Throughout his third season in the United States Hockey League, Jack Badini was much more of a scorer than a playmaker.
With a new line combination going into the Clark Cup playoffs, Badini saw an opportunity to alter the way he contributed to the success of the Chicago Steel.
Badini, 19, remained with team captain Marc Johnstone when Latvian Eduards Tralmaks joined them as left wing.
“Tralmaks joined the line and we had a lot of chemistry right from the start,” Badini said. “Playing with Eduards, he’s a great offensive player, he has a big body, he gets to the net.
“Whenever I could put the puck on his stick, I tried to.”
And that was exactly what Badini did as the Steel wound up as Clark Cup champions with an overtime victory over the Sioux City Musketeers in the fifth game of the best-of-five Clark Cup Final. Badini finished that run as the league’s leading playoff scorer with 17 points.
Badini’s linemates led the other categories.
Tralmaks led in goals with 10; Johnstone had the most assists with 12.
“Marc Johnstone’s a passer,” Badini said. “He works hard and he always tries to get me and Eduards the puck as much as he can.”
Badini, a Connecticut native who centered the line, produced points both ways. After scoring a team-high 28 goals, but with only 14 assists in the regular season, he had seven goals and 10 assists in the playoffs.
The linemates were three of nine players to compile at least 10 points in 14 playoff games.
Jake Jaremko from Elk River, Minnesota, was third on the team with 13 points. Reggie Lutz, also from Elk River, matched Badini for second-most goals on the team with seven and joined Tralmaks and Mitch Lewandowski with 12 points each.
Defensemen Graham Lillibridge and Ben Mirageas each had 10 assists, while Brannon McManus joined them with 10 points.
In the regular season, Lutz led with 47 points, but 10 other teammates had at least 27.
“We really had a lot of depth, so we knew we could rely on anybody,” Badini said. “We were not going to rely on (only) one guy to carry the team."
“We had good depth, and ultimately it showed in the playoffs, and I think that’s a big reason why we ended up being champions.”
The Clark Cup championship was the ultimate prize for the Steel after they took the conference hardware as well.
Chicago won the Eastern Conference with a 38-17-2-3 record.
“We were pretty happy with our game as a team going into the playoffs,” Badini said. “We had a lot of confidence.”
Badini was one of the many reasons why.
An early commit to Harvard University, where he plans to major in economics, Badini developed his abilities, as planned, during his USHL career.
“That was the plan the whole way, when I came in as the youngest guy on the team,” said Badini, who came up through the North Jersey Avalanche youth program, played in the USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championships with the Long Island Gulls and spent 1.5 seasons with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL before coming to Chicago. “As I progressed through Year 3, I really developed into a more complete player and more of a player who could help my team.”
Badini did so whether he was leading the team in goals in the regular season or the entire league in points during the playoffs.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo from Hickling Images.
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