In front of an electric home crowd, the Chicago Steel topped the Fargo Force 4-1 in Game 2 of the best-of-five Clark Cup Final on Saturday night at Fox Valley Ice Arena, pulling the series to a 1-1 deadlock.
The Steel never trailed as Adam Fantilli and Adam Robbins scored in the first period before Matt Coronato and Erik Middendorf both registered empty-net goals.
Chicago goaltender Simon Latkoczy stopped 29 shots from the Force, keeping Fargo off the scoreboard for the final 51 minutes of play.
A night after being held scoreless, it took little time for Chicago to light the lamp on Saturday.
One minute into the contest, Chicago got its first goal of the series from one of the youngest players in the league. Adam Fantilli gained the Steel offensive zone with speed down the right wing, deked to the middle of the ice and released a rocket wrister between two Force defenders for the fifth goal of the postseason for the rookie.
Fargo evened the odds on a power play when traffic in front led to a re-direct goal. A pass from Aaron Huglen deflected off the skate of Austin Wong, sneaking past Latkoczy to tie the score at 1-1.
The Steel answered in the form of a gritty play from Adam Robbins just three minutes later. Chicago defenseman and former Fargo Force, Colton Huard, turned and fired a shot on net that found the blade of Robbins’ stick. Robbins tucked the puck past Fargo goalie Andrew Miller, giving Chicago a 2-1 edge heading into the middle frame.
After failing to reach double digits in shots any period during Game 1, the Steel managed 11 shots in the opening frame of Game 1 and charted 13 shots during the middle frame.
Although Chicago generated multiple grade ‘A’ chances, the Steel couldn’t capitalize during the second period.
It was the same story on the other side of the ice as Latkoczy made 11 saves in the middle frame.
With a one-goal lead that carried into the third period, the Steel shut their opponent down. The final chance for a Force comeback was ignited when Chicago was whistled for a tripping infraction with just over two minutes to play.
Already on a man advantage, Miller was pulled from the net for an extra attacker with 2:10 remaining in regulation. Fargo controlled the puck with the 6-on-4 edge until a loose puck in front of the Steel crease found Steel forward Matt Coronato. The Harvard University-bound Coronato turned and fired a puck the length of the ice into the empty net with just over a minute left on the clock.
Steel captain Erik Middendorf sealed the victory with a point-blank empty-netter after a Fargo turnover with 30 seconds to play.
Chicago’s penalty kill unit went 5-for-6 (83.3%) in the victory while the Steel outshot the Force 34-30.
The 4-1 Steel win tied the best-of-five series at 1-1 as the scene shifts to Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota, for Game 3 on Friday, May 21 at 7:05 pm CT and Game 4 on Saturday, May 22 at 6:05 pm CT.
Game 5, if necessary, would be played on Tuesday, May 25 at Fox Valley Ice Arena with puck drop scheduled for 7:05 pm CT.
Tickets are on sale for Game 5 (if necessary) of the series by visiting ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com. Fans may also purchase tickets during regular business hours by calling 855-51-STEEL or in-person during select box office hours.