FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME...16 players will take part in tonight’s game that played a part in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final—one that was won by the Dubuque Fighting Saints in five games en route to the Clark Cup Final. Key antagonist Jake Durflinger returns for the Thunder to certainly spice the matchup up further. The Saints return the entire Coneheads line to combat the largely veteran-laden opponent.
THE FOUR-POINT GAME...Just two points behind the Fighting Saints lie the Bloomington Thunder. A regulation win would create a four-point cushion in the standings. A regulation loss would pull the two teams tied. It was a slow start for the Thunder to start the year, but they have won seven of the last ten games to pull themselves within striking distance of the fourth and final playoff spot early on.
ROAD ENERGY...It’s a story of two different teams for the Thunder so far this season. Inside the confines of the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, the Thunder are 4-5-1. Outside of it, they are 4-2-1. That record includes being one of the worst road penalty kills in the league (79.3%), in comparison to one of the best home penalty kills in the league (90.7%). The Thunder have won four consecutive road games dating back to 11/4.
SOLOW SELECTION...Saints forward Zach Solow’s latest run has not gone unnoticed in the hockey world—the run of goals in back-to-back games, points in eight consecutive games, and scoreless in just four games this season. The Floridian was named to the U.S. Junior Selects Team, to represent the United States at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge in Alberta in mid-December.
FEAR THE FEAR...Enter Evan Fear—the Dubuque Fighting Saints’ newest goalie. Fear joins the team from the Springfield Jr. Blues of the North American Hockey League on a tear. Once a Saints camp invite, Fear is 4-0-0 in his last four appearances with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage. Overall, he went 6-4-0 in 12 appearances with the Jr. Blues.
VLAD THE IMPORTANT...He showed tremendous promise last season for the Thunder, and he has become the team’s top goal scorer. Vladislav Dzhioshvili returns for another go for Bloomington with seven goals, and three of them in the last six games. The Russian forward also has points in five of the last six games, and two multi-point efforts in that span.
KEEP IT CONSISTENT...One thing these Dubuque Fighting Saints do is battle, especially lately. The Saints put a three-game winning streak together, wins in four of the last six games, and standings points in six of the last seven games. Bloomington has collected 14 out of a possible 20 points in the past ten games to meteorically rise up the standings into contention.
PIMS ON PIMS...This matchup saw a lot of going to the box...to the box...to the box, box, box...over last season’s nine meetings. The Fighting Saints took 220 minutes in penalties, including 68 in one matchup alone (3/25), and the Thunder took 182 minutes in penalties, with 48 coming on that same night for them.