GENEVA, ILLINOIS — A fast start propelled the Chicago Steel (19-4-1-0, 39 pts) to a 3-1 win against the Tri City Storm (10-12-2-2, 24 pts) on Saturday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena. The Steel were in ugly sweaters for their Winterfest promotion against the Storm in the second half of a back-to-back and the team’s last game until December 28. Heading into the league-wide break, the Steel now have wins in 12 of their last 13 games.
Chicago netminder Victor Ostman stopped 24 shots in the victory, pushing his record in net to 13-3-0-0. The 3-1 win was the fourth time this season that Ostman surrendered just one goal, his season-best.
The Steel looked to go out on a high note as the home squad took advantage of an early scoring barrage.
After taking a penalty just 22 seconds into the contest, rookie defenseman Ryan Ufko found his way to the front of the net to tip home a shot from his defensive partner, Owen Power. The marker was Ufko’s first career goal and his third point on the year.
“One of the best moments of my life,” said Ufko. “Couldn’t ask for anything more; been working hard for it. Some of the boys have been bugging me about it but I knew I was going to get one soon. It felt really good, especially having all the boys there, cheering me on.”
The Steel continued their trend of scoring goals in bunches as Matt Coronato and Matty De St. Phalle were sprung on a 2-on-1 just 25 seconds later. Coronato dished it to De St. Phalle on the left side, with De St. Phalle putting the finishing touches on his 16th goal of the year to extend the Steel advantage to 2-0.
Coronato and De St. Phalle picked up the assists on Chicago’s final goal of the first period, a beautiful display of stickhandling from Mackie Samoskevich. The University of Michigan-bound forward toe dragged from right-to-left, then flipped a backhander up and over Tri-City netminder Daniel Allin to put the Steel in front 3-0.
The scoring slowed down in the middle frame until the Storm started to creep their way back into the contest.
Benji Eckerle drove the net and re-directed a pass with his skate from Joe Berg. After a brief video review, the call was confirmed with no distinct kicking motion visible.
It was the only goal that Ostman allowed all night as he turned away 24 other shots from Tri-City.
“As a goalie I think you just have to focus on the puck. You can’t really anticipate plays so just focus on the puck and stay in the moment,” said Ostman.
The Tri-City comeback attempt was snuffed out by the Swedish netminder and the rest of the Steel, as the team held the Storm to single digit shot attempts in each period - nine in the first and eight in both the second and third.
Head Coach Brock Sheahan, now 4-0-0-0 in his head-coaching tenure, saw a full-team effort in the win.
“I’m really proud of the guys. We asked them to have a professional approach to the game tonight, execute at a high level, have a high level of effort and I think they did that for 60 minutes. Obviously in a hockey game, there’s going to be ups and downs but there were a lot more ups for us in this game, I thought. We possessed the puck a ton, which was to our style of play,” said Sheahan.
The defensive-minded coach noted the timely play of the team’s penalty kill unit.
“The PK, I thought, was really good in big moments. They didn’t get much on the power play in the third period. I’m just really happy with our overall effort,” said Sheahan.
With a 19-4-1-0 mark and 39 points through 24 games played, the Steel sit alone atop the USHL standings until league games resume on Dec. 27.
Chicago returns to action on Sat., Dec. 28 and Sun., Dec. 29 when the Youngstown Phantoms visit Fox Valley Ice Arena for a two-game homestand.
Dec. 28 will feature a Chicago Steel Zamboni Coin Bank giveaway for the first 500 fans, and all fans will have the opportunity to take the ice with the team following the action in an Xfinity Skate With the Steel.
Dec. 29 is the first Sunday afternoon game of the season for Chicago with a 3:05 pm puck drop for Olaf Day featuring an appearance by the snowman. Plus, it’s a Topgolf Family Pack game with a special deal for families.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games:
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)
Thurs., Jan. 2 at Green Bay Gamblers (Dallas, TX) 5:00 pm
For more information and to purchase Steel tickets, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.