Weekly Preview: Critical Road Weekend Awaits Steel
GENEVA, ILLINOIS - In the midst of an ultra-tight Eastern Conference race for a First Round bye, the Chicago Steel will play a pair of games away from Fox Valley Ice Arena this weekend as the team takes on the Waterloo Black Hawks on Friday and Dubuque Fighting Saints on Saturday in a pair of 7:05 p.m. face offs. This weekend's games will have a large impact on the standings heading into the Clark Cup Playoffs as the Steel are currently in second place with the top two teams earning a First Round bye.
Chicago (34-20-4-0, 72 pts.) enters the weekend having earned points in six of its last seven games and currently hold a one-point lead on both the Youngstown Phantoms and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the Eastern Conference. The Steel and Phantoms have four games remaining while the RoughRiders have five. Team USA currently sits in fifth place with 68 points and five games remaining.
Waterloo (36-15-5-2, 79 pts.) is also battling in its conference as the Black Hawks are currently tied for second place with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the Western Conference. The Black Hawks have taken both games against the Steel this season, including a 7-5 barn burner at Fox Valley Ice Arena last Saturday. This is the final meeting of the regular season between the teams and the first at Young Arena. Waterloo has taken the last four meetings on home ice as the Steel will search for their first road victory over the Black Hawks since October 11, 2014.
Chicago has had three players register a point in both games against Waterloo this season including defenseman Matteo Pietroniro (1-2-3) and forwards Neil Shea (0-3-3) and Adam Robbins (1-1-2). Forward Robert Mastrosimone had a goal and assist last time these teams met on March 30 after missing the first matchup of the season.
Waterloo has had five different players on the scoresheet in both matchups with the Steel this season including forwards Emil Ã-hrvall (1-2-3), Vladislav Firstov (2-1-3), Kyle Haskins (2-1-3), Ryan Drkulec (1-1-2), and Xander Lampaa (0-2-2). Ã-hrvall leads the Black Hawks with 63 points (31-32-63) this season while Firstov's 55 points (24-31-55) is tied for first in the USHL among rookie skaters.
Saturday night will be the fourth and final regular season meeting between the Steel and the sixth-place Dubuque Fighting Saints (26-24-4-4, 60 pts.). The home team has won all three previous games, including Dubuque's 5-3 win to start the season series on March 1 at Mystique Ice Center.
Chicago will turn to Mastrosimone, who has six points (3-3-6) in three games against the Fighting Saints this season, including a goal in all three games. Pietroniro (2-1-3) and forward Nick Abruzzese (0-4-4) have also appeared on the scoresheet in all three meetings. Shea missed the first matchup but registered a point in the last two meetings (1-2-3).
The Steel will need to slow down the line of Ty Jackson, Dylan Jackson and Riese Gaber, who all registered at least a point in all three meetings this season. Gaber (4-1-5) has a goal in every game while T. Jackson (1-5-6) and D. Jackson (0-4-4) have chipped in at least one helper in each of the three meetings. Team leading scorer Matias Maccelli (27-40-67) has scored a goal every time he's faced Chicago this season and his 67 points is third in league scoring.
Chicago returns to Fox Valley Ice Arena for the regular season home finale on Friday, April 12 for Fan Appreciation Night as the team squares off with the Central Illinois Flying Aces at 7:05 p.m. The Steel are prepared to give away hundreds of items including prizes for Steel goals, silent auction items and much more.
Bidding is now available online HERE for the team's End of Season Jersey Auction featuring game-worn black jerseys from the 2018-2019 season. Bidding will conclude at 12:00 p.m. April 15 and is housed online to ensure all fans have the opportunity to bid on a jersey for future stars of college and NHL hockey. Winners will receive e-mail confirmation at the end of the Steel season with information about when your jersey is available or will be shipped following the conclusion of the team's playoff run.
Tickets for Fan Appreciation Night are on sale now starting at just $10 and stadium seating on the glass is available for just $20. Parking is always free.
Information regarding single game tickets for the 2019 Clark Cup Playoffs will be released later this week.
* Steel forward Nick Abruzzese currently leads the USHL with 76 points (27-49-76), five more than any other player. The Harvard University commit would be just the second Chicago player to win the single-season scoring race after forward Andrew Miller did so in 2008-2009 with 82 points. Abruzzese needs six points in the final four games to match the greatest scoring season in franchise history. He is currently third in Steel career points (112) and assists (72) and needs just one assist to match the best single-season mark in franchise history (50). Abruzzese has 24 points (7-17-24) in 16 games this season against the final four opponents this season (Waterloo, Dubuque, Central Illinois Flying Aces, Muskegon Lumberjacks). * Abruzzese (2-1-3) is one of five players on individual two-game point streaks as are Mastrosimone (2-2-4), Shea (1-2-3), Pietroniro (1-2-3) and forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine (1-2-3). * Chicago has yet to play in a shootout this season. No Steel team in the Tier 1 era has ever gone an entire season without a shootout and Chicago is the only team this season to not participate in a shootout. The last two Steel seasons have featured a shootout in the team's final regular season game. The franchise low for shootouts in a season was one in the 2014-2015 season. * The Steel are currently the least penalized team in the USHL with 582 penalty minutes this season, an average of 10.03 penalty minutes per game. In 12 games in March, Chicago was called for 68 penalty minutes (5.67 per game) including none on March 1 at Dubuque. The Steel did not tally more than 10 penalty minutes in a single game in the month.
MEET THE OPPONENTS:
* Chicago starts the weekend against the Waterloo Black Hawks (36-15-5-2, 79 pts.) on Friday, April 5 for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop at Young Arena. * Forward Emil Ã-hrvall (31-32-63) leads Waterloo with 63 points this season including three points (1-2-3) against Chicago. * Waterloo has a trio of formidable goaltenders as Jared Moe (2.78), Logan Stein (2.81) and Evan Fear (3.02) are 9th, 10th and 13th, respectively, in USHL goals against average rankings. Moe (.907) has the 7th best save percentage in the league while Fear (.906) is tied for 8th and Stein (.893) is 15th. * The Steel and Dubuque Fighting Saints (26-24-4-4, 60 pts.) close the weekend for a pivotal Eastern Conference standings matchup at 7:05 p.m. at Mystique Ice Arena. * Forward Matias Maccelli (27-40-67) leads Dubuque with 67 points and is third in the USHL for total points this season. The Finnish forward scored a goal in all three meetings against Chicago this season. * Goaltender Matthew Thiessen is 17-17-4-4 in 45 appearances this season with a 3.11 goals against average and .883 save percentage.
Wednesday, March 27 at Cedar Rapids, OTL, 0-1
Friday, March 29 vs. Madison Capitols, OTL, 4-5
Saturday, March 30 vs. Waterloo Black Hawks, L, 5-7
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