Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ice weekly preview: Final week of the season

The Indiana Ice have 3 games the final week of the regular season.

Last week: The Ice split two games in Dubuque, beating the Fighting Saints 5-4 on Friday, before falling 3-2 on Saturday.

What's ahead
Wednesday vs. Dubuque (7:05 p.m., Pan Am Pavilion)
Previous meetings (Ice 2-1-0): Ice 5-3 (10/26 at Indy); Ice 5-4 (3/28 at Dubuque); Saints 3-2 (3/29 at Dubuque).
Scouting the Saints: Dubuque has balanced scoring, but three 20-goal socrers in Karson Kuhlman (23-18-41), Seamus Malone (21-22-43) and Max McHugh (21-12-33). Defenseman Alexx Privitera is 11-32-43. Dubuque has always been solid in its own end, and goaltenders Kevin Reich and Benjamin Johansson both have .900+ save percentages.
What's important: The Ice need a win to keep pace with Waterloo in the Anderson Cup race. They trail by two points and this is their game in hand on the Black Hawks. Dubuque will be either the second or third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs against Cedar Rapids, but will be playing for home ice advantage in that series.

Friday vs. Green Bay (7:05 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
Previous meetings (Ice 2-0-1): Gamblers 4-3 OT (12/5 at Indy); Ice 5-2 (3/14 at Green Bay); Ice 2-0 (3//15 at Green Bay).
Scouting the Gamblers: Green Bay has been a model franchise for some time. Their top scorer is forward Nick Schmaltz (17-44-61). Matthew Weis (20-33-53) is the lone 20-goal scorer, although Ryan Lough (19) and Kevin Irwin (18) are close. Goaltenders Jared Rutlege (2.78 GAA, .906%) and Cam Hackett (2.59 GAA, .908%) are solid in net. The Ice recently swept a weekend tilt in Green Bay, outscoring the Gamblers 7-2 at home.
What's important: Green Bay is currently on the outside looking in for the playoffs and will be desperate. The Ice need to keep pace with Waterloo in the Anderson Cup race.  If Green Bay makes the playoffs, it would be against the Ice.

Saturday at Chicago (8:05 p.m., The Edge Ice Arena)
Previous meetings (Ice 3-0-0): Ice 4-1 (11/9 at Indy); Ice 4-1 (11/30 at Chicago); Ice 4-1 (3/1 at Indy)
Scouting the Steel: Coached by former Ice assistant Scott McConnell, the Steel are in the thick of the playoff race. Look for C.J. Smith (27-16-43) and Robby Jackson (27-13-40) to do the bulk of their scoring. The Ice have won all three meetings by 4-1 scores. Chris Nell (.910%, 3.10 GAA) and Cale Morris (.909%, 2.98 GAA) share net duties.
What's important: Chicago, like Green Bay, is on the outside looking in for the playoffs and will be desperate for points. It's the regular season finale for both teams, which could meet in the postseason.

Beyond this week
The Clark Cup playoffs begin with home games April 11-12 at Pan Am Pavilion against an opponent to be determined.

Official team weekly release
SPLITSVILLE:  Indy’s bid for the Anderson Cup got a bit more interesting as the team split road contests with the Dubuque Fighting Saints on Friday and Saturday.  Sam Kurker potted a pair of goals while Dwyer Tschantz, Joe Sullivan and Matt Roy added tallies as the Ice topped the Saints 5-4 on Friday.  Hayden Stewart logged his 13th consecutive win of the season against his former team in the 27-save effort.  Indy looked to have the game well in hand with a 2-0 lead midway through the third period on Saturday until a quick three-goal rally propelled host Dubuque over Indy 3-2.  Brian Pinho scored the first goal of the contest before Kurker notched his third goal in two contests during the second period.  Jason Pawloski faced 27 shots on net, registering 24 saves in the match.
DOWN TO THE WIRE:  With three tilts remaining and a game in hand, Indy sits two points behind the Waterloo Black Hawks in the chase for their first-ever Anderson Cup championship, awarded to the team with the most standings points at the end of the regular season.  If both teams have an equal amount of points at the conclusion of the regular season, Indy and Waterloo would share the title.
WE’RE THE TOPS:  Friday’s win at Dubuque was more special than what was on the score sheet as the team eclipsed a pair of franchise records in the 5-4 victory.  The decision was Indy’s 40th of the season, passing marks for team wins set in the 2007-08 and the 2008-09 seasons while setting a new record with their eighth consecutive victory.  The Ice could equal two additional franchise bars by sweeping this week’s homestand (most home wins-22, most home points-48).
SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME:  Seven of eight USHL teams have punched their post season dance card with four teams vying for the last remaining Eastern Conference playoff spot.  Muskegon (63), Green Bay (62), Team USA (61) and Chicago (60) are still fighting for the final spot with the Steel having a game in-hand against the others.  Conference leaders Indy and Waterloo are the only teams to have clinched a seed (both number ones) with the remaining squads battling for position.
STEWIE!!!!:  With the win Friday in Dubuque, goaltender Hayden Stewart extended his franchise best win streak to 13 games.  The second-year USHL goaltender has yet to lose as a member of the Ice and his numbers now include a 13-0-0 record, 1.08 GAA, four shutouts and a .954 save percentage.
SWINGMAN:  Aidan Muir’s helping hand continues to fuel the Ice as the Edmonton Oilers prospect is riding a four-game assists streak with six helpers and a +4 plus-minus rating during the stretch.  Muir has been a consistent contributor on the Indy offense as the first overall pick in the 2013 USHL Entry Draft has collaborated on nine goals while chipping in one of his own for ten points (G, 9A) in his past ten games. 
PLAYER BRACKETS:  Scott Conway has 18 points (8G, 10A) in his past ten games…Jason Pawloski is third in the league in wins (25)…Hayden Stewart is second in the league in GAA (2.06) and tied for second in save percentage (.922)…Dwyer Tschantz has seven points (4G, 3A) in his past five games...Defenseman Matt Roy has points in back-to-back contests…Brian Pinho has six goals in his last four games.
TEAM TOURNAMENTS:  Indy leads the league in goals against per game (2.35) and is third in goals per game (3.81)…The Ice lead the league in shots against per game (24.95)…Indy is riding a five-game home winning streak…The Ice is third in the league on the penalty kill at home (87.5%), on the road (85.8%) and overall (86.5%)…Indy is 28-6-7 against the Eastern Conference.
FROZEN ALUMNI: A pair of former Icemen will be vying for the top prize in NCAA Division I college hockey in April as Nick Mattson (North Dakota) and Matt Krug (Union College) will suit up with their respective teams for a shot at the 2014 Frozen Four Championship starting Thursday, April 10 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.  Union will face off against Boston College in the first game while North Dakota and Minnesota will square off in the second game of the evening.  The winners of both games will meet in the Frozen Four Championship on Saturday, April 12 at 7:30 pm.

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