Boasting one of the two unblemished records remaining in the USHL, the Dubuque Fighting Saints hit the road for their first two-game weekend since the Fall Classic. Dubuque will take on the Des Moines Buccaneers on Friday before making their way to Sioux City to battle the Musketeers on Saturday. It will be the first of eight games against Des Moines and just one of two against Sioux City. Dubuque is off to their best start since 2013-14 when they started the season the season 7-0-0-0. Get ready for both contest in this edition of the Weekend Primer.
-The Fighting Saints haven’t dominated their way through the first four games, but they have won all four in different manners, suggesting that this team is a lot more than just a high-powered offense like we saw in the preseason. Dubuque’s 4-1 win over Muskegon was dominant on both fronts. They battled adversity against Madison twice and came away with one goal wins and most recently they showed poise and determination on a tough 3-1 comeback victory over the Tri-City Storm.
-Dubuque is currently tied with Waterloo as the best defensive team in the league. Both Waterloo and Dubuque have allowed just seven goals this season. Though Waterloo has played one more game than Dubuque, the numbers are still very solid. The seven goals in a four-game stretch is the stingiest the Fighting Saints have been in a four-game stretch since last year when they allowed seven goals from January 5-13.
-Interestingly enough, the Saints four wins in a row match their longest win streak from last season as well. That win streak, you guessed it, was from January 5-13.
-If the Fighting Saints beat Des Moines on Friday it will be the third time they have started a season at least 5-0. Nine other USHL teams have started a season with at least five straight wins, but only the Fighting Saints have done it more than once (2012-13 and 2013-14).
-Riese Gaber, Mark Cheremeta and Matthew Kopperud have paved the way offensively for the Fighting Saints this season. The three have 17 combined points this season through the first four games. Gaber leads the team in goals with four, while Cheremeta leads in points and assists.
-Ty and Dylan Jackson have also started quickly, producing four points each during their first four games. Last season, the Jackson’s had 12 points in their first 10 games but were far streakier. This season the offense has been a consistent threat every game.
-Dubuque’s magic number seems to be three this season. They have scored at least that many goals in every game so far and the defense has only allowed three goals once. Last season Dubuque was 25-15 when scoring three goals or more.
-The Buccaneers have looked like a mixed bag to begin the season. They have undeniable skill, as is evident by their 18 goals scored (2nd Western Conference) and Alex Lafferiere’s 11 points (1st USHL). However, they have started just 2-3 with some poor defensive performances.
-Des Moines has also been undisciplined, totaling 83 penalty minutes through five games. Granted a few of those minutes have come from 10-minute penalties, however Des Moines still has allowed over three power play opportunities a game, which will be tough to deal with against a Dubuque power play that scores just about once every three opportunities.
-When Des Moines scores, they score in bunches. Twice already this season the Buccaneers have scored six goals in a game. The offense is the strength of the team right now, leading the charge as the defense tries to figure things out.
-One area where the Buccaneers will look to improve is goaltending. The Bucs grabbed Cameron Rowe, a former NTDP player in the USHL draft but he has struggled out of the gate to the tune of a 4.16 goals against average. Christian Stoever, who played parts of last season with Cedar Rapids and Youngstown, has been better in a slightly smaller sample size and sits at a 2.14 goals against and a .924 save percentage.
-Much like the Bucs, Sioux City has been up and down early this year. The Musketeers are 2-2 after their first four games of the season with 10 goals for and 12 allowed. On the flip side from Des Moines, the Musketeers are having a tough time finding their offense. Sioux City lost a few big guns, namely Bobby Brink and Martin Pospisil who both had over 60 points has season.
-Saturday will be a battle of two of the top power plays in the league as both Sioux City and Dubuque come into the weekend operating at above 28%. Though the sample sizes are very small, the units for both teams look incredibly skilled a man up.
-Though the overall offensive numbers are down, Sioux City is on a bit of a roll. After scoring just twice in their first two games, the Musketeers have poured in eight goals in their last two outings heading into the weekend.
-Dominic Vidoli leads the way offensively for Sioux City this season with seven points. Last season Vidoli joined the club late but was dynamic from the start. He had 15 points in 18 games. This season his seven points have come in just three games as he missed a game at the Fall Classic.