GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel (41-7-1-0, 83 pts) won their 13th consecutive game and 27th in their last 30 outings, earning a hard-fought 6-5 overtime victory against the Dubuque Fighting Saints (32-14-1-0, 65 pts). The win streak matches the franchise record set previously during the 2019-20 campaign.
With the win, the Steel clinched a bye in the first round of the 2020 Clark Cup Playoffs. No other team in the UHSL has clinched a playoff berth thus far.
The Saints tallied two goals in a 54-second span halfway through the third period before Mathieu De St. Phalle sealed the contest for Chicago with his 30th marker of the season.
“I think it was a good experience for us to play in that type of game,” said Steel Head Coach Brock Sheahan. “Obviously you don’t want to give up a two-goal lead in the third period but I liked the way we responded after it was 5-5.”
In a matchup of the top two records in the Eastern Conference, an action-packed opening frame helped give the matchup a playoff-type atmosphere with five goals packed into the first 20 minutes.
Jimmy Dowd Jr. kicked off the scoring early in the game with a fortunate bounce off Dubuque’s Kaelan Taylor. Dowd Jr. wrapped a puck around Saint netminder Aidan McCarthy which was kicked away initially. The puck bounced through the crease and into the net after getting a piece of Taylor’s skate, putting the Steel ahead by one.
Chicago extended its lead when Colton Huard and Elis Hede connected for a redirected tally halfway through the first. After a faceoff win by Hede, Matt Coronato skipped the puck to Huard who let go a pass from the right point. Hede went to the slot and had clear vision to get his stick on the puck, tipping home his fourth marker of the year.
The Steel looked to take control of the contest when they extended the lead to 3-0 with just under four minutes to go in the opening frame. Josh Doan forced a turnover by the Saints in the Steel offensive zone and was able to gain control of the puck. Doan dished the puck to Tyler Carpenter on his left side and Carpenter hammered home a wrister over McCarthy’s glove side.
The fighting Saints clawed their way back late in the period with the help of a double-minor assessed to Brendan Brisson.
Mark Cheremeta reached the back of the net a minute and a half into the power play and Ty Jackson tucked home a loose puck with just 7.4 seconds left in the first period to send the teams to their respective locker rooms with Dubuque chasing just one marker.
The Steel took momentum back to their side halfway through the middle frame.
As a Steel power play expired, Sam Colangelo took a drop pass from Brisson above the right circle and came straight downhill launching a wrister past McCarthy. With an assist earlier in the game, Colangelo added to his career-best point streak (9G, 5A) which now stands at nine games.
“We’re playing pretty good and when your team is playing good it’s pretty easy to get points especially when you’re playing with, I’d say, two of the best players in the league in Sean Farrell and Brendan Brisson,” said Colangelo. “They’re two of my best friends so it’s pretty good to play with them. We have great chemistry and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Colangelo’s tally was the only goal of the second period from either team but the action heated up in the final regulation frame.
The Saints chipped away at the Steel lead when Halliday fed Ty Jackson on the doorstep of the crease, cutting the deficit to 4-3 with just over 13 minutes to play.
Chicago expanded the cushion when defenseman John Spetz poked home a loose puck, falling down into the net in the process of delivering his 14th marker of the year.
Dubuque’s answer came just 20 seconds later in the form of Reise Gaber. The USHL’s leading goal-scorer added to his season total as he tucked home his 34th of the year, bringing the Saints offense back to life.
Dylan Jackson assisted on both of his brother’s goals earlier in the game and added to his outstanding performance with the game-tying goal just shy of halfway through the third.
Shane made a game-saving stop on Gaber with 43 seconds left in regulation. Gaber drove the left side with the puck and unleashed a shot that was kicked away by Shane’s right pad to keep the score at 5-5, one of Shane’s 26 saves on the night
Both clubs began overtime with an additional point in the standings but with both teams fighting for the Eastern Conference title, the extra point held more meaning.
Brisson was the first skater to come close to ending the game when he skated left and shot back to his right, ringing a shot off the post just 45 seconds into the extra frame.
Shane fought off one Dubuque overtime shot on net before De St. Phalle sent the Chicago fans home happy.
Matt Coronato registered his third assist of the night when he led a 2-on-1 rush with De St. Phalle, dishing the puck off at the last second. De St. Phalle hammered home the game-winner to seal the contest.
“It was an awesome play from the start. Jimmy (Dowd Jr.) made a great defensive play to get that puck loose and we kind of dug it out,” said De St. Phalle. “Coronato is one of the fastest guys in the league so I think he deserves all the credit.”
The Steel return to action with a two-game homestand against the Green Bay Gamblers on Sat., March 14 and Sunday, March 15 at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
Saturday’s game is Military Appreciation/Hometown Heroes Night with a special jersey auction to benefit Wounded Warriors Project presented by McCue Chevy. Sunday’s matinee offers a 20th season youth replica jersey giveaway presented by Waubonsee Community College for the first 500 kids ages 14 and under. Following the weekend finale, fans are invited to take the ice to skate with their favorite Steel players during an Xfinity Skate with the Steel.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games:
Sat., March 14 vs. Green Bay Gamblers 7:05 pm (Military Appreciation/Hometown Heroes Night with Jersey Auction to benefit Wounded Warriors Project presented by McCue Chevy)
Sun., March 15 vs. Green Bay Gamblers 3:05 pm (Giveaway: 20th Season Youth Replica Jersey presented by Waubonsee Community College for kids 14 and under, Xfinity Skate with the Steel)
Fri., March 20 at Team USA U17 6:05 pm
For more information and to purchase Steel tickets, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.