SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA — The Sioux Falls Stampede scored the first two goals of Friday’s Game 1 of the Clark Cup Final and held off a furious comeback attempt from the Chicago Steel who tied the game early in the third period. Jared Westcott scored for Sioux Falls with 5:01 remaining in regulation and goaltender Jaxson Stauber made several stellar saves late to secure the series opener for the home team. Chicago will attempt to answer back with a Game 2 win on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. CT at Denny Sanford PREMIER Center before the best-of-five series shifts to Chicago for Game 3 Friday, May 17 and 4, if necessary, Saturday, May 18. Both games are 7:05 p.m. CT puck drops at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva.
The teams played a scoreless first period despite 10 shots from the home team and a couple of near-miss opportunities from the visitors. Sioux Falls controlled the early stages, dominating the first five minutes before Chicago found its footing and controlled the pace of play for the remainder of the period.
Early in the frame, the Chicago second line of left wing Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, center Josiah Slavin and right wing Mathieu De St. Phalle created havoc in front of the net and a shot nearly made it over a sprawling Stauber but the Stampede netminder made the save from his right side. Chicago then had a pair of set up passes go just wide of the intended target. With 6:45 to play in the opening frame, a pass from center Jake Schmaltz just missed the stick of right wing Travis Treloar and just two minutes later the same happened to right wing Neil Shea who couldn’t find center Nick Abruzzese with the same pass.
Sioux Falls was the first to find the back of the net as forward Carl Berglund finished off a three-man passing play just 51 seconds into the second period when his shot found the five hole of Chicago goaltender Justin Robbins.
The Stampede doubled their lead just five minutes later after a great penalty kill effort on the first powerplay chance of the game for the Steel. With the puck deep in the offensive zone, Sioux Falls forward Andre Lee spun and whizzed home a turnover high over the left shoulder of Robbins after Chicago failed to clear its own zone.
As they’ve done all postseason, Chicago answered back. Slavin cut the deficit to 2-1 when he caught a deflection of a Fontaine shot, and sent the shot over the blocker of Stauber midway through the second period. Fontaine entered the zone and sent a shot towards Stauber that deflected off a Sioux Falls leg and Slavin caught the puck in midair as he came streaking into the offensive zone.
The momentum carried into the third for the Steel as defenseman John Spetz drew Chicago even at the 2:32 mark. Center Cole Quisenberry had sustained pressure in the offensive zone before a failed clearing attempt from Sioux Falls landed on the stick of defenseman Owen Power, who sent a pass along the blue line for the one-time Spetz shot that flew over the glove of Stauber to tie the game.
With ten minutes to play, the Stampede began to sustain pressure in the Steel zone. Robbins made a huge save on a streaking Blake Bride who had a wide-open one-time chance from the slot with just more than seven minutes left.
Sioux Falls found the eventual game-winning goal with 5:01 to play in the game when forward Jared Westcott snuck a five-hole shot through Robbins on a one-time shot from the faceoff circle to Robbins’ right.
The Steel had a powerplay chance with 3:05 to play but Stauber denied several chances, including after the Steel pulled Robbins in favor of an extra attacker with 1:50 remaining. After the penalty expired, Chicago had one more chance on the doorstep but Slavin was denied by Stauber with just ten seconds remaining.
Stauber had 20 stops for Sioux Falls to earn the game’s first sta. Robbins had 26 saves for Chicago. The Steel were 0-for-2 on the game’s only powerplay chances.
The Steel will look to even the best-of-five series in Game 2 Sunday afternoon at 5:05 p.m. CT once again at Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. The series will shift to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) on Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18.
Clark Cup Final tickets are on sale now 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.