GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Sioux Falls Stampede captured their third Clark Cup Championship in team history on Friday night with a 5-1 win Friday night in front of 2,118 fans at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. The Stampede weathered an offensive storm from the Chicago Steel in the first period as goaltender Jaxon Stauber turned aside all 11 shots he faced en route to a 20-save victory and being named MVP of the Clark Cup Final.
The first period was dominated by the Steel as they outshot the Stampede 11-4, including a pair of pair of great scoring chances for center Nick Abruzzese and left wing Sam Colangelo. A one-time shot from Abruzzese on the powerplay was stopped by a sliding Stauber and a tight angle shot from Colangelo was just saved by the shoulder of the Stampede netminder. Sioux Falls opened the scoring with 2:18 left to play in the first period while on the powerplay on just the team’s fourth shot of the game when forward Anthony Romano scored his first goal of the playoffs. Romano collected a pass at the side of the net, spun and chipped home his own rebound from the goal crease.
Sioux Falls doubled its lead less than five minutes into the third period when forward Blake Bride finished off a net-front scramble. The play started as Stampede forward Andre Lee threw the puck towards the front of the net and after an initial clearing attempt from Steel netminder Justin Robbins, Sam Stevens shoveled the puck back to the crease where Bride tapped home the loose puck.
Each goaltender made critical saves in the middle of the period to keep the score 2-0 in favor of Sioux Falls as Robbins made a sliding save on a cross-crease Stampede opportunity. Less than two minutes later, Stauber denied a tic-tac-toe opportunity from the line of Steel forwards Christian Sarlo, Jake Schmaltz and Adam Robbins.
With the Steel on the powerplay with under five minutes remaining in the period and an opportunity to cut the lead in half, Sioux Falls used the momentum from several key Stauber saves to collect a shorthanded goal from Stevens. The Sioux Falls forward was sprung on a breakaway, and was able to backhanded his own rebound from behind the goalline, banking it home off Robbins.
The lead remained 3-0 until well into the third period as the Stampede continued to make things difficult for Chicagto, as they did throughout their playoff run. With less than four minutes to play and the goalie pulled, Steel forward Josiah Slavin collected a pass at the blue line and skated into the offensive zone where he beat Stauber to the five-hole to make it 3-1.
The momentum only lasted so long as the Stampede later collected a pair of empty net goals within seven seconds to ice the game and the series.
Friday’s attendance of 2,118 fans was the largest of the season for the Steel.
The loss capped an outstanding season for Chicago which included an Eastern Conference Championship for only the second time in team history and achieved several team and individual records during the campaign.
The Steel will return this fall, and season ticket plans are on sale now starting at just five games for $45. For more information, visit the Steel Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.