SAVING POWER...Special teams will be an interesting battle tonight. As for Green Bay’s top-ranked power play, which went 5-for-11 last weekend (45.4%), it will be a challenge to stop. Its 38% conversion rate on the road is mostly stoked by top prospect Casey Mittelstadt (14 power play points) and defenseman Connor Mackey (11 power play points). They will stack up against a Fighting Saints penalty kill that is 32 of its last 33 (96.9%).
MAKSIM-UM OUTPUT...Lately, Green Bay has received outstanding netminding from A-ranked prospect Maksim Zhukov. The Russian goaltender’s 2.13 goals-against average ranks 9th in the league, one spot behind Dubuque’s Jaxon Castor. Zhukov has a tidy 2.00 GAA and a .928 save percentage since October 14, and four of the Gamblers’ five wins during the winning streak.
BREAK THE GLASS CEILING...The Fighting Saints can routinely make the goal light flash twice. Maybe with a bit too much regularity. In five of the six home games so far, the Saints have tallied twice, and only twice. Only once did they score more than twice, and that was in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Waterloo Black Hawks, which forced them to rally from two down to tie.
STREAK-BUSTERS...The Gamblers, after starting the season slowly, have ratcheted their game up to a new level. Winners of eight of the last ten, and five in a row, Green Bay does not possess the same kind of ridiculous goal differential that they possessed last season (+56), but they do possess a stifling defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest goals against this season (2.43 per game). Can the Saints crash their party this weekend?
WELCOME BACK, JAKE...After a strong showing at the U17 World Challenge, defenseman Jacob Semik returns to the Dubuque Fighting Saints’ lineup tonight. The Michigan-commit defenseman notched five points (2 goals, 3 assists) for Team USA, and has scored 2 goals while in Fighting Saints uniform this season. It has been an eventful year for the 16-year-old, already having represented the United States twice in four months.
THE BIG SWING GAME...A regulation win for either side tonight could be monumental. Should Chicago’s struggles continue, the Gamblers could draw into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with a win tonight. If the Fighting Saints win tonight, they continue to keep pace with the conference’s elite teams. Right now, 15 points is the threshold for fourth place.
SHORTHANDED SCORERS...Zach Solow and Colin Theisen both lead the league in shorthanded points (3). That adds another layer to the team’s already solid penalty kill. Theisen finished with just one shorthanded goal a season ago. Interestingly enough, it was his first USHL goal. Solow did not have one shorthanded point a season ago for the Saints.
A DECIDED IMPROVEMENT...Last season, Green Bay dominated the Resch Center, but struggled mightily away from the comforts of home. In the early going, the Gamblers are 6-3-0 on the road, in stark comparison to their 14-11-5 mark from a year ago. Their 23 home wins last season were the most in the USHL.