The Dubuque Fighting Saints will kick off their 2019-2020 season with two games at the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh. Dubuque faces off against the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Thursday morning and will play the Madison Capitols the following day. Dubuque is coming off an impressive preseason in which they averaged five goals a game, leading them to an unblemished 4-0 record. Get set for the first two games of 2019 with this edition of the Weekend Primer:
-Dubuque will begin their season with the team that ended their season last year. Muskegon is coming off a strong 2018-19 campaign under first-year head coach Mike Hamilton. The Lumberjacks, however, have lost a number of key players including Egor Afanasyev, Alex Yakovenko, Mikael Hakkarainen, Bobby Lynch and Colby Bukes. In fact, eight of the top nine scorers from last year’s team will not return to the lineup.
-It has been noted before, but Dubuque is coming off an impressive preseason. The team won all four games, but more importantly showcased their team speed and depth in every game. Dubuque averaged five goals per contest while allowing just under three a game.
-Last season, the Lumberjacks and Fighting Saints tied 2-2 in the regular season series. All four regular season games were decided by one goal with each team taking one at home and one on the road. The Saints seemed to rise to the occasion when playing what was the best team in the east last year.
-Dubuque, unlike Muskegon, will return a multitude of starters for their 10th anniversary season. Dubuque brings back seven skaters who played in at least 20 games with the team last year. That group is highlighted by Ty and Dylan Jackson who both played all 62 regular season games.
-Dubuque is 5-4 in the last nine seasons when it comes to their season opener. Dubuque has lost the last two season openers by a combined score of 9-4. Muskegon is also 5-4 in their last nine season openers. Last year the Lumberjacks got off to a torrid start, losing just three times in the first two months of the season.
-After not playing in a single 10am contest last year, Dubuque will play in back to back morning games this season. The Fighting Saints won their only game last season that started before 12pm.
-Friday’s opponent had a completely opposite season from that of the Lumberjacks. The Madison Capitols found themselves in a hole early and could never rebound from the basement of the eastern conference.
-The Capitols will return a considerable number of USHL players, including former Capitol, turned Fighting Saint, turned Capitol again, Verners Egle. Egle is in his final year of eligibility in the USHL.
-Madison struggled last year on both ends of the ice, but largely on offense. The team scored just 145 total goals in 62 games for an average of 2.33 per game. Defensively Madison allowed the third most goals in the USHL.
-Dubuque took care of the season series against the Capitols, but it wasn’t easy last season. The Saints took six of seven, but four of their six wins were by one goal.
-After Friday’s contest Dubuque will trek home and have a full week without a regular season game before they play the Capitols again for their home opener at the Mystique Ice Center on October 5th. Dubuque plays just four times in the first three weeks of the season.