Weekly Preview: Eastern Conference Final Shifts to Chicago
GENEVA, ILLINOIS - After two exciting and evenly-matched games, the best-of-five Eastern Conference Final between the Chicago Steel and Muskegon Lumberjacks now shifts to Fox Valley Ice Arena for Game 3 and Game 4 on Friday and Saturday night in Geneva.
Eastern Conference Final (Best-of-Five Series), All Times Central
Game 1: Chicago wins 5-4 (OT) RECAP / STATS
Game 2: Muskegon wins 3-2 RECAP / STATS
Game 3: Muskegon at Chicago - Friday, May 3 at 7:05 p.m. (Fox Valley Ice Arena)
Game 4: Muskegon at Chicago - Saturday, May 4 at 7:05 p.m. (Fox Valley Ice Arena)
Game 5*: Chicago at Muskegon - Monday, May 6 at 6:15 p.m. (L.C. Walker Arena)
The series has been very competitive with a pair of one-goal games deciding the first two meetings. In Game 1, the Lumberjacks led by two goals three different times but Chicago scored the final three goals of the game, including center Nick Abruzzese's overtime game winner to take the first game of the series. Center Josiah Slavin tied the game and forced overtime with just 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Both Abruzzese and Slavin scored a pair of goals in the contest while defenseman Matteo Pietroniro chipped in a trio of assists.
Game 2 was much the same as Chicago again played from behind for the majority of the game. Steel right wing Robert Mastrosimone leveled the score midway through the first period after the Lumberjacks opened the scoring 19 seconds into the game. Muskegon then struck later in the first and early in the second to open a 3-1 lead. Chicago left wing Gunnarwolfe Fontaine scored 22 seconds into the third to make it a one-goal game but Muskegon goaltender Brandon Bussi shut down the Steel comeback attempt as the Lumberjacks leveled the series heading to Chicago.
The goaltenders for each side were phenomenal in the first two games as each made critical saves in each game. Justin Robbins came up clutch for Chicago in Game 1, making key saves to keep the Steel within striking distance while Bussi made several highlight-reel stops in Game 2, including a breakaway save on Mastrosimone, thwarting a Chicago comeback attempt. During the postseason, Robbins is 4-2 with a 2.58 goals against average and .902 save percentage while Bussi is 4-2 with a 2.19 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
The teams met three times at Fox Valley Ice Arena during the regular season with Muskegon capturing two early-season wins (Oct. 19 and Nov. 3) before Chicago broke through with a 6-1 win on February 15. Abruzzese (1-3-4) and Mastrosimone (2-1-3) led the offense that night.
Abruzzese leads Chicago with 11 points (5-6-11) this postseason, currently first in the USHL. Mastrosimone is second in the league with 10 points (4-6-10) in six games. Forward Bobby Lynch leads Muskegon this postseason with nine points (2-7-9) in six games, which is currently tied for third in the USHL.
This series features several highly-touted prospects including Chicago Blackhawks draft picks Josiah Slavin (2018, Rd. 7, #193 overall) and Mikael Hakkarainen (2017, Rd. 5, #139 overall). The series will also feature five players on NHL Central Scouting's latest rankings (North American Skaters):
16. Egor Afanasyev Muskegon
36. Jackson LaCombe Chicago
53. Robert Mastrosimone Chicago
107. Alex Yakovenko Muskegon
122. Nick Abruzzese Chicago
The winner of the series will advance to the Clark Cup Final to face the winner of the Western Conference Final between the Tri-City Storm and Sioux Falls Stampede. Sioux Falls won Game 1 of the series 3-0 on Tuesday as Tri-City was shutout for the first time since February 2. Chicago last appeared in the Clark Cup Final in 2017, defeating Sioux City 3-2 in the best-of-five series to win its first championship. Muskegon appeared in its only Clark Cup Final in 2015 against Sioux Falls.
Single game tickets for Steel home games during the Eastern Conference Final are on sale now and may be purchased in person at the Steel Box Office during normal business hours, 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.
The group ticket minimum for Clark Cup Playoff games is just 10 people, and fans can check availability for the Budweiser Lounge and Steel Suites for playoff games by calling 855-51-STEEL.
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.
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United States Hockey League Stories from May 1, 2019
- Gameday Preview: Tri-City Hosts Sioux Falls for Game #2 of Western Conference Final - Tri-City Storm
- Weekly Preview: Eastern Conference Final Shifts to Chicago - Chicago Steel
- Stampede Blank Storm in Game 1 of Western Conference Final - Sioux Falls Stampede
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