Five things to watch for heading into pivotal Game 3 of the Clark Cup Finals
The Phantoms will try to win their first Clark Cup on home ice Friday night while Fargo attempts what very few teams have done before and rally from a 2-0 deficit
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Clark Cup Finals resume Friday night as the series shifts to Youngstown and the Covelli Centre. The Phantoms are just one win away from the first Clark Cup in franchise history after taking the first two games in Fargo.
Youngstown scored four third-period goals in a 4-1 win in Game 1 and followed it up with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 2. Andon Cerbone delivered the overtime-winner, sending the Phantoms home with a commanding lead and putting the season on the line for the Anderson Cup Champs.
Friday’s game is set for a 6:05 p.m. CDT faceoff at the Covelli Centre and will be shown on Flo, while the Rink Live will provide coverage throughout the weekend.
Here are five storylines to follow heading into Game 3.
Backs against the wall
Although it’s not impossible, the Force have quite the hole to dig themselves out of down 2-0 in the series. Fargo will have to win both games in Youngstown this weekend and if the Force are able to do so, the two teams will meet Tuesday night back in Fargo in a winner-take-all Game 5.
If previous history is any indication, Fargo’s chances look bleak. Only one USHL team has come back from a 2-0 deficit in the last 20 years as Green Bay rallied for a 3-2 series win in the 2009-10 Clark Cup Finals.
Green Bay’s comeback coincidentally came against Fargo. Perhaps the Force could find themselves on the opposite side of a comeback this time around.
Home sweet home
The Covelli Centre is sold out for Friday’s contest and as if the rowdy home crowd, $5 tickets and $2 pints won’t pose enough of a challenge, Youngstown has been the league’s best team on home ice this season.
Youngstown finished the regular season with a league-best 23-7-0-1 home record — which technically includes three wins away from the Covelli Centre — and has won its first four home playoff games. The Phantoms outscored their opponents 124-79 at home during the regular season and 12-5 so far in the postseason.
As if there isn’t enough motivation to hoist the Clark Cup, those inside Youngstown’s locker room would love to do it on home ice and in front of the Youngstown faithful.
Youngstown’s top forwards continue producing
Andon Cerbone and William Whitelaw led the Phantoms in points during the regular season with 63 and 61, while Shane Lachance wasn’t too far behind with 54. Perhaps it’s fitting all three rank near the top of the league in playoff production, along with Martin Misiak — who joined the Phantoms in early February.
Misiak is currently tied for second in the USHL with 10 playoff points (2-8-10) while Whitelaw (5-4-9) and Cerbone (4-4-8) rank fifth and seventh respectively. Lachance is tied for 15th with six points and is one of 16 players with three playoff goals.
The four forwards have already combined for four goals and eight points through two games in the Clark Cup Finals.
At a time of year where you need your top players to rise to the occasion and be at their best, Youngstown’s top forwards have done exactly that.
Fowler gives Fargo fits
The USHL Goaltender of the Year has been masterful all season and the playoffs have been no different for Jacob Fowler. The Boston College commit has won seven of his eight playoff starts and carries a 1.51 GAA and .948 save percentage into Friday night.
Fowler made 29 saves in Game 1 and another 30 in the Game 2 overtime win last weekend in Fargo. Although Youngstown’s team defensive play deserves a lot of the credit too for limiting Fargo’s chances, the Force haven’t been able to get much going offensively and the Youngstown netminder is a big reason why.
Fowler told The Rink Live earlier this week the Phantoms want to “go out and finish the job” for their fans and the city of Youngstown this weekend on home ice.
While Youngstown’s home success gets most of the attention, don’t discount the Force on the road. Fargo won a pair of games in Lincoln to clinch the Western Conference title and Nick Oliver’s club had the league’s best road record during the regular season.
Fargo finished the regular season 20-7-3-1 away from home and won six of its final 10 games away from Scheels Arena.
Make no mistake, the stakes and circumstances are much different this weekend. And the Force will find themselves in foreign territory in Youngstown.
But at the same time, that previous success could help spark some confidence heading into Game 3.