GENEVA, ILLINOIS —Chicago Steel goaltender Ian Shane looked as sharp as ever in his first start since Nov. 22. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native, fresh after rehabbing a minor injury, made 26 saves and helped the Steel (18-4-1-0, 37 pts) to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Tri-City Storm (10-11-2-2, 24 pts) on Friday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
Steel defenseman John Spetz skated in his 139th career game for the Steel, giving him a share of seventh place in franchise history for games played, tied with current Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, Jaccob Slavin.
Spetz kept the spotlight early in the first period to put the home team in front. Jack Babbage put a shot on net from the right point that was tipped by Erik Middendorf. Spetz jumped on the loose puck and tucked it home for his fifth marker of the season.
The Steel had a chance to add to the lead when the club went to the only man advantage of the opening period. Tri-City successfully cancelled the two-minute minor and had a 2-on-1 chance right after the Steel power play expired with Sam Rhodes ripping a shot on net. Shane kicked away the wrister, keeping the lead for Chicago for the time being.
Joe Berg got the Storm on the board late in the opening frame. From a defensive zone faceoff win by Asa Kinnear, Andrius Kulbis-Marino was able to chip it up the left boards where it was picked up by Berg. The forward sped in on Shane and beat the Steel goaltender, squaring the score at 1-1 as the teams were sent to the first intermission.
Neither team was able to reach the back of the net in the middle frame as the chances were few and far between. The Steel and Storm put only five shots on a goal apiece with both Shane and Tri-City netminder Daniel Allin turning away all 10 combined shots. It was only the second time this year that Chicago has been held to five shots during a single period.
Spetz noted what made the Storm so tough to solve on Friday night.
“They play a men’s game, they play a lot like us,” said Spetz. “They want to wear the other team down and it wasn’t easy for us to handle at times, but we have a good veteran D-corps, so we were able to figure our way out of it. Our forwards stepped up and we just simplified, but for sure, they’re definitely a tough team; they’re well-coached.”
The final regulation period failed to produce any goals but it was not short on drama. After a scramble around his crease in the early going in the third, Shane made a full, diving attempt to turn away a shot and keep the score deadlocked at 1-1.
The Steel had their chance to jump in front midway through the period but found only iron on a power play. Matt Coronato threw a rebound back on net from the slot but hit the right post and the puck bounced back into play.
Both teams tried to find a way to win but defensive efforts prevailed through the final minutes, including another show-stopping save from Shane, when he was able to keep out a puck that snuck behind him in his crease.
Tri-City and Chicago both picked up a point in the standings when the game headed to overtime, but neither team was able to end the contest, even with Tri-City on the power play for the final 1:03 of the extra frame.
After 65 minutes of play, the Storm and Steel took their places for a shootout, the first for Chicago since April 14, 2018 after going the entire 2018-2019 season without one.
After Tri-City’s Andrius Kulbis-Marino and Chicago’s Mackie Samoskevich both popped the back of the net, Shane and Allin recovered to make saves in round two. Colby Ambrosio was turned away in round three by Shane, leaving the game on the stick of veteran forward Matty De St. Phalle.
The University of Wisconsin commit picked his spot and went post-and-in on Allin’s glove side, earning the extra point for the Steel.
Even though Shane was victorious in his return, he still found parts of his game to work on after the win.
“I think there are definitely a couple things I could have done a little bit better, whether it was going behind the net to touch the puck or better rebound control. My guys in front of me were letting me see everything from a little farther out, clearing rebounds away and protecting me so I owe a lot to them. I think overall, it was just a good team win,” said Shane.
Head Coach Brock Sheahan praised Shane’s performance in net.
“It was unbelievable. It was really good to see, especially with some of the adversity he’s had recently, being out of the lineup for a little bit with an injury. I just thought he made big saves when he really needed to. Then the shootout, that was a nice goal on him and that could easily rattle a kid. He was really good on the next two shots but for us to even get to overtime, he made some big-time saves. I’m really proud of the kid, I was happy to see him with that effort,” said Sheahan.
It was the club’s fourth consecutive win and 11th victory in their last 12 outings.
The Steel and Storm will meet again on Sat., Dec. 14 as Chicago dons Ugly Christmas Sweater jerseys for Winterfest with a jersey auction to benefit Cyclones Amateur Hockey Association presented by Illinois Aviation Academy.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games:
Fri., Dec. 14 vs. Tri-City Storm 7:05 pm (Winterfest with Jersey Auction to benefit Cyclones Amateur Hockey Association presented by Illinois Aviation Academy)
Sat., Dec. 28 vs. Youngstown Phantoms 7:05 pm (Zamboni Coin Bank Giveaway, Xfinity Skate with the Steel)
Sun., Dec. 29 vs. Youngstown Phantoms 3:05 pm (Olaf Day!, Topgolf Family Pack Day)
For more information and to purchase Steel tickets, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.