Friday, April 25, 2014

Special teams, 3rd period carry Ice to G1 win

Special teams play and a dominant third period for the Indiana Ice led them to a 4-1 victory over the Dubuque Fighting Saints Friday night in Game 1 of the USHL Eastern Conference Finals.

Scott Conway scored the game-winning goal on the power play late in the second period. Brian Pinho added a goal and an assist for the Ice, who had four different goal-scorers. The Ice were 2-3 on the power play, killed both penalties they faced, and controlled play as the game went on.

Game 2 of the best-of-5 series is Saturday at Pan Am Pavilion.

Dubuque drew first blood just 1:49 into the game, when a turnover at the blueline led to Robby Darrar skating in alone and scoring to put the Saints up 1-0. The Fighting Saints were flying early and had a handful of early chances turned aside by Jason Pawloski.

His night got easier as the game went on, and Pawloski stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced for the win. He has now allowed two goals in 10 periods of playoff hockey.

But the Ice seized control of the game on the power play. Midway through the first, Jarrid Privitera was called for elbowing, and the Ice took advantage, posting Jacob Pritchard in the middle of Dubuque's defensive box. He took a feed from Austin Kosack in the high slot, turned and fired a puck that deflected into the Fighting Saints net with 5:06 left in the first.

The Ice appeared to score the go-ahead goal in the second, but an apparent tally by Brian Pinho was waved off because contact had been made with the goaltender. It was that line's second disallowed goal of the game -- Aidan Muir deflected a puck past goaltender Kevin Reich with a high stick in the first period.

Pinho did have a hand on the winner, after Kosack was hit in the chin by Shane Eiserman deep in the Ice defensive zone. Just 13 seconds into the power play, the Ice took advantage, with Pinho feeding Conway with a perfect cross-ice feed to the left dot. Alone, Conway had time to pick his corner, and the 33-goal scorer did so, putting the Ice up 2-1 with 1:25 left in the second. The offensive zone penalty-goal combo was the critical moment of the game, as Dubuque had no threats after that.

The Ice simply dominated the third, outshooting Dubuque 13-4 and limiting the Fighting Saints, who had one decent chance off a faceoff, but otherwise were limited to the perimeter and spent much of the period in their own zone. Pinho broke through with his first of the playoffs at 5:08, as Jacob Pritchard pulled the puck up the left wall, Aidan Muir drove the center lane to open up the low slot, and Pinho skated in the back door to tip the pass in. Denis Smirnov scored a goal for the third straight game later in the period, after the forecheck forced a turnover and the puck came free to Smirnov at the blue line, where he walked in untouched and roofed a shot past Reich.

A dozen takeaways
  1. As the game went on, the Ice got stronger. Their depth was very evident, as Jeff Brown rolled his four lines and the Ice controlled the play for the latter part of each of the first two periods, and all of the third. 
  2. The critical sequence of the game was the second period's final two minutes. Dubuque had possession deep, commits an offensive-zone penalty and the Ice score immediately. The Ice power play was 2-3 in the game against the USHL's second-best PK. 
  3. The Ice PK was pretty solid in its two chances. The first, midway through period 1 with the Ice trailing, saw Dubuque unable to set up in the zone and several good reads by Ice forwards on the forecheck. Dubuque got a handful of good point looks on the second, but Ryan Mantha had two big blocked shots.
  4. Ice hold 28-23 shot advantage. Dubuque's active goaltenders had a sub-.800 save percentage against the Ice during the regular season - although that was affected significantly by the 9-1 Ice win in the last game between the two. Reich's save percentage -- 4 goals on 28 shots -- was .857. 
  5. Jason Pawloski's shutout streak ended at 124:29 on Darrar's goal, but he was solid when he had to be, making solid positional saves. Most of his 22 saves were from perimeter shots, as the Ice did a solid job of keeping the Fighting Saints outside. Pawloski has a .968 save percentage and a 0.61 GAA in the postseason.
  6. The line of Brian Pinho-Aidan Muir-Jacob Pritchard was not just the Ice's best line, but it was flat-out dominant, pinning the puck in Dubuque's zone on virtually every shift. They finally broke through in the third with a textbook goal -- breakout from the defensive zone, Pritchard drives the left side, Muir drives the net to take out the defense, clearing a passing lane for Pinho. Pritchard and Pinho nearly hooked up on a similar play in the opening minutes, but Reich made a solid pad save. Pinho and Muir also each had goals disallowed. Pinho had five shots, and the trio combined for 11 of the Ice's 28 shots. 
  7. In the back end, Matt Roy was a brick wall, holding several pucks in at the line, and also stopping several Fighting Saints breakouts in the neutral zone and turning the puck back the other way. Roy did so playing his off-side, a right shot playing left defense. He has emerged as a significant playoff performer. D partner Mike Preston's backchecking stopped a handful of Fighting Saints scoring opportunities.
  8. Conway and Pinho, the Ice's top two goal scorers in the regular season, had their first goals of the postseason this evening. 
  9. Dubuque's Shane Eiserman was a presence, with a team-high five shots. Brett Boeing used his size to make things happen, especially early. But the Fighting Saints' three 20-goal scorers -- Seamus Malone, Max McHugh and Karson Kuhlman -- were held to a total of 2 shots by a solid Ice defense.
  10. Darrar's goal was his fifth tally this postseason.
  11. Lineup changes -- Dwyer Tschantz and Tyler Andrew returned to the lineup after being scratched the last two games in Green Bay, and each had solid play. Ryan Mantha returned to the lineup on defense and had the second assist on Pinho's goal. 
  12. Also of note, several former players - including Sean Kuraly, Blake Coleman and John Doherty - were among those in attendance tonight.  
3 stars: 1. Pawloski (22 saves), 2. Pritchard (G, A, 3 shots), 3. Pinho (G, A, 5 shots)
Box score game story

Next upGame 2, Saturday at Pan Am Pavilion, 7:05 p.m.
Games 3 & 4 will be next weekend (May 2-3) at Dubuque.

Ice lines
Mitch Hults-Patrick Newell-Sam Kurker
Tyler Pham-Joe Sullivan-Tyler Andrew
Denis Smirnov-Scott Conway-Dwyer Tschantz
Jacob Pritchard-Brian Pinho-Aidan Muir

Tim Shoup-Ryan Mantha
Austin Kosack-Josh Jacobs
Matt Roy-Mike Preston

Jason Pawloski
Hayden Stewart

Scratches: Chris Martenet (D), Vince Pedrie (D), Jason Salvaggio (F), Alex Talcott (F)

Fighting Saints lines 
Jacob Benson-Seamus Malone-Karson Kuhlman
Shane Eiserman-Max McHugh-Dylan Gambrell
Brett Boeing-Robby Darrar-Jarrid Privitera
Ryan Chiasson-Jason Ford-Shane Kavanaugh

Jordan Klimek-Alexx Privitera
Keegan Ford-Josh Elmes
Blake Hillman-Phil Boje

Kevin Reich
Ben Johansson

Scratches: Jeff Alderfer (D), Gordie Green (F), Eric Robinson (F), John Baiocco (F)

Elsewhere in the USHL
Waterloo defeated Sioux City 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Final.

1 comment:

  1. The Ice certainly got stronger as the game went on. That has been their m. o. since January. I couldn't help remembering the 9-1 game at the end of the regular season.