Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ice shut out way to series win

Stop us if you've read this before. Denis Smirnov scored a first-period goal, Matt Roy assisted on it, Jason Pawloski and the Indiana Ice defense made it stand up, and the Ice won 1-0 in Green Bay.

Back-to-back nights produce back-to-back 1-0 shutouts for the Ice in Green Bay, and the boxscores looked almost identical. Smirnov had the first-period tally -- this time a PPG at 13:19 of the opening period. Roy had the only assist, and now has four points in the last three games. Pawloski stopped 22 shots -- 10 more than he faced on Thursday night -- to net the shutout. He had to be at his best in the second, when the Ice killed off 54 seconds of 5-on-3 and Pawloski made 10 saves in the period. The Ice had to kill off two more Green Bay power plays in the third, but limited the Gamblers to seven shots for the period -- although the Ice mustered one shot in a defensive mode.

The Ice now move on to the Eastern Conference Final -- the team's first trip this deep into the postseason since 2012, when they swept Dubuque in the conference semis, then lost to Green Bay in three games in the conference final. It's the fifth trip for the Ice to the league semifinals since 2007. The Ice won the Clark Cup in 2009.

Next up is a date with either Dubuque or Cedar Rapids -- Dubuque won Friday's Game 3 by a 1-0 score to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 is Saturday.

While the opponent is not yet known, we do know the Ice will be hosting Games 1 & 2 at Pan Am Pavilion, on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26. The remainder of the series will be scheduled when the opponent is known.

Prior to this series, the Ice had just two playoff shutouts in their history -- a 6-0 win over Fargo in Game 3 of the 2009 Clark Cup Final backstopped by Brett Bennett, and a 4-0 win over Waterloo in the opening game of the 2011 playoffs, backstopped by Casey DeSmith. All three Ice wins in the series were shutouts -- Hayden Stewart winning 2-0 in Game 1, and Pawloski backstopping 1-0 wins in Games 3 and 4. Counting the regular season, Pawloski now has six shutouts, Stewart five.

Box score

  1. Several players stepped up above and beyond -- Patrick Newell scored the Ice's first three goals of the playoffs, Sam Kurker had a four-point period in Game 2, Denis Smirnov scored back-to-back game-winners. But defenseman Matt Roy has also made a huge impact, with two goals and two assists in the last seven periods of the series. The Michigan Tech recruit had nine points in 24 games in the regular season ... he has nearly half that number in 4 playoff games. Along with Smirnov, he leads the team in shots on the series with 12. Roy is also a team-best +4.
  2. The Ice were a perfect 4-0 in Green Bay this season, and had three shutouts -- all by Pawloski. 
  3. One lineup change from Thursday night -- Chris Martenet made his first apperance on the Ice blueline in the series, replacing Ryan Mantha in the lineup. The rest of the D (Kosack-Jacobs, Preston-Roy, Shoup) were unchanged. Up front, there were no changes in terms of roster from Thursday night, as Tyler Andrew and Mitch Hults skated both games in Green Bay after not playing in Games 1 & 2, and Jason Salvaggio/Dwyer Tschantz were scratched. The other scratch was defenseman Vince Pedrie. 
  4. Tip of the cap to Green Bay's Jared Rutledge, who was excellent in net during the series but a hard-luck loser. He stopped 52 of the 54 shots aimed his way over the two nights -- and lost both games. He also had a really solid effort in a 2-0 loss in Game 1. 
  5. Gambler Nick Schmaltz took a major and a game misconduct for slashing at the 20:00 mark of the third period. Schmaltz is an excellent player who has a long hockey career ahead of him, and is likely one of the next in a long line of USHL players who will be playing in the NHL. But hopefully he'll realize there's no place for taking a slashing ejection at the end of the game, no matter how frustrated. 
  6. 5-on-5, the Ice dominated the series, allowing Green Bay just two goals in four games 5-on-5 (out of the six GB scored). The Ice scored five of their nine goals 5-on-5 and another 6-on-5 with the goalie pulled.
  7. Smirnov (3 shots) led the Ice in shots on goal tonight. 
  8. Next up: Dubuque or Cedar Rapids. Against Dubuque, the Ice are 3-1-0 on the year, including two wins (out of three games) in the final two weeks of the season. The most recent game was a 9-1 Ice win on April 2. Dwyer Tschantz (3-5-8) & Scott Conway (5-2-7) lead the Ice in scoring against the Fighting Saints. Against Cedar Rapids, the Ice are 4-0-3, but the games have been close, with four of the seven going OT. The two teams haven't played since the Ice won a 4-3 shootout on Feb. 7. Scott Conway (5-2-7) and Alex Talcott (1-4-5) lead the Ice in scoring against the Rough Riders. While the Ice have faced Dubuque just once in postseason play, they and Cedar Rapids are familiar foes. 
  9. This marked the Ice's third victory in a playoff series against Green Bay, joining a best-of-7 sweep in 2007, and a 3 games to 1 win in 2009. GB got the upper hand on the Ice in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Looking ahead: USHL Friday night scoreboard
(1) Indiana wins series against (4) Green Bay 3 games to 1. Friday: Ice 1, Green Bay 0 in G4
(3) Dubuque leads (2) Cedar Rapids 2 games to 1. Friday: Dubuque 1, Cedar Rapids 0 in G3
(1) Waterloo wins series against (4) Sioux Falls 3 games to 0. The Black Hawks clinched Thursday night.
(2) Omaha leads (3) Sioux City 2 games to 1. Omaha won Friday's G3 4-3 in OT.  

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