Kurker scored the game's first goal at 8:06 of the opening period, and jammed in the eventual winner in a goalmouth scramble at 1:29 of the third. At the time, it was a key insurance goal, but became the game-winner when the Fighting Saints' Robby Benson scored his second goal of the game in the closing minutes.
He skated right wing with the red-hot line of Scott Conway and Denis Smirnov. The trio combined on all three Ice goals -- Smirnov had a mid-first period tally on the shift after Kurker's goal that made it 2-0, a margin the Ice held until the final 72 seconds of the second period. Conway had two assists. For Smirnov, it was his third goal in four games and second in as many nights.
Kurker was a game-time addition to the lineup, replacing Mitch Hults on right wing with Smirnov and Conway. Both players took warmups. Kurker finished the night a plus-3 -- his first goal came with Brian Pinho and Patrick Newell as linemates. Conway had a team-high five shots.
Jason Pawloski was again solid, making 26 saves to give the Ice the victory. In five playoff wins, the Ice have allowed just three goals and have scored 11. He had to be at his best late in the first period, when he had to make three stops in the final 30 seconds, and seven minutes into the second, when he made three more saves on a flurry of shots from around the crease, the last robbing Shane Eiserman with his right pad.
IndianaIce.com game story
A baker's dozen of takeaways
- Conway's line has been solid throughout the postseason, no matter his linemates -- Patrick Newell and Smirnov have worked the left side, Dwyer Tschantz, Mitch Hults and Kurker the right. They have combined for 11 of the 14 goals scored by Ice forwards in the postseason. Conway (G, 5A) and Kurker (3G, 3A) lead the Ice in playoff scoring.
- The other three goals by forwards have come from the line of Jacob Pritchard-Brian Pinho-Aidan Muir, which dominated possession in Game 1 and tallied two goals. They were again a solid two-way line tonight, and generated a great chance when Pritchard's work along the wall found Pinho in front for a shot that was stopped by Kevin Reich, who also robbed Muir on a rebound.
- Joe Sullivan was an unsung hero tonight, throwing his body around to block shots -- including two key ones on point slapshots on a mid-2nd period Saints power play. He made a diving play to help the Ice get possession in the corner as Dubuque was trying to get the equalizer with the goaltender pulled. Linemate Tyler Pham also had a similar diving stick check at the blueline to thwart Dubuque's last rush.
- Matt Roy continued his amazing playoff run with an assist on Kurker's game-winner. Roy has two goals and three assists in six playoff games. He is the team's third-leading postseason scorer and is tied with Kurker in plus-minus with a +6 rating. Roy had nine points in 24 regular-season games.
- Dubuque was a desperate team tonight, and played like it, but its attempts to pick up its physical game also led to two roughing minors and a third cross-checking penalty behind the play.
- Kurker was a game-time addition to the lineup, replacing Mitch Hults on right wing with Smirnov and Conway. Both players took warmups. It was one of a handful of lineup changes from Friday's Game 1 -- wings Jason Salvaggio and Alex Talcott returned to the lineup and skated with Patrick Newell (who had been with Hults and Kurker the previous evening). Dwyer Tschantz was the other forward scratch. On defense, Chris Martenet replaced Ryan Mantha in the lineup.
- Dubuque's only lineup change was replacing Ryan Chiasson with Eric Robinson on fourth-line left wing. Otherwise, the lineup was intact from Friday night.
- Of note, Denis Smirnov's goal would've extended his scoring streak to four, but a retroactive scoring change from Game 4 of the Green Bay series gave a goal originally credited to Smirnov to Mitch Hults, so Smirnov now has a goal in three of his last four games and two straight.
- All of the goals came from in-tight scrambles and shots, most notably the game-winner, where several players were hacking at the puck before it went in. Kurker's first goal was a tip from Austin Kosack. Smirnov's goal was also an in-tight play.
- The Ice again showed their strength in the third period, scoring an early goal and outshooting the Fighting Saints 17-10, bouncing back from a second period in which the Saints carried much of the play and scored the only goal on the power play after an offensive-zone penalty in the final two minutes.
- The Ice PK was 3-4, none better than when the Fighting Saints got a 6-on-4 advantage with the goalie pulled for the final 24 seconds. A key faceoff win by the Ice allowed them to clear the puck. Dubuque is now 1-6 on the PP in the series. The Ice were 0-3 on the PP and are 2-6 on the series, but Kurker's third-period goal came seconds after Dubuque's Max McHugh exited the box.
- The Ice again kept much of Dubuque's offense outside the dots. Their shots on goal leaders -- Alexx Privitera and Keegan Ford -- who both had four shots -- were defensemen. Leading scorers Seamus Malone and Max McHugh combined for three shots on goal.
- The series shifts to Dubuque, where the Fighting Saints are 17-1 all-time in the postseason. The one loss was their only series loss since their 2010-11 revival, a defeat at the hands of the Ice in 2012 to finish a three-game sweep. Game 3 will be next Friday, May 2, with Game 4 the following night. If needed, Game 5 will be at Pan Am Pavilion on May 6. The Ice were 1-1 at Dubuque this season.
Jason Salvaggio-Patrick Newell-Alex Talcott
Tyler Pham-Joe Sullivan-Tyler Andrew
Denis Smirnov-Scott Conway-Sam Kurker
Jacob Pritchard-Brian Pinho-Aidan Muir
Tim Shoup-Matt Roy
Austin Kosack-Josh Jacobs
Chris Martenet-Mike Preston
Scratches: F-Dwyer Tschantz, Mitch Hults; D-Ryan Mantha, Vince Pedrie
Dubuque Fighting Saints
Jacob Benson-Seamus Malone-Karson Kuhlman
Shane Eiserman-Max McHugh-Dylan Gambrell
Brett Boeing-Robby Darrar-Jarrid Privitera
Eric Robinson-Jason Ford-Shane Kavanaugh
Jordan Klimek-Alexx Privitera
Keegan Ford-Josh Elmes
Blake Hillman-Phil Boje
Scratches: F-John Baiocco, Ryan Chiasson, Gordie Green, D-Jeff Alderfer
Elsewhere in the USHL
Waterloo used three power play goals to beat Sioux City 3-1 in a penalty-filled game. The Black Hawks now lead the series 2-0 as it shifts to Sioux City next Friday night.