Saturday, January 7, 2012

(Near) Perfect 10

The Indiana Ice have extended their streak of games without a regulation loss to 10 with another strong performance in a 4-1 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms at the Pepsi Coliseum.

Tonight, the Ice exploded for three third-period goals to break open what had been a tight game, tied 1-1 going into the third. 

It was the Ice's third straight victory in a "four-point game" against Youngstown -- their closest challenger for second place in the USHL's Eastern Conference -- (e.g., an Ice win gives them 2 points and therefore prevents Youngstown from getting 2), and the Ice are now 3-0-1 against the Phantoms. With a 19-7-4 record at the halfway point of the season, the Ice are now four points clear of both Youngstown and Dubuque, who are tied for third. They're also closing in on Green Bay, which was idle tonight and has 47 points.

The Ice outscored Youngstown 12-3 in those three games, which are three-fifths of a five-game winning streak. In the 8-0-2 streak, the Ice have outscored foes 38-18.

Jon Gillies and Jacob Fallon -- both of whom did not make the trip to Waterloo Friday night -- returned to the lineup and both contributed in the victory. Gillies made 36 saves for his league-best and Fallon had an assist. Sean Kuraly was a scratch for the second straight night. Another regular who was out of the lineup tonight was defenseman Alexander Kuqali, the first game he has missed this season. Only leading scorer Daniil Tarasov and captain Alex Barron have skated in all 30 Ice games this season.

In his last four starts, Gillies has a 1.22 GAA, a 4-0-0 record and a .957 save percentage. He has a league-best 17 wins.

He stopped 15 first-period shots as Youngstown dominated the first period -- the Ice got only four shots on goal. It took until past the halfway mark of the game before one of the goaltenders -- Gillies and Youngstown's Sean Romeo -- flinched. The first to break the ice was ex-Iceman Alex Gacek, who had a shorthanded tally with 7:00 left in the second period.

The Ice got another power play later in the period -- their third of the game -- and Woody Hudson cashed in with his sixth goal of the season and first since Dec. 17, in the final minute of the second. The Ice had tied the game at 1-1 despite having been outshot 28-12.

The third period was a different story. Dan Sherer started the third-period explosion at 6:43 with his first USHL goal. Six minutes later, Drew Smolcynski scored his first goal since Oct. 21 -- and tallied his fourth point in the last five games he's skated in -- to provide some insurance.

The Ice had to kill off a late penalty, and then got a power play in the closing minutes. Down two, Youngstown pulled Romeo, but it instead led to Tarasov's 18th goal of the year into the empty net.

Defenseman Matthew Krug had a two-point night, assisting on both Hudson and Smolcynski's tallies. Eleven different Ice skaters registered at least one point on the night.

The Ice power play, which had dipped below the amazingly-high 30 percent number for the first time on the season after last night's game, converted on two of five chances. 

3 stars
1. Jon Gillies (Ice), 36 saves, 1 GA, win
2. Dan Sherer (Ice), GWG, +1
3. Woody Hudson (Ice), goal

USHL boxscore story

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