GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel opened their first USHL Clark Cup Playoffs appearance in nine seasons with a 4-1 win Friday over the Youngstown Phantoms in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Baker Shore, Mitch Lewandowski, Reggie Lutz, and Marc Johnstone each recorded goals for the Steel, and Ales Stezka made 25 saves.
Chicago hosts Youngstown in Game 2 in the best-of-five series Saturday at Fox Valley Ice Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. CDT.
The Steel registered 16 shots in the first period. Shore connected on a highlight-reel, short-side snipe from the right wing, firing the puck over the glove of Youngstown goaltender Ivan Kulbakov to open the scoring at 14:19.
The lead was doubled in the second period when Lewandowski’s shot from the right point bounced in through Kulbakov’s five-hole at 16:50.
In the third period, Lutz received a pass from Jake Jaremko and fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle and into the back of the net at 12:20, giving Chicago a three-goal lead.
Youngstown ended Stezka’s shutout bid with 3:11 remaining. Jake Gingell sent an outlet pass ahead to Max Ellis, who dodged a poke check from Stezka and knocked the puck in to pull the Phantoms within two.
Kulbakov headed to the bench with just over three minutes remaining but the Phantoms were unable to capitalize with the extra attacker. Dominic Dockery broke his stick in neutral ice, and Johnstone wove around the Phantoms defenseman and raced down to score on the empty net, securing the three-goal win.
Chicago outshot Youngstown, 37-26. Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play. Jaremko, Austen Long, Corson Green, Ben Mirageas, Brannon McManus, and Johnny Walker each registered an assist for the Steel.
The two teams meet back up Saturday for Game 2 and the first 500 fans in will receive a Steel Team Photo. The action then shifts to Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, for Game 3, and if necessary, Game 4, on April 21-22 at 7:05 p.m. EDT/6:05 p.m. CDT. If a Game 5 is needed, the series will move back to Fox Valley Ice Arena on Tuesday, April 25 at 7:05 p.m. CDT. All games are broadcasted live on HockeyTV (video) and mixlr.com/chicago-steel (free audio). For Steel tickets or more information, call 855-51-STEEL, stop by the Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.