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Friday Feature: 2021 Clark Cup Playoffs Primer

04/29/2021, 3:15pm CDT
By Brent Meske

Check Up on All the Information You Need Before the Clark Cup Playoffs Begin Tonight

(1) Chicago Steel vs. (4) Dubuque Fighting Saints

Schedule:
Game 1 – Friday, April 30 (7:05 p.m. CT)
Game 2 – Saturday, May 1 (7:05 p.m. CT)
Game 3 – Sunday, May 2 (7:05 p.m. CT)*

(all games played at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois)

Head-to-Head:
Chicago (5-2-1-0 overall, 2-2-0-0 home)
Dubuque (3-3-2-0 overall, 2-0-2-0 road)

When We Last Met:
The last time Chicago and Dubuque met in the Clark Cup Playoffs was in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2017 Playoffs. The Steel won the series 3-1 en route to their first and only Clark Cup Championship. The first two games of the series were played at Fox Valley Ice Arena and saw the teams split the contests.

What to Watch For:

  • Special Teams Importance: Dubuque and Chicago are the least and third-least penalized teams in the USHL this season and both are in the top-five in powerplay as Chicago is first (28.3%) and Dubuque is fourth (22.0%).
  • First Goal is Key: Chicago has the league’s best record (24-4-1-1, 0.833) when scoring first in a matchup while Dubuque’s 19-5-0-0 (0.792) record is fourth.
  • High Powered Offenses: The Steel’s 265 goals this season was a franchise record that also led the USHL while Dubuque’s 199 goals scored was fourth in the USHL. Five of the top six goal scorers in the regular season will be featured in the game: Matt Coronato – CHI (48 – 1st), Erik Middendorf – CHI (32 – 2nd), Josh Doan – CHI (31 – 4th), Sean Farrell – CHI (29 – 5th), & Robert Cronin – DBQ (28 – 6th)
  • Sean Farrell Show: Sean Farrell has been outstanding this season, becoming just the second USHL player in Tier I history to break the 100-point mark in a single season. Farrell finished the season with 101 points (29-72-101) in 53 games, leading the league in both points and assists. Farrell enters the playoffs on a 15-game point and assist streak (7-24-31) dating back to March 13. Farrell’s 15-game assist streak is a league-high while his 15-game point streak is fourth-best  in the league this season.
  • Hot Streaks for Each Team: Both teams enter the Playoffs on a winning streak, with the Steel having won their last eight games and the Fighting Saints winners of their last three.

Players to Watch:
Chicago: Sean Farrell & Matt Coronato
Farrell led the league in points (101) and assists (72) this season while Coronato led the league with 48 goals. The Harvard University commits were the top two scorers on a high-powered Chicago offense that had the top four point totals in the league who combined for 324 points (140-184-324).

Dubuque: Robert Cronin
Cronin led the Fighting Saints in scoring this season with 53 points (28-25-53) in 48 games. The University of New Hampshire commit had seven points in his final two games of the season (3-4-7). Fellow Fighting Saints Tristan Lemyre and Connor Kurth also enter on hot streaks as Lemyre is on a seven-game point streak and Kurth has an active four-game assist streak.

NHL Draft Picks:
Ian Moore, CHI (Anaheim Ducks, 2020, Round 3, #67 overall)
Lukas Parik, DBQ (Los Angeles Kings, 2019, Round 3, #87 overall)
Henry Thrun, DBQ (Anaheim Ducks, 2019, Round 4, #101 overall)
Sean Farrell, CHI (Montreal Canadiens, 2020, Round 4, #124 overall)

Braden Doyle, DBQ (Los Angeles Kings, 2019, Round 6, #157 overall)
Joe Miller, CHI (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2020, Round 6, #180 overall)


(2) Muskegon Lumberjacks vs. (3) Green Bay Gamblers

Schedule:
Game 1 – Friday, April 30 (7:10 p.m. ET)
Game 2 – Saturday, May 1 (7:10 p.m. ET)
Game 3 – Sunday, May 2 (5:00 p.m. ET)*

(all games played at Mercy Health Arena in Muskegon, Michigan)

Head-to-Head:
Muskegon (5-4-0-1 overall, 2-2-0-1 home)
Green Bay (5-3-1-1 overall, 3-2-0-0)

When We Last Met:
The Muskegon Lumberjacks and Green Bay Gamblers have never crossed paths in the Clark Cup Playoffs.

