The Steel Deal: Steel headed to Clark Cup Final after thrilling overtime win


The Chicago Steel are Eastern Conference champions and headed to the Clark Cup Final for the second time in the last three seasons to face the Sioux Falls Stampede following a Gunnarwolfe Fontaine goal just 1:33 into overtime, last night at Fox Valley Ice Arena.

The Steel and Muskegon Lumberjacks fought a tightly contested battle in game four of the Clark Cup Eastern Conference Final. The teams played to a 0–0 deadlock after two periods until the third-period fireworks began.

Chicago opened the scoring on a Nick Abruzzese five-on-three power play goal, off a great feed from captain and power play quarterback Matteo Pietroniro, at the 5:25 mark of the period. The one-timer from the right circle narrowly eluded Muskegon goalie Brandon Bussi, who played a solid game, despite only seeing 16 Steel shots on net.

The Lumberjacks answered with a powerplay goal of their own from 2019 NHL draft prospect Egor Afanasyev assisted by Blackhawks prospect Mikael Hakkarainen. Afanasyev, the league’s 10th-leading scorer in the regular season, had been very quiet in the series before his goal.

The teams traded goals from Fontaine and Ryan Savage in the final 10 minutes, with the Lumberjacks tying the game with just 30 seconds remaining in regulation. As a result, the fans in Geneva, Illinois, were treated to overtime playoff hockey.

Fonataine was not finished with his big night just yet, though. While not giving up any shots on net in the overtime, the Steel pressured Muskegon hard with an intense forecheck from the drop of the puck. One minute and thirteen seconds into the extra time, Fontaine intercepted an errant rebound up the middle of the Muskegon zone and pushed the puck through two defenders. He set up his shot and snapped the puck past Bussi for the game (and series) winner.

While Fontaine, Robert Mastrosimone and Abruzzese grabbed the headlines on the scoresheets, goaltender Justin Robbins played his second straight stellar game in goal for the Steel. He saved 65 of 68 shots (.955 save percentage) on net in games three and four. In games one and two, Robbins stopped 64 of 71 shots (.901 save percentage).

With the win, Chicago will travel to face the Western Conference Champion Sioux Falls Stampede in the best-of-five series beginning Friday, May 10 and will return to the Fox Valley Ice Arena for Game 3 on Friday, May 17 and Game 4, if necessary, on Saturday, May 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 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.

Center Ice Forums The Steel Deal: Steel headed to Clark Cup Final after thrilling OT win

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    Jeff Osborn

    The Chicago Steel are Eastern Conference Champs and headed to the Clark Cup Final for the second time in the last three seasons to face the Sioux Fall[To continue reading full article, click here: The Steel Deal: Steel headed to Clark Cup Final after thrilling OT win]

    @PuckinHostile on Twitter

    Mister Ricochet

    Exciting series, exciting playoffs and exciting times for the Steel and their fans.  The Mighty Steel have now made the playoffs 3 yrs in a row, made the conference finals 2 of the last 3 yrs and won the Clark Cup 2 yrs ago.  The 3 consecutive yrs in the playoffs is a record for them and this was on the heals of not making the playoffs for 8 straight yrs.  …….. The strong 3 yr run coincides with Larry Robbins buying the club.  They’ve been a USHL cornerstone franchise, small sample size I know, since Robbins bought them.

    Steel knock off #1 seed Muskegon 3 games to 1 splitting 2 games at Muskegon and holding court at home winning 2.  3 of the 4 games were decided by a goal.  Of those 4 games 2 went to OT with the goal scored in regulation to send it to extra frames coming at 19:57 and 19:31 of the 3rd. …… Exciting by any measure.

    I think it’s safe to say that the #1 question coming into the playoffs for the Steel was goaltender Justin Robbins but the kid has answered the bell in a big way.  He outplayed Pietela of Cedar Rapids (#2 goalie on the USA Ivan Hlinka squad) and Bussi who led all goalies in regular season wins and 3rd in save percentage……. That’s good, real good and simply said the Steel are not in the Finals without his strong play.   The 3rd period of Game 3 being his best when he kicked out 18 shots with the Steel holding a 3-1 lead in what ended a 4-1 Steel win, the only game in the series not decided by 1 goal.

    Now they face the Sioux Falls Stampede for all the marbles who lead the league in attendance averaging 6 thousand fans, so the Steel will enter a wild atmosphere having to win a least a game there to win the cup.

    I’ll add a thought when there is a series preview but wanna say this is a fantastic squad that has emerged without the benefit of a bye in rd 1, as the Steel had.   They swept Sioux City 2-0 (including a 4 OT game) and then beat 600+ win PK O’Handley’s Waterloo Black Hawks 3 games to 1 with two of those games going to OT.  Then they won the conference title by beating Anderson Cup champs (most points), and the favorites to win it all, Tri City Storm, in a dominating sweep of 3 games to none. The scores were 3-0, 4-1 and 3-2. They did this short anywhere between 2 and 3 of their top 6 due to in jury and suspension …….. The Storm dominated league awards with Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year but were swept by the Stampede.

    I’ve watched every one of their playoff games and their stretch run going into the playoffs and posted in their first series this team reminds me of the 2016 Steel cup team, a LOT.  The Steel went into the playoffs that yr with their top scorer ranking 16th in league points.  The Stampede’s leading scorer this yr is a Russian named Ivanyuzhenkov ranking TWENTY EIGHT in regular season league points!!

    This team is a bought in, 4 lines deep, positionally excellent, best net minder of the playoffs and well coached club that is a near image of the 2016 Steel cup team.

    Next Friday can’t get here quick enough.

    Jeff Osborn

    great stuff, Rico!   Was great to be part of this weekend’s celebration.

    @PuckinHostile on Twitter

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