GENEVA – The phrase “never let ’em see you sweat” was never more pertinent than in the beginning of overtime in Game 5 of the 2017 United States Hockey League Clark Cup final.
The Chicago Steel and Sioux City were knotted at 1-1. It was truly next goal wins for Steel coach Dan Muse and his staff.
Were there nerves at all?
“We had all been through this kind of experience during the regular season and postseason,” Muse said. “Be it either we were tied or even down a goal. We had learned a lot leading up to that moment, which I think made us stronger heading into that overtime.”
Muse, who guided the Steel to the Clark Cup title before departing to become an assistant coach with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, said if there was one important lesson the team learned from those previous experiences it was to keep their emotions in check.
“It certainly was an emotional situation that moment,” he said. “But we stayed even-keeled, especially after tying the game up to get us to overtime. When it happened, you kind of wanted to take in the moment and really see what the team could accomplish if they put their minds to it.”
Muse was no stranger to pressure situations and succeeding in them. He won the NCAA Division I national title when he was the head coach at Yale in 2013 and four Ivy League titles while at the helm of the Bulldogs.
Lessons learned during those days helped Muse coach the Steel to its first-ever title and sets the tone for the team as it looks to defend the crown with a new head coach.
“Working in [hockey], you never know when you’ll ever get the chance like we had that night to win a title,” Muse said. “When we scored it was a matter for me of just enjoying the moment. And it was seeing our players enjoying the moment. I think as you get away from the moment, we all learned to appreciate even more what happened in that moment of time.”
Muse said it also was a bittersweet moment knowing that some of the players would not be around next season to try to repeat as league champion. As a junior league, the USHL sees players cycle through on their way to the NHL draft or collegiate programs.
“At this level, every season is different,” Muse said. “We as coaches always ask ourselves can we do a better job in developing players for next season to make us an even better team. We just can’t sit back after last season and rely on the past to get us another title.”
The players who return to the fold for the Steel will have the experience of performing in pressure situations.
Before leaving the organization, Muse helped lead the Steel’s offseason program as the hunted rather the hunter looking for a title.
That’s precisely what he wanted in the first place.
“I would always rather be the hunted I guess,” he said.