The United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League have arrived at the final stage of determining their champions.
The USHL’s Clark Cup will come down to a best-of-five championship series starting Friday and continuing as long as May 23, if necessary.
The NAHL’s Robertson Cup takes the four divisional champions to Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, Minnesota, Friday through Monday for two best-of-three semifinal series and a one-game championship game on the final day.
CLARK CUP: The Youngtown Phantoms and Fargo Force reached the finals by winning conference championship series.
Chase Gresock led the way as Youngstown won the Eastern Conference series, 3-1, over USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program by taking games at home Friday and Saturday, 7-5 and 5-1.
Team USA scored first in the final game, but Youngstown scored the last five goals.
Gresock had a goal and two assists in the clincher. He had scored four goals in the first two periods of the win the night before, connecting on the power play twice in the second period.
A 19-year-old Merrimack College commit from Powell, Ohio, Gresock moved into a tie for the Clark Cup scoring lead with teammate Matthew Barry. Both have 12 points in seven games, but Gresock has the lead in goals with seven.
Team USA’s only win in the series came in Tuesday’s Game 2, which was the highest-scoring game in this year’s Clark Cup playoffs.
Owen Lindmark’s hat trick led a 10-6, home-ice victory. Lindmark scored twice in the first period when Team USA jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Fargo also wrapped up the Western Conference series, 3-1, over the Waterloo Black Hawks by taking the last two games at home Friday and Saturday.
The Force rallied to win the clinching game, 3-2.
Garrett Van Wyhe tied it up at 5:01 into the third period and John Schuldt added the game-winner at 10:33.
Strauss Mann made 35 saves. He kept Fargo in the game, allowing just one goal for a 2-1 deficit when Waterloo had a 25-5 shot advantage during the second period.
Fargo overcame a two-goal deficit in the 6-4 win in Game 3.
FINALS SCHEDULE: The Clark Cup Finals begin Friday and Saturday at the Scheels Arena in Fargo. They move to Covelli Centre in Youngstown May 18 and, if necessary, May 19.
If the series goes to a fifth game, it will be back in Fargo May 23.
DIVISION FINALS: The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Shreveport Mudbugs and Minot Minotauros joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights as division champions.
Fairbanks and Shreveport each needed five games to advance with wins.
Josh Benson’s 18-save shutout and John Stampohar’s second-period goal lifted Fairbanks to a 1-0 road win over the Janesville Jets in the Midwest Division’s deciding game Saturday.
The Ice Dogs allowed just 38 shots in the final two games, including a 4-2 win the night before to avoid elimination.
Shreveport won Sunday’s deciding game from Lone Star, 3-2, in the South Division behind two goals by Roberts Baranovskis and 25 saves by Jaxon Castor.
Lone Star had forced the fifth game by winning at home Friday and Saturday to tie the series.
Mitchell Gibson made 21 saves in a 3-1 win.
The series comeback started with a 2-1 victory in which Aidan Spellacy scored 6:38 into overtime and Gibson made 22 saves.
Minot swept the Austin Bruins in three games in the Central Division, clinching Saturday with a 2-1, double-overtime win. Defenseman Nolan Sawchuk’s one-timer at 1:24 of the second overtime decided the game.
CUP SCHEDULE: Fairbanks is the top seed for the best regular-season record among the four finalists and will meet Minot in one semifinal series while Shreveport and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton play in the other.
Monday’s final is set for 7 p.m. Central time.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Hickling Images