SIOUX CITY | One of the factors which have made the Sioux City Musketeers the team they are is their ability to react to various situations.
Jay Varady, the United States Hockey League’s coach of the year, kept his cool and watched his team do the same when the Waterloo Black Hawks pulled within 5-3 two minutes into the third period of Game 5’s Western Conference Finals Tuesday night.
You can bet there will be times of adversity beginning Friday night when the Anderson Cup champions start the Clark Cup Finals against the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Steel. Game 1 will start at 7:05 Friday night and that’s the same starting time for Saturday’s Game 2.
“It was pretty easy what the message was at 5-3,” said Varady. “It was like, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got a two-goal lead in Game 5. It doesn’t matter how you get the two-goal lead, let’s just go and play.’ Maybe that was the message they needed to hear instead of ‘Hey, we just gave up three in a row.’
“Our mindset all year has been to play the situation. The situation was, we had a two-goal lead. That’s how we wanted to play.”
The combination of goals, two minutes apart from Odeen Tufto and Brian Rigali sparked the Musketeers to the 8-3 win. Sioux City is in the Clark Cup Finals for the first time since the 2004-05 season when Coach Dave Siciliano’s team fell in four games to Cedar Rapids.
Overall, it’s the sixth Clark Cup Final appearance for the Musketeers. Under Coach Bob Ferguson, Sioux City won Clark Cup titles in 1982 over Des Moines and in 1986 over Rochester. Ferguson was also the coach of teams that lost to Dubuque and St. Paul in 1983 and 1984, respectively.
Siciliano also guided Sioux City to the Clark Cup title in 2002 over Omaha.
The last time that the top-seeded team from the Western Conference and the top-seeded team from the Eastern Conference faced off in the Clark Cup Finals was 2014. Indiana, the team with the USHL’s worst record in 2012-13 (21-37-6) defeated Western Conference champion Waterloo.
Chicago is in the Clark Cup Finals for the first time in team history. The Steel will host Game 3 on Friday, May 19 at 7:05 p.m. at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Ill., and, if necessary, Game 4 the following night, with the same starting time.
If Game 5 is needed, it will start at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23 at the Tyson Events Center.
The Musketeers are also looking to be the first team win both the Anderson Cup and the Clark Cup since Dubuque accomplished the feat in 2013. Incidentally, Ferguson’s 1982 and 1986 teams also won the Anderson Cup.
Chicago posted 2-1 wins over the Musketeers on Jan. 15 at Fox Valley and Feb. 10 at the Tyson Events Center.
“Obviously they’re a good team because they’re in the Clark Cup Finals,” said Tufto, who has four goals and four assists thus far in the Clark Cup Playoffs. “We have home ice advantage so we need to use that to our advantage. That’s going to be big.”