The Fox Valley Ice Arena was full of playoff atmosphere as the Chicago Steel took on the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The Friday night match was between the Eastern Conference’s top two winning percentages, the Chicago Steel (24-4-1-0, 49 pts) and Dubuque Fighting Saints (20-7-1-0, 41 pts). The Steel had tied franchise record of ten straight wins as Chicago netminder Victor Ostman earned his first-career shutout while backstopping Chicago’s 2-0 victory.
Dubuque netminder Erik Portillo suffered just his third regulation loss of the season. The third-round selection (67th overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2019 NHL Draft conceded two times in the game. The first 20 minutes of the game was evenly poised as both teams fought off multiple opposing plays. The Steel came into the matchup with the top-ranked power-play unit in the USHL, clicking at a 27.9 percent pace (38-for-129) and had two chances with the man advantage early.
Chicago forward Erik Middendorf was the hero of the night as he buried his sixth goal of the season with five minutes gone in the second. “It felt pretty good,” said Middendorf. “I was working with (Chicago Assistant Coach Mike) Garman all week on how to change up my shot. I didn’t see much net except between his legs. It was nice to squeeze that one past.”
Ostman was in amazing form as he faced 11 shots alone in the third frame and denied all the shots. Steel Head Coach Brock Sheahan was in awe of his netminder. “I thought he was so poised,” said Sheahan. “Usually our power play is clicking, it wasn’t tonight. We had a ton of PK’s and I just thought he (Ostman) controlled pucks. He really controlled the game and I’m really proud of him.”
Ostman, himself, loved what his side did in the match. “They were fast but I thought we managed them pretty well,” said Ostman. “We just played great defensively and I think we shut them down.”