The Sioux City Musketeers and Dubuque Fighting Saints finished off series victories against higher-seeded opponents Saturday, setting up the conference finals that make up the final four of the Clark Cup Playoffs.
The Clark Cup determines the United States Hockey League postseason champion and the USA Hockey Tier I junior national championship. The best-of-five conference finals begin Friday.
The USHL regular-season champion Waterloo Black Hawks have home-ice advantage on Sioux City in the Western Conference. The defending champion Indiana Ice is the top seed in the Eastern Conference, where it will face Dubuque.
Sioux City defeated the Omaha Lancers 4-2 Saturday to complete a 3-1 series victory in the best-of-five conference semifinals. The Musketeers scored four third-period goals to overcome a pair of deficits. Jake Montgomery scored the game-winner with 2:04 left and then added an empty-net goal.
Josh Elmes and Robby Darrar each scored twice when Dubuque downed the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 7-3 to complete its 3-1 series win. Dubuque took the series lead with a 1-0 win in Game 3. Kevin Reich made 27 saves and Robby Darrar scored a second-period goal.
Indiana also won its series, 3-1. The Ice shut out the host Green Bay Gamblers 1-0 Friday. Jason Pawlowski made 22 saves in his second straight shutout and Denis Smirnov scored the game-winner with less than seven minutes left.
The same combination — a goal by Smirnov and a shutout by Pawlowski — led to a 1-0 win in Game 3. Pawlowski only needed to make 12 saves for the shutout.
Waterloo was the only team to sweep its series in three games, finishing off the Sioux Falls Stampede with a 7-2 rout April 17 when Brandon Montour scored a goal and assisted on four others.
ROBERTSON CUP: Kevin Aldridge made 25 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs Monday night to lift the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to a 2-0 win over the Wenatchee Wild and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five North American Hockey League Midwest Division final series.
The series is one of four still going in the Robertson Cup, which determines the NAHL postseason champion and USA Hockey Tier II junior national champion.
Fairbanks has won two straight after Wenatchee opened the series with a 4-0 win Friday.
The Topeka RoadRunners and Port Huron Fighting Saints each have 2-0 leads in division finals.
Topeka won the first two games from the South regular-season champion and defending Robertson Cup champion Amarillo Bulls. P.J. Bridges improved to 5-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in the playoffs.
Port Huron shut out the Michigan Warriors for the first two games, including triple overtime in Friday’s opener. Trevor Gorsuch has a .972 playoff save percentage after making 55 saves in Friday’s 1-0 triple-overtime win and 28 more Saturday. Colin Larkin scored Friday’s overtime goal and assisted on Saturday’s winner.
The Austin Bruins and Bismarck Bobcats are tied 1-1 in the Central after splitting overtime games in Austin.
METRO AWARDS: Brett Mecrones scored 83 points in 42 games to land the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League Most Valuable Player award. Other Metropolitan awards went to: Bailey More, Frederick Freeze, Rookie of the Year; Kyle Carducci, Hartford Junior Wolfpack, Goaltender of the Year; Taylor Hale, Boston Bandits, Defenseman of the Year; Ronnie Williams Hartford, Defensive Forward of the Year; Brad Nolan, Philadelphia Revolution, Offensive Defenseman of the Year; Nick Cambria, Boston Bandits, Lady Byng Award; and Scott Drevitch, Boston Bandits, Head Coach of the Year.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Tri-City Storm forward Jake Wahlin has committed to play at St. Cloud State University. The 17-year-old from St. Paul, Minn. joined the team after the high school hockey season and produced two goals and an assist in 10 USHL games.
Muskegon Lumberjacks team captain Cullen Hurley is headed to the University of Wisconsin. The 21-year-old forward from Eagan, Minn. had two goals and 10 assists in 55 USHL games in this, his second season with the team.
CHANGES AHEAD: Scott Meyer is moving from head coach/general manager to president/general manager of the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians for next season. The Magicians will look for a new coach for their second season in the league.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.