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.