URBANDALE, Iowa | What power play problem?
Man advantage goals were sometimes a concern during the regular season for the Sioux City Musketeers, but not in the postseason.
Kristian Pospisil’s power-play goal with 10:46 left in the third period enabled the Musketeers to post a three-game sweep in their Western Conference Semifinal series over the Des Moines Buccaneers. Eeli Tolvanen assisted on the goal that produced a 2-1 victory Friday night at Buccaneer Arena.
Coach Jay Varady’s Musketeers swept a semifinal series for the first time in his tenure as head coach, which includes two prior playoff appearances. Sioux City will face Waterloo in the Western Conference Finals beginning this Friday at the Tyson Events Center.
Pospisil recorded his second power-play goal of the series and finished the three games with two goals and four assists. Sioux City, which converted 14.1 percent of its power play chances in the regular season to rank 14th in the United States Hockey League, tallied a power-play goal in each of the three playoff wins to go 3 of 9 in the series.
Outstanding goaltending was also part of Sioux City’s first semifinal win in three seasons. Matiss Kivlenieks, the USHL’s goaltender and player of the year, stopped 21 straight chances after allowing Colin Ugbekile’s goal about a minute and a half into the second period.
Facing a deficit for the first time in the series, Sioux City responded with a solid formula that led to the tying goal about four minutes later. Shortly after his teammates killed a penalty, Charlie Kelleher tallied his team-best third playoff goal, scoring unassisted with 14:44 remaining until the second intermission.
Kivlenieks was outstanding between the pipes in the three games, converting 70 of 72 chances. His counterpart, Jan Ruzicka, was just as effective in Game 3, recording saves on 28 of 29 chances before Pospisil’s game-winning goal.
Des Moines Coach Dave Allison lifted Ruzicka with two minutes left in the game as he searched for an extra attacker in hopes of tying the game to keep the series alive. The Buccaneers actually drew a penalty as Musketeer forward Brian Rigali was called for hooking with 1:44 left, but despite holding a 6 on 4 man advantage, were unable to score.
Sioux City’s penalty kill, fourth in the USHL at 88.0 percent in the regular season, stopped all 11 Des Moines power play chances in the series.
Waterloo was the first team to clinch a championship round berth, completing a three-game sweep with Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Fargo. The Black Hawks outscored the Force 11-4 in the series with three players each providing two goals and an assist – Mikey Anderson, Shane Bowers and Bailey Conger.
Waterloo won the regular-season series against the Musketeers, 4-2. Sioux City had two overtime losses against the Black Hawks, but posted a 6-3 win over Coach P.K. O’Handley’s club on March 24 as part of a seven-game winning streak which led to its first Anderson Cup since 1986.
Sioux City and Waterloo last met in the 2014 Western Conference Finals. The Black Hawks won the tense series in four games.
Elsewhere in the Clark Cup Playoffs Friday night, Dubuque advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 7-2 rout over Muskegon to win that series, three games to one. Youngstown stayed alive with a 4-1 Game 3 win over Chicago.