Sam Stevens and Ryan Johnson each scored one goal and assisted on another Friday night when the Sioux Falls Stampede swept the best-of-five Clark Cup Finals with a 5-1 victory over the host Chicago Steel.
The win gave Sioux Falls both the United States Hockey League postseason title and USA Hockey’s Tier I national championship.
Clark Cup Most Valuable Player Jaxson Stauber made 20 saves and the Stampede made the most of 17 shots.
Sioux Falls led 1-0 after one period despite being outshot 11-4 over the first 20 minutes.
“All these guys deserve it and I’m just as happy as I can be right now,” Stampede captain Blake Bride, who scored the game’s second goal, said in a video interview posted on the USHL website.
Stevens assisted Bride, then scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to build the lead to 3-0.
Josiah Slavin scored with less than four minutes remaining to break the shutout and the Steel played more than 4 ½ minutes without a goalie in an effort to pull off a late rally.
Johnson assisted Ryan Westcott on one empty-net goal, then scored another to put the game away.
“Stauber was great in goal, everybody was doing their job and we had just enough scoring,” Sioux Falls head coach Scott Owens said in another of the league’s video interviews.
CHAMPIONSHIP RUN: Sioux Falls went 11-1 during the four rounds of the Clark Cup playoffs.
The Stampede won three straight one-goal games to begin the playoffs and three more in a row right before Friday’s clinching victory. Sioux Falls won all four of its overtime games during the postseason, including one that went four overtimes and another that went two.
“We just won a lot of close games,” Owens said. “We were always kind of around.
“We were opportunistic, and we found a way.”
Sioux Falls (39-16-5-2) tied for third overall in standings points out of 17 teams in the USHL regular season, but lost a tiebreaker to the Waterloo Black Hawks, missing out on a first-round bye and settling for the third seed in the Western Conference. Counting the last six games of the regular season, the Stampede went 16-2 and allowed just 28 goals over its last 18 games.
“This has been a good team all season long and we really came together down the stretch in the playoffs,” Owens said.
TOP SCORERS: Three Chicago Steel players led the Clark Cup in scoring. Robert Mastrosimone was the top scorer. The 18-year-old Boston University recruit from East Islip, New York, had seven goals and eight assists in 11 games.
Nick Abruzzese followed up the regular season scoring title by finishing second in the playoffs with seven goals and seven assists. The 19-year-old Harvard recruit from Slate Hill, New York, had seven goals and seven assists in 11 games.
Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, an 18-year-old Northeastern recruit from East Greenwich, Rhode Island, had six goals and six assists in nine games. Andre Lee and Max Crozier shared the Sioux Falls scoring lead and ranked tied for fourth in the league with 11 points.
STEADY GOALIE: Stauber had just one shutout, but he led USHL goalies with 11 wins, a 1.46 goals against average and a .941 save percentage in the playoffs.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Hickling Images.