DUBUQUE, IOWA — A furious comeback from the Chicago Steel (25-4-1-0, 51 pts) sealed a 4-3 victory over the Dubuque Fighting Saints (20-8-1-0, 41 pts) at Mystique Community Ice Center.
After playing from behind for seemingly the entire game and struggling to solve an outstanding Dubuque effort between the pipes, two goals reached the back of the net for the visitors within the last 60 seconds of play off the sticks of Sean Farrell and Erik Middendorf in a literal last-minute change of events.
The Steel won their franchise-record 11th straight and notched their 18th victory in 19 games as they swept a two-game weekend series from the Fighting Saints in a matchup of the two top winning percentages in the Eastern Conference. Netminder Ian Shane turned away 27 shots to earn his ninth victory of the year.
It seemed to be a duplicate of Friday night’s contest as the teams were held off the scoreboard in the early-going, but Dubuque was able to capitalize on their first power play of the night.
Shane fought off an initial shot from Ty Jackson but Matt Kopperud was parked on the right side of the crease to tuck home the rebound, grabbing the lead for Dubuque in the process.
Mackie Samoskevich showed off an impressive skill set, dancing around a Dubuque defender but was turned away from Saints netminder Erik Portillo with five minutes left in the frame. Chicago, however, didn’t have to wait much longer to get their game-tying tally.
The Fighting Saints went to another power play with just under five minutes to go in the frame but off a takeaway in the Steel defensive zone, Sean Farrell found Matty De St. Phalle on a breakaway. De St. Phalle made a move to his backhand to beat Portillo for the short-handed goal to even up the score at 1-1 before the end of the first.
Dubuque recaptured the lead less than a minute into the middle frame. Stephen Halliday sped down the left side of the Chicago defensive zone to beat Shane and put the home team back in front.
The 2-1 edge held the length of the second period for the Saints, despite Chicago getting an extended power play chance.
Following a chaotic play in front of the Chicago crease, the action spilled into a corner and resulted in a Steel power play. With 39 seconds remaining in the infraction, a double-minor for high sticking gave the Steel a 5-on-3 opportunity followed by three minutes and change of a power play.
Dubuque successfully killed off all penalty time and took the 2-1 advantage into the final frame.
The Steel fought back once again to tie the game as Samoskevich made a beautiful move while flying down the left side, drawing Portillo out of his net and tucking in his seventh of the season.
The momentum came to a halt as Dubuque registered its third goal of the night. Ben Schultheis beat Shane for his fifth marker of the year just 1:21 later, helping Dubuque to a 3-2 advantage halfway through the third.
With Portillo making big stop after big stop down the stretch, it looked like Chicago’s 10-game win streak was going to come to a close but Sean Farrell had other ideas. After Shane had been pulled for an extra attacker, the Harvard-bound forward lit the lamp on a shot from the left point that changed direction, squaring up the game at 3-3 with 1:00 left.
Erik Middendorf played hero for the second night in a row, sending the Steel home with a weekend sweep. Middendorf trailed the play and caught a pass from Samoskevich, flipping home the game-winner with just 8.9 seconds left.
The Steel return home to Fox Valley Ice Arena on Jan. 17 & 18 for a celebration of 20 seasons of Steel hockey with a throwback weekend against the Omaha Lancers.
Next Friday’s game is a Year 2000 theme night and next Saturday’s contest includes a Year 2000 Rusty bobblehead doll giveaway for the first 500 fans.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games:
Fri., Jan. 17 vs. Omaha Lancers 7:05 pm (Year 2000 Throwback Night)
Sat., Jan. 18 vs. Omaha Lancers 7:05 pm (Year 2000 Rusty the Mascot Bobblehead Giveaway)
Sat., Jan. 25 at Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 7:05 pm
For more information and to purchase Steel tickets, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.