Clark Cup Playoffs Open with Lumberjacks, Fighting Saints Victories
The Muskegon Lumberjacks took a lead on the defending United States Hockey League champion Chicago Steel just 3:06 into the Clark Cup playoffs opener Monday night and held on the rest of the way for a 3-2 victory in the best-of-three, first-round series.
Wyatt Bongiovanni scored early and Nolan Sullivan made it 2-0 later in the first period. That lead held into the third period when Jachym Kondelik converted a Vincent de Mey pass to score between a pair of Chicago goals.
Keegan Karki made 25 saves for the win.
In the only other series to open Monday, the Dubuque Fighting Saints posted a 3-1 road win over the Green Bay Gamblers.
Nolan Moyle scored on Green Bay’s first shot 1:19 into the game, but Dubuque rallied for the win on goals by Tyce Thompson and Taylor Schneider. Quinn Preston assisted the game-winner and added an empty-netter.
Cole Weaver made 23 saves.
The other first-round series have the Tri-City Storm at the Fargo Force and the Lincoln Stars at the Sioux Falls Stampede.
Each opening-round series is a best-of-three with the higher seed at home for every game.
SEASON RECAP: The Waterloo Black Hawks went 38-14-6-2 to win the Anderson Cup as regular season USHL champion by one point over two teams.
The Omaha Lancers, who were second in the Western Conference, and USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, which won the Eastern Conference, were close behind.
All three teams, plus the Eastern Conference second-place finisher Youngstown Phantoms, received first-round byes.
Muskegon’s Anthony Del Gaizo, a New Jersey native and two-time USA Hockey National Player Development Camp participant, finished as the league’s goals (40) and points (72) leader.
Waterloo’s Ben Copeland had a league-high 44 assists.
Sweden’s Filip Larsson from the Tri-City Storm led the league with a 1.65 goals against average and .941 save percentage.
Omaha’s Zach Driscoll, a Minnesotan who played previously at St. Cloud State University, posted eight shutouts.
ROBERTSON ROUNDUP: Five North American Hockey League teams used home-ice advantage to open 2-0 leads in best-of-five, first-round Robertson Cup Playoff series with victories Friday and Saturday.
Wisconsin native Sam Renlund, a three time USA Hockey National Player Development Camp participant, scored three times to help the Janesville Jets take command of their series with the Springfield Jr. Blues.
The Austin Bruins, Lone Star Brahmas, Shreveport Mudbugs and Fairbanks Ice Dogs also took 2-0 leads.
Renlund scored twice Saturday in a 3-2 win. Garrett Nieto made 31 saves and Renlund scored a goal in Friday’s 3-0 victory in the series opener.
Alex Schilling had 18 saves when Austin beat the Minnesota Wilderness, 3-1, in Game 2.
Mitchell Gibson had 18 saves when Lone Star beat the Odessa Jackalopes, 2-1, Saturday.
Cam Cook had goals in both games for Shreveport against the Corpus Christi IceRays.
The regular-season champion Ice Dogs allowed just 14 shots in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Minnesota Magicians.
Three series are tied 1-1.
The Aberdeen Wings and Minot Minotauros traded shutouts.
Jon Bendorf had a hat trick Friday when Aberdeen won, 3-0. Minot recovered Saturday, using Samu Lonkila’s 39 saves for a 2-0 victory.
The Northeast Generals posted their first-ever Robertson Cup win Friday when David Fessenden made 24 saves in a 3-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Rebels.
The Rebels evened the series Sunday with a 5-1 win.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and New Jersey Rebels are also tied.
ONE-TIMERS: The NAHL board of governors approved expansion into Odenton, Maryland, where Piney Junior Hockey LLC will join the East Division’s Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks, Middletown-based New Jersey Titans, Philadelphia Rebels, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights from Pittston, Pennsylvania, and Northeast Rebels from North Attleboro, Massachusetts … Eric Esposito finished up the USHL regular season strong, scoring a hat trick for the Youngstown Phantoms in a 5-3 win over Muskegon one night after scoring two goals against Team USA … Alec Semandel, a 19-year-old defenseman from Waunakee, Wisconsin, who was plus-17 while serving as alternate captain for the Janesville Jets in the NAHL, has committed to play at Lake Superior State University.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson.