen him collect 12 points (8-4-12) since January 18. The RPI commit has also scored a goal in each of his last four games (5-2-7) and has 11 goals in his last 11 games.
* Active point streaks entering this weekend include Fontaine (9 games, 8-4-12), Robert Mastrosimone (8 games, 5-6-11), Mathieu De St. Phalle (6 games, 1-9-10), Abruzzese (3 games, 2-4-6), and Cole Quisenberry (3 games, 0-3-3).
* Defenseman Luke Reid has an assist in six of the last nine games and now has 11 assists this season.
* Forward Josh Groll returns to the Steel lineup after earning third place with Team USA in Russia at the 2019 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament. The University of Michigan commit has 11 points (6-5-11) this season for the Steel.
MEET THE OPPONENT:
* Chicago host Eastern Conference leader Muskegon (30-9-2-1, 63 pts.) on Friday for Military Appreciation/Hometown Heroes night at 7:05 at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
* Muskegon has won the first four matchups this season including a pair of shutouts.
* Forward Egor Afanasyev leads the Lumberjacks with 44 points (20-24-44) this season including five points (2-3-5) against the Steel. The Michigan State University commit has a goal in each of his last two games.
* Goaltender Brandon Bussi is third among USHL goaltenders this season with a 2.37 goals against average and .920 save percentage. The Western Michigan University commit has backstopped all four wins against Chicago this season and has a 1.26 goals against average and .945 save percentage against the Steel.
* The Steel close the weekend with a Saturday night matchup with Team USA U18 (16-14-2-3, 37 pts.) as Team USA is currently tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
* Team USA U18 has not played since the last meeting with Chicago as the U18 squad traveled to Russia for the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament. Team USA U18 is currently 12-2-1-0 this season and has won its last five games.
* Forward Trevor Zegras currently leads the team with 22 points (6-16-22) in 14 USHL games this season.
* Goaltenders Spencer Knight and Cameron Rowe have split time for Team USA U18 this season. Knight, a Boston University commit, has a 6-1-0-0 record with a 2.17 goals against average and .923 save percentage. Rowe, committed to University of North Dakota, holds a 6-1-1-0 record in 11 appearances with a 3.14 goals against average and .890 save percentage.
Friday, Feb. 8 at Sioux Falls, L, 6-8 RECAP / STATS
Saturday, Feb. 9 at Sioux City, W, 5-3 RECAP / STATS
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.
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