Saints vs Steel

Dubuque goalie Lucas Parik makes a toe save as Dubuque’s Henry Thrun and Chicago’s Erik Middendorf look on during the first period Sunday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Ill.

The Dubuque Fighting Saints’ dramatic comeback story didn’t include a sequel.

Matt Coronato scored a pair of goals and the Chicago Steel pulled away for a 6-1 victory over Dubuque on Saturday night in Game 2 of the USHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals in Geneva, Ill. With the series sweep, top-seeded Chicago advanced to meet second-seeded Muskegon in the best-of-three conference final beginning next weekend. The Lumberjacks swept third-seeded Green Bay in the other semifinal.

Dubuque overcame a 1-10-0 start to the regular-season to finish 24-23-4-1 and extend the USHL’s longest active playoff streak to 10. The Saints have never missed the playoffs or finished below .500 since returning to the USHL in the 2010-11 season.

On Saturday, the Saints played without forwards Andrei Buyalsky and Ryan Alexander and defenseman Michael Feenstra – all significant contributors to the push to make the playoffs Buyalsky and Alexander suffered injuries during the final week of the regular-season, and Feenstra was hurt in Friday’s series opener.

Chicago scored twice in the first period and finished with a 20-9 advantage in shots on goal.

Mackie Samoskevich opened the scoring with a power play goal at the 13:50 mark. He scored on a one-timer from the left wing after taking a pass from defenseman Ian Moore. Jack Bar picked up a secondary assist.

Then, 4:55 later, defenseman Ryan Ufko made it 2-0 when he skated in from the blue line and snapped a shot into the top right corner of the net. Matt Coronato and Samoskevich assisted.

Coronato, the regular-season USHL goal leader, stretched the lead to 3-0 at the 1:44 mark of the second period on a somewhat controversial goal. Chicago’s Erik Middendorf collided with Saints goalie Lukas Parik as Coronato’s shot from the high slot found the net. After a brief discussion, the on-ice officials deemed it a good goal.

Dubuque capitalized on its first power play of the series at 5:26 of the second period to cut the deficit to 3-1. Chicago had received the first four power plays in the series against the Saints.

Kenny Connors, who scored three regular-season goals, outmuscled defenseman Colton Huard for a loose puck in the blue paint and slid it past goaltender Simon Latkoczy. Stephen Halliday and Robert Cronin picked up assists after contributing to a goalmouth scramble just 11 seconds into the man-advantage situation.

Chicago regained the three-goal cushion with a power play goal by USHL regular-season scoring champ Sean Farrell just 3:42 later. From the left faceoff circle, Farrell fired a shot into the top left corner of the net. Ufko and Coronato assisted.

Adam Fantilli made it 5-1 with a brilliant individual effort at 17:52 of the second. On a partial breakaway, he sidestepped a defender before sliding the puck between Parik’s legs.

Coronato scored his second goal of the night 4:46 into the third period while on a five-minute major power play. He scored on a shot from the top of the right circle after Farrell and Ufko worked the puck around the perimeter.

Chicago finished with a 46-25 advantage in shots on goal and went 3-for-6 on the power play, while Dubuque went 1-for-2. In the series, the Steel owned an 8-2 advantage in power plays against the Saints, who were the USHL’s least-penalized team in the regular-season by 118 penalty minutes.

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