GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel have advanced to the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in the last three seasons with a 4-1 win on Wednesday night, closing out a 3-1 series win over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The Steel will take on the No. 1 seed Muskegon Lumberjacks in the best-of-five series beginning Saturday, April 27 and will host Game 3 on Friday, May 3 and Game 4 on Saturday, May 4 (if necessary).
Eastern Conference Final (Best-of-Five Series)
Game 1: Chicago at Muskegon – Saturday, April 27 (L.C. Walker Arena)
Game 2: Chicago at Muskegon – Sunday, April 28 (L.C. Walker Arena)
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 (L.C. Walker Arena)
Single game tickets for Steel home games during the Eastern Conference Final go on sale on Thursday, April 25 at 9:00 a.m. and may be purchased in person at the Steel Box Office, 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 series will be a rematch of last year’s best-of-three First Round matchup between Chicago and Muskegon, which the Steel won in Game 3 in an overtime thriller.
Chicago finished 2-4-0-0 against Muskegon during the regular season but both wins came in the final two meetings between the teams by a combined score of 14-2. Three of Muskegon’s four wins over Chicago came in the Steel’s first 11 games of the season with the Lumberjacks winning games on October 13 (6-0), October 19 (5-3) and November 3 (5-2). The last Lumberjacks win came during a New Year’s Eve goalie duel between Chicago’s Reilly Herbst and Muskegon’s Brandon Bussi. The Lumberjacks came out on top with a 2-0 shutout win as Bussi turned aside all 28 Steel shots he faced. Bussi, who led the league with 33 wins this season, is 4-1-0-0 and has a 2.06 goals against average and .885 goals against average against Chicago this season. Steel netminder Justin Robbins has played the majority of the minutes against the Lumberjacks this season with a 1-3-0-0 record, 3.89 goals against average and .856 save percentage. Herbst is 1-1-0-0 in three appearances with a 1.29 goals against average and .952 save percentage. The teams most recently met in the regular season finale on Saturday, April 13, an 8-1 Steel victory in a game in which Muskegon rested a majority of its top players having already secured the top seed in the East.
Offensively, Chicago will look to forward Nick Abruzzese who registered 11 points (4-7-11) in six games against Muskegon this season. Defenseman Matteo Pietroniro has seven points (2-5-7) while forward Robert Mastrosimone has six points (3-3-6) against the Lumberjacks this season. Muskegon has been paced offensively by forward Bobby Lynch who has seven points (3-4-7) in six meetings against Chicago this season. Forwards Colby Bukes (0-5-5), Mikael Hakkarainen (2-3-5) and Egor Afanasyev (2-3-5) have all registered five points against the Steel.
The winner of the series will advance to the Clark Cup Final. 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, falling to Sioux Falls in three games.
The Conference Semifinals victory over Cedar Rapids marks the third consecutive season in which the Steel have won a playoff series. All Steel games are broadcast live on HockeyTV (video) and mixlr.com/chicago-steel (free audio).
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.