GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN — The Chicago Steel (19-6-2-0; 40 pts.) scored six goals in the opening frame, the club’s highest scoring first period of the season, and added another three markers to beat the Green Bay Gamblers (13-7-0-2; 28 pts.) 9-3 on Saturday night at Resch Center in Wisconsin.
A blistering start from Chicago put the game in safe hands as the team completed a two-game sweep of Green Bay, handing the Gamblers their first regulation losses on home ice this season. The Steel sit in first place in the Eastern Conference at the halfway point of their season, the first USHL team to 40 points in the scheduled 54 game season.
Steel forward Matt Coronato, back in the lineup after missing the previous two games due to a suspension, registered his first hat trick of the season and added two assists in a five point effort. Coronato passed teammate Erik Middendorf to take the league lead with 22 goals.
Sean Farrell secured a three-point night (1G, 2A), extending his point streak to 23 games (15G, 32A). That mark matches the USHL single-season point streak record set by Jack Drury of the Waterloo Black Hawks during the 2017-2018 season. Farrell’s teammate and fellow Harvard University commit Coronato owns the USHL all-time record with a 28-game point streak spanning two seasons, set earlier this year.
Farrell’s first assist of the night was the 100th in his USHL career. The Hopkinton, Mass., native recorded 26 helpers in two seasons with Team USA and now has 75 helpers as a member of the Steel.
Just 18 seconds into the game, Coronato lit the lamp for the first of his five points. Coronato, recently elevated to an ‘A’-level prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft by NHL Central Scouting, set up in the left circle on the first shift of the game. Middendorf walked the right wing boards towards the blue line and slid a cross-ice pass that Coronato one-timed past Gamblers goaltender Matt Davis.
Middendorf tucked home the second goal of the game and his 21st of the season at the three minute mark of the opening frame. A point shot from Colton Huard bounced off Davis as Middendorf pounced on the rebound, a similar play in which he tallied a goal in Friday night’s 7-3 win against the Gamblers.
Just 48 seconds later, defenseman Jack Bar picked up a puck after an offensive zone faceoff win by Adam Robbins. The right-shot blueliner faked a shot and danced past a Green Bay defender to the bottom of the left circle where he released a wrist shot that beat Davis and forced the Gamblers to make an early goaltender change for the second straight game.
The Gamblers got a goal from Alex Servagno to cut the deficit to 3-1 but the Steel were undeterred.
A 5-minute major on Gamblers captain Jesse Tucker sent the Steel and its second-ranked power play unit on an elongated man advantage.
Ian Moore and Farrell cashed in, both with markers on the power play 31 seconds apart. Moore’s fourth goal of the season, a laser wrist shot from the high slot, pushed the lead to 4-1. Farrell’s 18th marker of the year was a long wrist shot that got deflected in front of the new Gamblers netminder, Aaron Randazzo.
Coronato capped the Steel scoring binge in the first period with his second of the night to push the lead to 6-1. The Huntington, N.Y., native teamed up with Farrell on an offensive zone rush, handling a no-look backhand assist from Farrell with a one-timer from point-blank range.
Ryan Kirwan added a goal for Green Bay but Chicago’s lead stood at 6-2 after the opening period.
Coronato finished off the hat trick early in the second period. Once again, Farrell found Coronato, this time on a power play, as he clapped a one-timer from the left circle, sealing his first career USHL hat trick.
Rookie forward Adam Fantilli netted two goals in a 90-second span in the third period including one on a power play, Chicago’s fourth of the night on the man advantage. With two goals and a helper, Fantilli moved into a tie for 10th among USHL rookies with 15 points (7G, 8A) through 22 games.
John Mittelstadt added a goal for the Gamblers with just over three minutes to play, the final goal of the weekend series between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Chicago limited Green Bay to just 21 shots, including nine total shots on goal through the final two periods. Nick Haas made 18 saves to improve his record to 9-3-0-0 between the Steel pipes.
Steel special teams shined with a 4-for-6 (66.7%) performance on the man advantage and a perfect 2-for-2 night (100%) on the penalty kill.
Chicago returns to home ice this week for three consecutive games, starting with a 3:05 pm CT puck drop against the Des Moines Buccaneers. The Dubuque Fighting Saints visit Fox Valley Ice Arena on Saturday, Feb. 13 for a 7:05 pm CT game and finish the weekend with a 3:05 pm CT matchup on Sunday, Feb. 14.
Saturday’s clash against the Fighting Saints is a free game on HockeyTV so that fans can see special alternate ‘blackout’ jerseys in action for the Steel. From Feb. 11 through Feb. 18, fans can bid on the game-worn jerseys with proceeds benefitting Geneva Academic Foundation, presented by FONA International.