The Chicago Steel sealed their fate with an overtime goal last Saturday night, defeating the Muskegon Lumberjacks in four games to claim the Eastern Conference Championship title and secure a spot in the Clark Cup Final. Tomorrow night they will take on the Sioux Falls Stampede, who earned their Western Conference Championship title with a sweep of the Anderson Cup Champions, the Tri-City Storm.
Sioux Falls’ regular season 85-point record edges out Chicago’s 78 in the standings, giving them home ice advantage in the Finals. The Western Conference victors also surmounted a win in both regular season match-ups against Chicago, winning each game with latter-period scoring sprees. Lucky for Chicago, though, playoff (and regular season) scoring is something they are not afraid to weaponize.
Chicago’s Nick Abruzzese led the league in points during the regular season and tops out his team and the league in postseason points alongside Robert Mastrosimone, with 13 points apiece in 8 games. A January acquisition of forward Josiah Slavin has proven to pay off big this postseason as well, whose career-best 47-point regular season (27 in 32 games played with the Lincoln Stars, and 20 in 27 games played with the Steel) has also accounted for 7 playoff points (2 goals, 5 assists).
Before the semi-finals, Abruzzese explained how confidence has been a large part of his success this season and would be a big contributor to making a long playoff run. Continued confidence and resiliency from this group will no-doubt be a difference maker in facing the Stampede, who hold a perfect 5-0 record on home ice in the playoffs, and whose own Max Crozier sits at third in playoff scoring with 10 points in 9 games.
The Steel may lack in regular season victories against their Conference Champion counterpart, but one thing they have no deficiency in is team chemistry and drive. The team’s momentous season has thus far been an accumulation of triumphant individual efforts coming together as one. “Say the right things to guys, encourage guys,” team captain Matteo Pietroniro had said before beginning their 6-2 record playoff run. “It’s going to play a big role this year in making it far in the playoffs.”
Games 1 and 2 between Chicago and Sioux Falls will be played at Denny Sanford PREMIER Center tomorrow and Sunday evening. The series will return to Fox Valley Ice Arena next Friday, May 17th for Game 3 and a Game 4 on Saturday if necessary. You can stay up-to-date with the Steel and the Clark Cup Playoffs on chicagosteelhockeyteam.com, as well as our live game coverage on @puckitupblog on Twitter.
Written by: Alyssa O’Brenski