USHL Annual Recap: Chicago Steel – The Rink Live

With another USHL season in the rear view mirror, The Rink Live will take a team-by-team look at the 2022-23 campaign.

USHL writer Jordan McAlpine will post year-end recaps one day at a time and in alphabetical order for the next two weeks, continuing with the Chicago Steel.

Location: Geneva, Illinois

Home stadium: Fox Valley Ice Rink

Record: 39-18-4-1

Conference / Terminate: East / First (83 points)

Coach: mike garmann

Top scorer:

Macklin Celebrini, 86 points (46-40-86)

Best goalkeeper:

Christian Manz, 21-9-2-1, 3.35 GAA, .902 save percentage

  • Celebrini Named USHL Player of the Year
  • Celebrini Named USHL Forward of the Year
  • Celebrini named USHL Rookie of the Year
  • Celebrini, First Team All-USHL
  • Celebrini, first team rookie squad
  • Jack Harvey, second-team All-USHL

  • Nick Moldenhauer, Third Team All-USHL

  • Michael Hagens, All-Rookie Second Team

Mike Garman’s club set the pace for the Eastern Conference for much of the regular season and challenged Fargo for the best record in the USHL.

The Steel finished with the second-best winning percentage in the league (.669) and their 39 wins were tied for the second-most (2021-22) in franchise history.

Chicago clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with 83 points, despite a late push from Youngstown, and six of the league’s top 12 point producers came from the Steel.

Jack Harvey.jpeg
Chicago forward Jack Harvey finished the season second in the USHL in goals (40) and fourth in points (74). Four of the league’s six-point leaders have played for Steel this season.

Contributed / Chicago Steel

Chicago scored the most goals in the USHL (275), their lineup featured one of the most dynamic groups of forwards in the league, and some of the best rookies in the league, starting with Celebrini and Hagens.

While Chicago’s streak didn’t extend to the Clark Cup, it would be hard not to consider this season a success.

“We had a very talented and very good team, but we also had a fairly young team and we learned a lot this season,” Garman told The Rink Live. “The USHL is a very deep and challenging league, especially for young players.

“So I was delighted with the way our guys developed, came together as a team and developed a good culture, and I think that was a big part of our success.”

  • Chicago had four players who scored 30 or more goals in Celebrini (46), Harvey (40), Moldenhauer (30) and Michael Emerson (30).
  • Chicago was the second least penalized team in the league, as the Steel racked up just 718 penalty minutes. Madison had the fewest with 686.
  • Chicago’s power play finished the regular season at a league-best 32.3%, but their penalty kick finished 12th in the USHL at 75.8%. Steel have scored 74 of their 275 man advantage goals this season.
  • Chicago’s 21 home wins were tied for third in the USHL. The Steel have won their last three and eight of their last 10 games at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
  • Celebrini is only the third rookie (Steve MacSwain, 1983 and Mike Carlson, 1981) in USHL history to win Player of the Year and the third player in Steel history (Sean Farrell, 2021 and Andrew Miller, 2009 ) in doing it. He is the first to achieve the clean sweep with all three major awards (forward, player and rookie).
  • Christian Manz had the third-best save percentage in the league in the playoffs at .930. The second-year goaltender stopped 214 of the 230 shots he saw in six playoff games.

  • With his appearance this season, Chicago extended its playoff streak to seven consecutive seasons.

Macklin Celebrini, F.

A rival coach put it perfectly earlier this month: Celebrini was on another planet this season. BU’s commitment led the USHL in goals (46), points (86) and nearly every other offensive category in his historic rookie season.

He ended his season with a laundry list of accolades, as mentioned above, and while the future 17-year-old forward will now head to BU, he made quite an impact in his only season in the USHL.

“What Mack did as a freshman in our league is beyond words,” Garman said. “There was a lot of growth in his game and the numbers speak for themselves, but seeing him every day and seeing how much he developed was incredible.”

Jayden Perron, F.

Perron scored a career-high 24 goals and collected 72 points in his second USHL season, building on his 17-goal, 45-point rookie campaign in 2021-22. UND’s commitment will now also head to college, but he will first hear his name next month in the NHL Draft.

Perron was one of the most explosive forwards and top playmakers in the USHL this season and only continued to improve as the season progressed.

“Jayden had a good first season with us, but I think he really raised his game and grew a lot,” Garman said. “He is a very talented and creative player, but he also saw the other parts of the game for himself.

“The way he works off the puck, the way he works off the ice and the way he became more of a leader, it was also phenomenal to see him develop.”

Michael Emerson, F.

A fellow UND player, Emerson was another of Chicago’s dynamic forwards and shone big offensively after scoring just four goals and seven points last season.

Emerson finished 12th in the league with 64 points and was one of four Chicago players to reach the 30-goal mark. He also scored three times in the playoffs.

“Michael really stepped into a role for us as a leader and was a really consistent player who played a very skilled and honest game,” Garman said. “He grew a lot as a player overall and was rewarded offensively for that.”

Chicago earned a first-round bye and swept their second-round series, winning a pair of games from Dubuque: 3-1 and 5-4. Perron stole the show in Game 1 with a 3-pointer as Manz stopped 54 of the 59 shots he took en route to the series.

The Steel then clashed with Youngstown in the Eastern Conference Finals. After splitting the first two games in Chicago, Youngstown won Games 3 and 4 at home to end Chicago’s season.

The Steel were without Celebrini for the entire first round and the last two games in the second round. Youngstown limited Chicago’s explosive offense to just eight goals in the series with five of those coming in Game 2.

The Steel were trying to win their second Clark Cup (2021) in three years.

“I know it’s not the ending that any of our guys wanted, but I think our game was at its best during the last few weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs,” Garman said. “We had some really challenging opponents and Youngstown is a very good team, but I’m proud of the way our guys fought and I felt like they gave it their all.”

While much of Chicago’s firepower will head to college next season, the Steel have a lot to catch up on. Plus, they’ve added the cute and much-touted Lukas Sawchyn and feel good about his draft.

Make no mistake, replacing Celebrini, Perron and the rest of the group won’t be easy. But the experience that several of Chicago’s first-year players gained this season and the group that Garman has returned to bodes well for 2023-24.

“We have a very strong foundation and it looks like half the team will be coming back, and I think that goes hand in hand with us being so young this season,” Garman said. “We have some experience and some extremely talented players are coming back, so we’re very happy with that group, and we’ve added some really good players as well.”