Sunday, April 13, 2014

Furious rally falls short in Game 2 Ice loss

The Indiana Ice had a furious rally, scoring four third-period goals -- including two in the final 1:38 -- but it was unable to come all the way back in an odd 6-5 loss to the Green Bay Gamblers in Game 2 of their USHL Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. The best-of-5 series, now tied at 1-1, heads to Green Bay for Games 3 and 4, which will be Thursday, April 17 and Friday, April 18.

Aidan Muir and Matt Roy scored goals in the closing seconds with the goalie pulled, and the Ice's Tyler Pham had another doorstep chance as the buzzer sounded, allowing Green Bay to survive.

The Ice dominated the third period, outshooting Green Bay 19-5 in the final 20 minutes. They nearly rallied from two different three-goal deficits. But the Gamblers scored three power play goals -- one of which was an own goal by the Ice on a delayed penalty -- and an empty-netter to seal it.

The Ice had life early in the third, with Matt Roy scoring a power play goal from the high slot at 1:55, and they kept buzzing. Sam Kurker finally solved Rutledge with 8:02 left, as a rebound popped to him at the left side of the net and he put it into an open side, making it a 4-3 game. The Ice continued to pressure the net, but couldn't get the equalizer. Instead, they got a penalty -- a slashing call that came from behind the play that was vocally disputed. Matthew Weis cashed in on a perfect cross-ice feed to make it 5-3, and Ryan Lough scored an empty-netter with 2:12 left to make it a 6-3 game, before the final scramble.

The first goal came out of a netmouth scramble that saw Muir pounce on the puck on a 6-on-4 with 1:22 left. With goaltender Jason Pawloski remaining out of the net for an extra attacker, Roy fired a shot over Rutledge's shoulder from the center point to make it 6-5 with :52 left. The Ice again had a chance at the buzzer, but couldn't get the equalizer.

Green Bay scored two goals off deflections in the opening period. Patrick Newell scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the second to cut what had been a two-goal deficit to one, and the Ice had a good chance to tie with several opportunities on a penalty to the Gamblers' Anthony Walsh. But Gamblers' goaltender Jared Rutledge stood tall, and a minute after the penalty was killed, Green Bay's Nick Schmaltz pounced on a loose puck in the high slot and put a shot just under the crossbar to make it 3-1.

Green Bay took a three-goal lead on an odd sequence. The Ice had a power play when Jordan Gross was called for slashing at 5:50. Just 19 seconds later, the Ice's Jason Salvaggio was whistled for a high sticking penalty in the offensive zone, and Scott Conway was whistled for a slash 17 seconds later, giving the Gamblers a 4-on-3. The Ice killed it brilliantly, and Aidan Muir had a partial breakaway that drew a penalty on Green Bay's Connor Hurley. As Ice goaltender Hayden Stewart came off for an extra attacker, the Ice tried to play the puck back to a point that had been vacated. The puck went straight to the back of the net, giving the Gamblers a 4-1 lead.

Ten takeaways
1. The Gamblers now have home-ice advantage in the series, and the Ice need to win at least one of the two games in Green Bay. If they can win both -- which they did during their regular-season visit to the Resch Center -- they'll advance to the next round. A split would mean a Game 5 on April 21 at Pan Am Pavilion.
2. The key for the Ice? Keep the game 5-on-5. They did so in Game 1, and killed off the two first-period penalties they committed. But both teams' power plays have been potent against each other -- Green Bay was 3-5 on the PP tonight and is 5-11 in the three meetings between the teams the last two weeks. The Ice are a healthy 25% clip at 4-16. But of Green Bay's 10 goals against the Ice in that stretch, three have come 5-on-5 -- in addition to five PPGs, they have an ENG and a 4-on-4 goal. Of the Ice's nine goals in that same stretch, four are 5-on-5. Four come via PP and one was an extra-attacker goal.
3. The Ice are 2-0 in the Resch Center this season.
4. Both goaltenders were used tonight. Hayden Stewart made 11 saves in the first two periods and allowed four goals, but two were deflected on their way in, a third was a perfect shot from the high slot, and the fourth was an own-goal that went in while he was heading to the bench -- all unstoppable. Jason Pawloski saw five shots, stopped four, and again, the one goal was a virtually-unstoppable shot off a cross-ice feed into the open side. Jeff Brown has a pretty good luxury with two solid goaltenders.
5. The Ice's strength and desperation showed in the third period. Follow that template, and it will likely be a happy bus ride home from Green Bay. 6. Sam Kurker had his best period as an Iceman in that third period. The St. Louis Blues' second-round pick in 2011, he factored into all four goals -- scoring once and assisting on the other three.
7. Matt Roy scored four goals in the regular season. He had two in the third period tonight. Again, in the playoffs, matchups are critical, as is depth. Roy and defense partner Mike Preston were both +2 tonight, combined for eight shots and each had two points.
8. The third-period pairing of Jacob Pritchard-Tyler Pham-Sam Kurker was solid, as Jeff Brown made some tweaks to the Ice lines in the final 20 minutes, and found quite a spark offensively.
9. Lots to be confident about after the Ice's third-period performance. Repeat that -- and the Game 1 performance -- and the Ice will have the upper hand next week.
10. Conner Hurley emerged for Green Bay with a four-point night -- two goals and two assists. Nick Schmaltz, who is one of the top players in the USHL, had a goal and two assists. 

Box score game story

Series schedule
April 11: Indiana 2, Green Bay 0
April 12: Green Bay 6, Indiana 5
April 17: at Green Bay, 8:05 p.m.
April 18: at Green Bay, 8:05 p.m.
April 21: at Pan Am Pavilion, 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)
Elsewhere in the USHL
In the other Eastern Conference series, Cedar Rapids defeated Dubuque 6-5. The Riders lost a 5-0 lead, but Corey Petrash scored with 53 seconds left to win it for CR. Their series shifts to Dubuque tied 1-1.

In the West, Waterloo took a 2-0 lead on Sioux Falls with a 6-3 victory. Sioux City got a road win in Game 1 of its semifinal series, beating Omaha 5-4 on Avery Peterson's unassisted goal in OT.

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