What to Watch For:

  • Never Out of It: The Gamblers will have to play a strong third period in the series as the Lumberjacks have a league-best 79 third period goals and have been hard to put away, posting a 7-11-0-0 record after trailing during the second intermission. Green Bay is up to the task however, finishing the regular season with a 22-0-0-1 record when leading after two periods.  
  • Active Scorers: Quinn Hutson (Muskegon) enters the playoffs on six-game point streaks while Nick Portz (Muskegon) has an active four-game assist streak.
  • Equal Footing: The Lumberjacks and Gamblers enter the playoffs having both lost their last two games and holding identical 6-3-1-0 records over their last 10 games of the regular season.
  • Hello Again: Dylan Wendt currently dons Lumberjacks black and gold but the Western Michigan University commit played for the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2018-19 season and the first part of the 2019-20 season before being acquired by Muskegon.

Players to Watch:
Muskegon: Daniil Gushchin
In his third season with the Lumberjacks, San Jose Sharks prospect Gushchin improved on his goal, assist and point marks for the third-straight season. Gushchin finished the 2020-21 campaign with 64 points (32-32-64) in 46 games.

Green Bay: Mason Lohrei & Jake Schmaltz
Fans of the Boston Bruins will love to see two Bruins prospects leading the offensive charge for the Gamblers this season. Lohrei (Ohio State University), a defenseman, led the team with 59 points (19-40-59) in 48 games while Schmaltz (University of North Dakota), a forward, finished second on the team with 53 points (19-34-53). Schmaltz will bring playoff experience to the Gamblers as the McFarland, Wisc. Native appeared in 11 games during the Chicago Steel’s run to the Clark Cup Final in the 2019 Playoffs.

NHL Draft Picks:
Mason Lohrei, GB (Boston Bruins, 2020, Round 2, #58)
John Farinacci, MUS (Arizona Coyotes, 2019, Round 3, #76)
Daniil Gushchin, MUS (San Jose Sharks, 2020, Round 3, #76)
Jackson Hallum, GB (Vegas Golden Knights, 2020, Round 3, #91)
Jackson Kunz, GB (Vancouver Canucks, 2020, Round 4, #113)
Kyle Aucoin, MUS (Detroit Red Wings, 2020, Round 6, #156)
Jake Schmaltz, GB (Boston Bruins, 2019, Round 7, #192)
Timofei Spitserov, MUS (San Jose Sharks, 2020, Round 7, #210)


(1) Tri-City Storm vs. (4) Fargo Force

Schedule:
Game 1 – Friday, April 30 (7:05 p.m. CT)
Game 2 – Saturday, May 1 (7:05 p.m. CT)
Game 3 – Sunday, May 2 (4:05 p.m. CT)*

(all games played at Viaero Center in Kearny, Nebraska)

Head-to-Head:
Tri-City (4-2-0-0 overall, 2-1-0-0 home)
Fargo (2-3-1-0 overall, 1-1-1-0 road)

When We Last Met:
The only postseason meeting between the two teams came during the 2018 Playoffs where Fargo won the Western Conference First Round matchup 2-0 with both games played at Scheels Arena.

What to Watch For:

  • Battle Between the Pipes: Todd Scott (Tri-City) and Brennan Boynton (Fargo) are the Players to Watch in this matchup for a simple reason: they’ve been stellar. Scott and Boynton each finished in the top-four of league netminders in wins, goals against average and save percentage.
  • Second Intermission: Who has the lead at the second intermission could determine the winner. Tri-City has only conceded one of a possible 54 points when leading after two periods this season with a 26-0-1-0 record. Fargo has been nearly as unbeatable with a 26-2-0-0 record when leading after two this season. While the Force have been able to come from behind three times to earn points (2-15-1-0) after trailing at the second intermission, the Storm haven’t been able to come back from the deficit (0-11-0-0).
  • Storm Warning on the PK: Tri-City finished the regular season with the best penalty killing unit (88.3%) in the league. Fargo’s 83.8% on the powerplay on the road this season was best for third in the league.
  • Stop the Skid: Both teams come into the Playoffs on losing streaks with the Storm having lost their last six games (0-5-1-0) and the Force coming in the losers of their last two games of the season.

