BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel have clinched a berth into the 2018 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs following a 2-1 win via shootout Saturday at Grossinger Motors Arena. The Steel (27-25-2-5, 63 pts.) needed just one point in the game against the Central Illinois Flying Aces (14-39-3-4, 34 pts.) and got it when the game went to overtime tied 1-1.
Chicago will face the Muskegon Lumberjacks in a best-of-three First Round series beginning Monday night at 7:15/6:15 p.m. CT. The entire series will be played on the road at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.
Tim Clifton won the game Saturday for the Steel with his shootout goal in round four and Steel goaltender Oskar Autio stopped all four Flying Aces shooters to ensure the win. Autio had a combined 27 saves in regulation and overtime to backstop the victory.
Jack Dugan scored Chicago’s lone regulation goal for his 31st goal and 66th point of the season. The Vegas Golden Knights prospect will finish second for both single-season goals and single-season points in Steel team history. His goal at the 10:55 mark of the first period opened the game’s scoring. The Providence College commit’s goal came on a wraparound that he slid past Flying Aces goaltender Ryan Snowden’s right pad. Dugan also extended his point streak to six games (8-5–12) with the tally.
Chicago remained ahead until defenseman Zach Metsa struck for Central Illinois with 2:02 remaining in the second period. Metsa and forward Calen Kiefiuk played catch on a 5-on-3 power play before Metsa fired a one-time slap shot from the high slot through the five hole of Autio.
The Steel clamped down defensively in the third with their own version of a prevent defense. Autio came up huge for Chicago with big saves down the stretch to help send the game to the extra session. The Steel’s defensive mindset was evident in the fact that Chicago registered just 17 shots in 65 minutes of play.
Neither player from either team scored in the first three rounds of the shootout, forcing the shootout to an extra round. Tim Clifton fired a wrist shot past Snowden’s stick side, and Autio denied Jakub Lacka, as Chicago picked up its second shootout victory of the season.
Fans are encouraged to visit the Playoff Hub on ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com for game dates, times, results and ticket information throughout the 2018 Clark Cup Playoffs. All Steel playoff game broadcasts will be carried live on Mixlr (free audio) and HockeyTV (iPPV). For broadcast links and information, visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com/broadcast. For more Steel information, call 855-51-STEEL, stop by the Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.