BLOOMINGTON — Tyler Madden got the Central Illinois Flying Aces’ comeback started, Wojtech Stachowiak finished it and Zach Stejskal made it count.
Stejskal shined in a 28-save performance and Stachowiak netted the winning goal seven minutes into the third period Friday as the Aces pulled out a 3-2 win over the Sioux City Musketeers before a crowd of 830 at Grossinger Motors Arena.
“He was amazing tonight, a big part of our win. The biggest part, actually,” Stachowiak said of Stejskal, who trumped a 26-save effort by Muskegon counterpart Matt Jurusik.
Max Andreev had the first goal as Central Illinois improved to 8-8-1 after snapping a three-game slide. Brady Ferner and Sampo Ranta had power play goals for Sioux City (4-9-3).
“It wasn’t pretty. I thought we did better … it was a gutsy effort for us,” said Flying Aces' coach Mike Watt. “We have to clean some things up when we have some time to work on it. We just have to continue to harp on the details.”
Coincidental minor penalties carrying over from late in the second allowed Madden to get the comeback started quickly in the third. On a designed play off the draw, Madden moved to the slot and piped in a feed from Davis Buns nine seconds into the action.
“We set up a play and executed it perfectly,” said Madden. “Bunz just found me and I put in the back of the net. It was definitely exciting to get back in the game.”
Stachowiak found himself in the right place at the right time as he followed behind Cam Burke as the team captain charged into the slot. With Burke unable to elude defenders for a shot, the puck fell back to Stachowiak and he fired a drive past Jurusik.
“It was a great play by Cam on the forecheck,” said Stachowiak. “I was just waiting for the puck to come to me and I just shot it.”
Andreev gave the Aces an initial lead with just over two minutes left in the first when his tough-angle shot from along the right boards found its way past Jurusik with Matt Gosiewski camped atop the crease.
Stejskal made several big saves in the opening frame, beginning when he robbed Micah Miller on a 2-on-1 surge with his left pad. He thwarted another two-man rush by getting his stick on Ranta’s attempt from the slot.
“He was standing on his head in the first; it definitely could’ve been a blowout if he wasn’t in there,” said Madden.
But a penalty to Burke seconds after Andreev’s goal proved costly. Ferner made good on the power play as his drive from the point found its way through traffic with 1.2 seconds on the first-period clock.
Another costly penalty, this time a five-minute major to Mike Callahan for slashing, enabled the Musketeers to move ahead as Ranta got a shot past Stejskal less than a minute into the advantage.
“That’s the last four games we’ve had two or three majors. That takes the rhythm and the momentum (away),” said Watt. “I thought we did a decent job killing the five minutes and we were able to battle back.”
The Aces begin a five-game road stretch Saturday in Michigan with a 6:15 p.m. (CST) faceoff against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.