Players to Watch:
Tri-City: Todd Scott
Scott was a frequent USHL Goaltender of the Week this year for the Storm and finished second among league goalies with a 2.37 goals against average and 0.910 save percentage. His 22-10-2-1 record came in 39 appearances.

Fargo: Brennan Boynton
The Force goaltender was among the league’s best this season with 26 wins (tied for 1st), 2.43 goals against average (3rd) and 0.901 save percentage (4th). Boynton finished with a 26-16-1-0 record in 46 games played.

NHL Draft Picks:
Aaron Huglen, FGO (Buffalo Sabres, 2019, Round 4, #102)
Rhett Pitlick, TC (Montreal Canadiens, 2019, Round 5, #131)
Austin Wong, FGO (Winnipeg Jets, 2018, Round 7, #215)


(2) Omaha Lancers vs. (3) Sioux City Musketeers

Schedule:
Game 1 – Saturday, May 1 (6:05 p.m. CT)
Game 2 – Sunday, May 2 (4:05 p.m. CT)
Game 3 – Monday, May 3 (7:05 p.m. CT)*

(all games played at Ralston Arena in Omaha, Nebraska)

Head-to-Head:
Omaha (4-3-1-0 overall, 3-0-1-0 home)
Sioux City (4-4-0-0 overall, 1-3-0-0 road)

When We Last Met:
The Musketeers won the last postseason matchup back in the 2014 Clark Cup Playoffs when Sioux City bested Omaha 3-1 in the Conference Semifinals with the Lancers and Musketeers again ranked as #2 and #3 in the Western Conference, respectively. Prior to that, the Lancers won a Semifinal matchup 3-2 in the 2008 Playoffs with all three Omaha wins coming on home ice. In four postseason series matchups, the Lancers and Musketeers each have four wins in games played in Omaha.

What to Watch For:

  • Premier Goaltending Matchup: Jakub Dobes (Omaha) and Akira Schmid (Sioux City) were among the league’s best goaltenders this season as Sioux City (125) and Omaha (156) finished the regular season first and fourth, respectively, in goals against.
  • Penalty Killing Specialists: The Lancers and Musketeers, much in thanks to their goaltenders, finished the regular season among league leaders on the penalty kill. The Lancers’ 85.1% penalty kill was second-best in the USHL while the Musketeers’ 83.6% finished fourth in the league.
  • No Place Like Home: The Lancers and Musketeers were very equally matched this season, but the home team got the better of the matchups throughout the season. Omaha was 3-0-1-0 in four meetings at Ralston Arena, with their lone loss coming in overtime in the final meeting of the season in Omaha. Sioux City will have to find a way to best the home squad, but did finish tied for fourth with a 15-11-1-0 record on the road this season. The Lancers were 18-7-2-0 at home (tied-2nd).
  • The Heat is On: Both teams enter the series on a hot streak as both teams finished the regular season strong. Omaha has earned a point in their last seven games (6-0-1-0) while Sioux City has won its last six games.
  • Hello Again: Omaha’s Sam Antenucci played for the Musketeers last season while Sioux City’s Chase Bradley, Bennett Schimek and Akira Schmid all previously suited up for the Omaha Lancers.

Players to Watch:
Omaha: Jakub Dobes
Montreal Canadiens prospect Jakub Dobes was great between the pipes for the Lancers, finishing third among league netminders with a 0.908 save percentage and fourth-best 2.48 goals against average. Dobes led the league with 47 appearances in net and tied for the league lead with 26 wins (26-16-2-1).

Sioux City: Akira Schmid
New Jersey Devils goaltending prospect Akira Schmid finished the 2020-21 campaign with a league-best 2.01 goals against average and 0.921 save percentage in 36 appearances with a 22-13-1-0 record.

NHL Draft Picks:
Ethan Edwards, SC (New Jersey Devils, 2020, Round 4, #120)
Matteo Costantini, SC (Buffalo Sabres, 2020, Round 5, #131)
Akira Schmid, SC (New Jersey Devils, 2018, Round 5, #136)
Jakub Dobes, OMA (Montreal Canadiens, 2020, Round 5, #136)
Kienan Draper, OMA (Detroit Red Wings, 2020, Round 7, #187)
John Fusco, SC (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2020, Round 7, #189)
Chase Bradley, SC (Detroit Red Wings, 2020, Round 7, #203)

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