GENEVA, Ill. | The Chicago Steel seized control of the Clark Cup Final Friday night, defeating the Sioux City Musketeers 3-0 at the Fox Valley Ice Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 championship series.
The teams split the first two games of the series in Sioux City last weekend, with the Muskies taking the opener 5-4 in overtime before the Steel rebounded with a 5-1 victory in Game 2. Chicago had a chance to hoist the Clark Cup on home ice in Game 4 Saturday at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. Saturday's game was not finished prior to press time.
The series will return to Sioux City for a winner-take-all Game 5, if necessary, Tuesday night at the Tyson Events Center.
Playing in the franchise’s first-ever Clark Cup Final home game, the Steel came out the aggressors Friday night and peppered Sioux City netminder Matiss Kivlenieks with eight shots in the opening four minutes. The Musketeers goalie was up to the challenge though, especially on a point-blank rebound opportunity a minute into the contest where he made a toe save with his right skate to keep the game scoreless.
But at the 4:18 mark the Steel were able to break through when Jack Badini scored to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Badini’s shot from just above the goal line on the right side beat Kivlenieks after a nifty set up by Steel captain Marc Johnstone from behind the net.
The goal was the seventh of the postseason for the red-hot Chicago forward, and also extended his playoff point streak to 11 games. Badini leads all scorers in the postseason with 16 points in 12 games.
The Steel outshout the Musketeers 19-9 in the opening frame.
The Musketeers had two power play chances to tie the game in the second period, but both times Sioux City then took a penalty to cancel out the man advantage. And with the Muskies’ Jacob Wilson in the penalty box for high sticking, the Steel extended the lead to 2-0 on a power-play goal from Johnny Walker with 5:33 remaining in the middle stanza. The goal was Walker’s first of the postseason, with the shot coming from the slot and beating the Musketeers’ netminder blocker side on an assist from Mitch Lewandowski.
“We weren’t very sharp on the power play,” Sioux City coach Jay Varady said after the game. “Our special teams has to be better for us to succeed as a team.”
Sioux City continued to spend a majority of time in its defensive zone, with shots favoring the Steel 10-6 in the period.
The third period was scoreless until the Steel’s Eduards Tralmaks added an empty-netter with 1:50 remaining to seal the game and give Chicago a 3-0 lead. Shots were 36-27 in favor of the Steel for the contest.
The Musketeers will need to solve Steel netminder Ales Stezka if it wants to keep its season alive. The Chicago goaltender has held the Musketeers to just one goal over the last two games.
“We’ve got to get to the inside offensively,” Varady said. “I thought they did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice and blocking shots.”
Chicago Blackhawks anthem singer Jim Cornelison sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the game, with the crowd of 2,108 cheering throughout as is tradition at Blackhawks home games at the United Center.