GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel (30-10-3-1; 64 pts.) became the first team in the State of Illinois to host indoor fans in over a calendar year as the club took down the Green Bay Gamblers (24-14-1-2; 51 pts.) 5-1 on Friday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena, Chicago’s fourth consecutive win.
The night began with a historic moment for Steel fans in attendance, the first game with spectators since March 7, 2020. Season ticket holders Bob and Bonnie Weisz, with the help of 2019-2020 Anderson Cup Champions and Steel Alumni Sam Colangelo and Uula Ruikka, unveiled the first Anderson Cup banner in franchise history, awarded to the USHL regular season champion. The team had waited for the return of fans to unveil the banner.
Green Bay controlled the first period when action began, outshooting the Steel by a 18-4 margin.
Chicago goaltender Jack Stark turned away 17 shots in the opening frame but couldn’t stop a re-directed shot for the Gamblers first goal.
Green Bay Forward Jake Schmaltz collected a pass from Cam Thiesing, throwing a shot on net that tipped the stick of Jackson Kunz in front of the net.
As uneven as the shots on goal total was through the first period, the Steel flipped the script in the middle frame with five unanswered goals.
The offensive barrage began on the man advantage after Steel captain Erik Middendorf drew a tripping call just 25 seconds into the period. Middendorf helped make the power play count, assisting on Mackie Samoskevich’s 12th tally of the year. Samoskevich, committed to the University of Michigan, backpedaled with the puck to the top of the right circle and made a toe drag move around a Green Bay defender. Samoskevich fired a laser of a wrist shot, tying the contest at 1-1.
The floodgates opened after the first Chicago goal as Middendorf notched his second point of the night to secure his 17th multi-point game of the season. The Michigan State University-bound forward went coast-to-coast after picking off a pass deep in the Steel defensive zone. With Matt Coronato to his right on a 2-on-1 rush, Middendorf pulled the trigger, beating Green Bay netminder Aaron Randazzo on his glove side to put the Steel in front.
After a timely save by Randazzo kept the deficit at one for his team, Chicago defenseman Ian Moore extended the Steel lead.
Moore, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, picked up a pass from Josh Doan as Doan fell to his knees. Moore used Doan and Sean Farrell as screens, cutting between the two skaters to tuck home a wrister, the blueliner’s 10th goal of the campaign.
After a shifty move from Steel rookie Joe Miller below the Chicago offensive zone goal line, fellow first-year forward Sam Lipkin recorded his third marker of the year on the doorstep. Lipkin collected the backhand feed from Miller, making a smooth move to his forehand, tucking the puck past Green Bay goaltender Matt Davis, on in relief of Randazzo.
Adam Fantilli capped the scoring binge for the Steel just before time ran out in the middle frame. The Nobleton, Ontario, native used a setup from Farrell who found the 6-foot-2, 183-pound Fantilli drifting to the right of the crease. Fantilli one-timed a near point-blank shot, stretching the Steel lead to 5-1, the eventual final score.
In the final two periods, Stark made 16 stops, giving the Chaska, Minn., native a career-best 33-save performance. The Yale University commit is now 9-2-0-0 between the Steel pipes this season.
The loss was the fourth in a row for Green Bay. The two teams are scheduled to meet for a tenth and final matchup April 17 in Wisconsin.
Chicago hosts Team USA (U18) on Saturday, March 27 with a 7:05 pm CT puck drop, the final matchup of the 2020-2021 regular season between Chicago and Team USA.
The Steel will host a drive-thru Teddy Bear Toss event on Sunday, March 28 from 11 am – 1 pm in the Fox Valley Ice Arena parking lot featuring Steel players, mascot Rusty, the Easter Bunny and Sparkle the Tooth from Geneva Family Dental.
Tickets for all remaining regular season home game are on sale now by calling 855-51-STEEL, visiting ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com or at the Steel Box Office open at 10 a.m. on the day of each home game.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games presented by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:
Saturday, March 27 vs. Team USA (U18) (7:05 pm CT) presented by Waubonsee Community College
Friday, April 2 vs. Dubuque Fighting Saints (7:05 pm CT) Teddy Bear Toss presented by Geneva Family Dental
Saturday, April 3 at Dubuque Fighting Saints (7:05 pm CT)
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.