THE COUGARS CAME INTO THE SHOWCASE WITH THE RIGHT ENERGY AND RIGHT MENTALITY — AND IT SHOWED ON AND OFF THE ICE.
By Anne Tokarski, 12/20/21
The Chicago Cougars came out on top of the world heading into the holiday break, sweeping their competition at the USPHL Chicago Showcase. Four dominant wins against the Lake Erie Bighorns, the Columbus Mavericks, the Wooster Oilers, and the Steele County Blades made this past weekend one for the record books.
Game 1 of the weekend vs. the Lake Erie Bighorns: Friday, December 17
The Cougars got off to a strong start to open the showcase, scoring five goals in the first period of their first game against Lake Erie.
The game’s first tally came just under four minutes into the opening frame, when Cougar Joe Gulino saw an opening and sniped a shot from between the face off circles. The puck beat Kyle Fotopoulos, the Bighorns’ goaltender, easily, and put the Cougars up by one.
"We got on board early and our...our scoring just kind of took off in the first period," said head coach Josh Dallmann of the team's strong start.
The top line would strike again not four minutes later when Kyle Lamphere tapped the puck in behind a sprawling Fotopoulos, earning the Cougars their second goal of the game and Lamphere his ninth of the season. Linemates Gulino and Mike Sliwinski would get the assists.
Jake McDonald put the Cougars up by three with what turned out to be a bit of a contentious goal. The puck, fired from the top of the circle, bounced off the crossbar and over the goal line before popping back out of the net. The call on the ice was a good goal — and McDonald and Cougars fans could breathe a sigh of relief and thank the hockey gods for that one.
A wide open net gave rookie McCarthy Clark his second goal of the year thirteen minutes into the first, as Clark was fed by teammates Andreas Zorn and Daniel Danko.
Before the end of the third period, Kevin Kost would join in the scoring frenzy, as a cross-crease pass from veteran Matt Hagerstrom landed right on Kost’s tape, The puck wound up in the back of the net and the Cougars carried a 5-0 lead into the first intermission.
Lukas Theodospoulos opened the scoring in the second period with a snipe from his knees from the near circle. It would be the final goal of the game for the Cougars, though the Bighorns would slip one past Chicago goaltender Mike Lenhart before the game was through.
"I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit towards the end, but we had a good a good first period, you know, got some quick goals and just kind of rolled that one out to victory to start the weekend there," said Dallmann.
The Cougars took game one of the showcase by a dominant 6-1 final score.
Joe Gulino (Mike Sliwinski, Gerdas Paulauskas) Kyle Lamphere (Mike Sliwinski, Joe Gulino) Jake McDonald (TJ Haas, George Boos) McCarthy Clark (Andreas Zorn, Daniel Danko) Kevin Kost (Matt Hagerstrom, Cody Lourenco) Lukas Theodosopoulos (Daniel Danko, Gerdas Paulauskas)
Game 2 of the weekend vs. the Columbus Mavericks: Saturday, December 18
Game two of the weekend in the evening on Saturday was a tough battle for the Cougars. Though forward Mike Sliwinski scored at the halfway point of the first period, it would be the Cougars’ only regulation goal of the game.
"Columbus was...I mean, that was a hard fought game, right?" said head coach Josh Dallman. "So it's two teams, you know, that both have a lot of pride and want to win. It was a good game, physical. You know, both teams work hard."
About two and a half minutes before time was set to expire on regulation — with a one-goal buffer — the Cougars took a roughing call. A minute later, another tripping call had the team skating at 5-on-3; luckily, a tripping call against the Mavericks made it 4-on-3 to finish out the game. Ultimately, though, it was a costly penalty to take, as Columbus evened the score with thirty seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams, but ultimately nothing came of it, and the Cougars were able to force a shootout.
Goaltender Ian Young stopped all three of the Mavericks’ shots in the shootout, and who else but scoring phenom Joe Gulino got the game-winner for the Cougars with a top-shelf snipe to seal the deal, 2-1.
"Luckily we came out on the on the on the winning end of that one in a shootout," said Dallmann. "But, you know, Young came up with some big saves there towards the end of the game and in the shootout and Gulino had, you know, the clutch goal to seal the deal there."
Mike Sliwinski (Andreas Zorn, Jack Parks) Joe Gulino (SO) Follow the Cougars on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and TikTok @ChicagoCougarsHockey.