SIOUX CITY | There was no better person to score a game-winning power play goal than Phillip Knies.
And, as Knies quickly pointed out in the aftermath of the Sioux City Musketeers’ 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Steel, no better linemates.
Knies, the Anderson Cup champions’ regular-season leader with 10 man-advantage goals, scored at the 2:27 mark of overtime to give the Musketeers the opening win in what is expected to be a very competitive series. The Miami (Ohio) recruit scored with 2:53 remaining on a power play fueled by a four-minute penalty charged to the Steel’s Baker Shore for high sticking.
“We have extremely talented players on that power play,” said Knies, assisted on the game-winner by Odeen Tufto and Kristian Pospisil. “I have to give a lot of credit to them. They find seams that not a lot of players could. They’re super-talented. I’m fortunate enough to be on that power play with them.”
Heading into tonight’s second game of the series, Coach Jay Varady’s Musketeers, which also received two goals from Brian Rigali, are 8 of 29 on the power play. Sioux City didn’t score a man-advantage goal in Tuesday night’s 8-3 fifth game of the Western Conference Finals against Waterloo and hadn’t scored that kind of goal since Pospisil’s in the first period of Game 4 versus the Black Hawks.
“It was a great play,” said Varady. “(Knies) was able to score from a pretty tough angle, get it on the net. I don’t think the power play was great tonight, but it found a way to separate us when we really needed it.
“(Knies) is a guy we depend upon, all the time in all situations. He’s the heart and soul of our team and when it comes down to crunch time, he was there for us.”
Rigali is another of those players who came through on the crunch. The University of Connecticut recruit didn’t have a 2-goal game during the regular season, but in a contest that featured four ties and four lead changes, Rigali scored the game’s first goal and forced the game into overtime, scoring his third post-season goal with 2:58 in regulation.
“My linemates, Micah (Miller) and (Connor) Ford, we just try to keep it simple, chip pucks deep on the fore check and go the net hard,” said Rigali. “It’s pretty simple. We got the bounces tonight.”
During this highly-entertaining game, the Musketeers scored their earliest first goal and allowed their earliest first goal. Rigali scored the first of his two goals, 31 seconds into the game on an assist from Connor Ford, but 1 ½ minutes later, Chicago tied the game on a goal from former Sioux Falls Stampede forward Jason O’Neill.
The third lead change occurred when Chicago’s Jack Badini extended his playoff scoring streak to a whopping nine games on goal 5 ½ minutes into the third period, but Miller notched his second assist of the game on Rigali’s second goal.
“I don’t think we had much going in the third,” said Varady. “It was a little slow. We kept talking about our next shift. Somebody has to make a difference. Somebody has to make one play. I thought the Rigali/Ford line did that all night for us. Those guys are gritty players for us and they scored a gritty goal, throwing that one in front of the net.”
Chicago leads the Clark Cup Playoffs with 35 goals, one more than the Musketeers. Neither coach is sure if tonight’s game will be as high-scoring, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was.
“I expect another good game tomorrow night,” said Chicago Coach Dan Muse. “Every game is going to be different. I can’t guess on how tomorrow is going to be, but I expect it to be a war, just like tonight was. That’s what you have to expect in the Finals. There’s two good teams on the ice. That’s what you have to expect.”