The Chicago Steel had a decent weekend. And a pretty good previous weekend. And they also had a pretty decent regular season.
Add all of those things up and you get the hockey club from Geneva back in the USHL Clark Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.
The Steel beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4-1 May 3 at the Fox Valley Ice Arena and 3-2 in overtime May 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals to win the series 3-1.
“As the series with Muskegon went along, we did see some trends in what we could do against them,” Steel forward Robert Mastrosimone said. “We knew we could be successful if we drove their defensemen wide and beat them on the forecheck. Their goalie is also very floppy. So we had to get him out of position to get chances.”
The Steel have four players in the top 10 in postseason scoring – Nick Abruzzese, Mastrosimone, Matteo Pietroniro and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine.
Fontaine scored the game-winner May 4 just 73 seconds into overtime.
The Game 4 win was not easy for the Steel as the team was outshot 11-1 in the second period and 13-6 in the third period. But the play of goaltender Justin Robbins saved the day for the Steel. He stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced. Robbins, who has a 91.8 save percentage in the playoffs, won 25 games for the Steel this year, setting a franchise record.
“Muskegon really tried to use their speed as the series went along,” Robbins said. “They also tried to slow us down offensively as well. But my defense did a really great job letting me see shots as the series went along.”
Robbins, who will play hockey at Arizona State in the fall, said the biggest improvement in his game this season has been his mental state.
“I give a lot of credit to my goalie coach Mike Garmin for that,” Robbins said. “As a goalie I am always trying to work on my mental state. It is one of the most underrated parts of the game.”
The Steel face the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the Clark Cup Final beginning May 10 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Game 2 of the series will be May 12 before the series shifts to Geneva for Games 3 and 4 on May 17 and 18. If a Game 5 is needed, as it was the last time the Steel played in the Clark Cup Final, it will be May 21 in Sioux Falls. The series marks the fist time the two teams have faced off in postseason play.
The Steel is 6-2 in the playoffs, 3-0 on the road and 2-0 in overtime.