GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel (30-10-3-2; 65 pts) climbed back from a two-goal deficit in the first period but Team USA U18 (21-16-3-3; 48 pts.) tied the game late and scored the only shootout goal to defeat Chicago 4-3 Saturday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena. The Steel earned a point in the standings for the fifth consecutive game.
It was the final meeting of a thrilling season series between the two teams, and the third straight with Team USA U18 to be decided by a single goal.
Sean Farrell, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, scored his 25th goal of the season and added a helper, pushing his season total to 82 points (25G, 57A) in 44 games played. That total ties Farrell with Andrew Miller for the Steel all-time single-season points record. Miller (Steel 2007-2009) recorded 82 points (32G, 50A) in 58 games during the 2008-2009 campaign.
Team USA came flying out of the gates to take a quick 2-0 edge over the Steel.
Andre Gasseau was the first to the scoreboard just 27 seconds into the contest. The Boston College commit one-timed a puck from the slot, beating Steel netminder Simon Latkoczy on the first shot of the game.
Sasha Pastujov tacked on to the Team USA lead less than a minute later. The visitors outnumbered the Steel on the doorstep of the Chicago crease as Pastujov tapped home a rebound, his ninth goal of the season.
Chicago special teams helped turn the tide.
Farrell, the USHL points leader, led the charge with a solo effort on a penalty kill in the first. Just four minutes after falling behind 2-0, Farrell outraced Aidan Hreschuk after picking off a Team USA pass, getting a breakaway from the blue line in. Farrell went five-hole on Team USA netminder Kaidan Mbereko to cut the deficit in half.
Steel captain Erik Middendorf tied the game in the second period on a power play from point-blank range. Farrell, controlling the puck on the right-wing boards, fed a pass to Middendorf who turned and slipped the puck past Mbereko, a shot that never left the ice, to tie the game at 2-2.
Playoff-level intensity emerged in the final frame as both teams picked up the physical play.
Steel rookie forward Adam Fantilli stepped up his play with the body, absorbing a check from Team USA defenseman Ty Murchison and putting Murchison on his back at the Steel offensive zone blue line, igniting the Fox Valley Ice Arena crowd.
Moments later, Fantilli got the crowd on its feet with a laser wrist shot that beat Mberkoto give , Chicago its first lead of the game. The youngest player on the Steel roster split two defenders in the neutral zone, bearing down on the USA goalie before tallying his 11th marker of the year.
In desperation mode as time ticked down, Team USA pulled Mbereko for an extra attacker with under two minutes to play in regulation.
The move paid off as Chaz Lucius lit the lamp for the visitors with just over a minute to play.
The overtime frame saw strategic puck movement from both teams but produced no goals despite three shots from Team USA and two from Chicago.
Saturday’s game was decided in a shootout as Team USA got a marker from Roman Schmidt. Mbereko turned away all three Chicago shooters to help give Team USA the extra point in the standings.
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.
Chicago will face off against the Dubuque Fighting Saints in a home-and-home set on Friday, April 2 at Fox Valley Ice Arena and Saturday, April 3 at Mystique Community Ice Center.
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:
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)
Friday, April 9 vs. Youngstown Phantoms (7:05 pm CT) presented by McCue Chevy
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.