The Indiana Ice finished their most successful regular season with a strong 5-2 victory over the Chicago Steel on the road, but finished two points short in their quest for the Anderson Cup when Waterloo rallied from two one-goal deficits to defeat Cedar Rapids in a shootout.
The Ice finish the season with 91 points (42-11-7), two back of Waterloo (44-11-5). They also learned their playoff opponent, as they'll face Green Bay (30-24-6) in the best-of-5 Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Ice never trailed Saturday, with five different players scoring goals. Included in that batch were Scott Conway -- who finishes the year scoring six of his 33 goals in the final three games -- and Brian Pinho. The latter's third-period game-winner and an earlier assist gave him 28 of each for the year. The Ice finish the year with three 20-goal scorers -- Dwyer Tschantz (24) being the third. He had an assist this evening.
Also of note, Conway and Austin Kosack each finished the year +40, the top forward and defenseman in the USHL in plus-minus.
Matt Roy and Patrick Newell scored power play goals in the first two periods to give the Ice a 2-0 edge. Pinho scored at 3:14 of the third, just 77 seconds after the Steel had cut the lead to one. Conway added an insurance goal, and Tyler Andrew scored an empty-netter to cap the regular season. Jason Pawloski made 31 saves to register his second victory of the week.
1. The regular season is completed, but the playoffs will be a grind. With only half of the USHL's teams making it, the postseason will be a survival contest. We'll have a more in-depth preview in the week, but the Ice and Green Bay split four games this season, and all of them were close. The road team won all four games.
2. The Ice power play was 2-for-6, the second straight game with two PPGs, even though they didn't convert on a two-minute 5-on-3 in the second period. They were 2-for-7 in Friday's loss to Green Bay.
3. As has been the case all season, great balance keyed the Ice offense, and that will be critical when the postseason begins and matchups become key. Coach Jeff Brown has lots of pieces to mix and match with. Brian Pinho (G, A) and Austin Kosack (2A) were the only two players with multi-point games, but nine different players registered a point in the contest.
4. A nice problem to have: Hayden Stewart finished the year 13-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and a .945 save % for the Ice. Jason Pawloski is 27-8-6/2.46, but has had five solid games to close the year, going 4-1-0 with a 1.81 GAA and .932 sv% in those games.
USHL playoff matchups
Eastern Conference: (1) Indiana vs. (4) Green Bay; (2) Cedar Rapids vs. (3) Dubuque
Western Conference: (1) Waterloo vs. (4) Sioux Falls; (2) Omaha vs. (3) Sioux City
The Ice open the playoffs against the Green Bay Gamblers, with Games 1 & 2 slated to be played at Pan Am Pavilion on Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12. Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m. The schedule for the remainder of the series will be announced Monday, with the likelihood that Games 3 and 4 would be in Green Bay the weekend of April 18-19. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats and are on sale at the Ice office (925-4423) and Ticketmaster.