Friday, May 2, 2014

Ice on to the Clark Cup Final

The Indiana Ice are headed back to the Clark Cup Final for the first time since 2009, after beating the Dubuque Fighting Saints 3-2 Friday night to sweep the series three games to none.

The Ice are now 6-1 in the postseason and will begin play in the Clark Cup Final next weekend against either the Waterloo Black Hawks or the Sioux City Musketeers.

The Ice continued their strong postseason play in their own end, holding an opponent to two or fewer goals in all six victories. Scott Conway, Alex Talcott and Joe Sullivan scored the Ice goals, and Jason Pawloski made 22 saves, including several in a late Fighting Saints barrage. The Ice had to kill off two power plays and an extended 6-on-5 situation in the final minutes.

The Ice trailed 1-0 after a period on Seamus Malone's power play goal in the first, but Scott Conway and Alex Talcott scored two goals in a 2:39 span midway through the second, giving the Ice a lead they'd never relinquish. Conway's goal came from in front, Talcott's was a rip from the high slot on a cycle from the defensemen.

In the third, Joe Sullivan scored a key insurance goal -- which would turn out to be the game-winner -- by ramming home the puck in a goalmouth scramble. The Ice killed off two power plays in the final 10 minutes, and saw Dubuque get the lead to one with the goalie pulled late, but Pawloski and the Ice defense came up big in the final minute with a couple of key shot blocks and saves to seal the victory.

Conway's goal marked his seventh point of the playoffs, a team-best. He is a plus-6 with seven points, and has been on the line that has scored more than half of the Ice's postseason goals. His goal was assisted by Brian Pinho and Denis Smirnov. Sullivan's goal was unassisted.

The Ice were again efficient - scoring three goals on just 14 shots. Dubuque outshot the Ice 24-14 in the game.

The Clark Cup Final appearance will be the second for the Ice in their 10 years in the USHL. A team captained by current Boston Bruin Torey Krug and backstopped by Brett Bennett won the championship in four games over the Fargo Force in 2009. The championship series will be played against either Sioux City or Waterloo. Currently, Waterloo holds a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 to be played Sunday in Sioux City. If Waterloo holds on to win, the Clark Cup Final will begin next weekend in Waterloo with Games 1 and 2 and will return to Indianapolis for Games 3-4 on May 16 and May 17. If Sioux City rallies to win the series, the Ice will host Games 1-2 next weekend.

Box score
Three stars
1. Scott Conway, Ice; 2. Alex Talcott, Ice; 3. Seamus Malone, DBQ 

Twelve takeaways
  1. There will be a new Clark Cup champion. Since the Ice won the title in 2009, the Clark Cup has been passed back and forth between Green Bay and Dubuque in alternating years. The Ice have taken out both of those teams en route to the final.
  2. The loss for Dubuque was just the Fighting Saints' second postseason defeat in 19 games on home ice since re-joining the league in 2010. Both losses have been Ice series-clinchers -- in 2012 and 2014.
  3. In addition, this is only the second time in their four-year history the Fighting Saints have lost a playoff series, both to the Ice. 
  4. The Ice outscored Dubuque 10-5 in the series, despite allowing the first goal in two of the three games. Scott Conway, Denis Smirnov and Sam Kurker led the Ice with two goals each in the series. Jacob Pritchard, Brian Pinho, Alex Talcott and Joe Sullivan tallied the other goals.  
  5. Conway (2-2-4) led the Ice in scoring in the Dubuque series. Smirnov, Pinho and Austin Kosack had three points each in the series. 
  6. The Ice continued to be one of the strongest third-period teams in the league, outscoring the Fighting Saints 4-2 in the final period. Both goals against came late in games with the goalie pulled when the Ice were up 3-1.
  7. Jason Pawloski had a .933 save percentage in the series. Dubuque's Kevin Reich stopped 86.5 percent of the shots aimed his way. 
  8. The Ice had just 14 shots, but Alex Talcott had three of them, including a goal. Tyler Pham and Conway had two each.
  9. One key for the Ice has been the team's 5-on-5 strength. Dubuque scored just one five-on-five goal in the series, and that came off a turnover in the first two minutes of Game 1 (the Fighting Saints had two PPGs and two tallies late with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker). Eight of the Ice's 10 goals came at even strength. So far, the Ice have outscored foes 19-11 in the postseason, but have done so 13-3 in 5-on-5 play. 
  10. Looking ahead, the Ice were 2-0 against Sioux City, winning both games 4-3 on an odd weekend in November, where the two games were completed in the same day. Against Waterloo, the two teams split, with the Ice winning 6-2 on Feb. 28, and the Black Hawks winning 5-2 on March 6. 
  11. Tyler Andrew left the game early after a collision with a Dubuque player, and according to Dubuque radio, did not return to the game. 
  12. Ryan Mantha returned to the lineup on defense after sitting out Game 2, and was a plus-2 on the day. Chris Martenet was the defensive scratch. Dwyer Tschantz returned to the lineup. Mitch Hults and Jason Salvaggio were the forward scratches.

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