After two dominant victories last weekend, the Dubuque Fighting Saints will look to continue their strong play on home ice this weekend against the Youngstown Phantoms. Dubuque is coming into the weekend with a six-point separation between themselves and 3rd-place Team USA in the Eastern Conference standings. In addition, the Saints have rattled off four-straight wins at home, the longest streak of its kind in the USHL. For the first two times this season, they will face the Youngstown Phantoms. Youngstown is battling for some breathing room as they are four points ahead of 7th-place Cedar Rapids but have also played two more games than the RoughRiders. Youngstown comes into the game at 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 but just 2-6-2 in their last 10 on the road. Get ready for the series with your Weekend Primer.
-Dubuque has maintained their status as the top defensive team in the league, but they have also seriously upgraded their offensive play as of late. In the past 12 games, Dubuque has averaged 4.7 goals per game. The Saints have put up five goals or more in half of those games and have managed seven or more three times.
-Dubuque and the Chicago Steel are the only two teams in the USHL who are in the top five in terms of both goals for and goals against. Chicago leads the league in goals scored and is fourth in goals allowed. Dubuque is fourth in goals scored and first in goals allowed.
-Last weekend, the line of Mark Cheremeta, Jimmy Glynn and Antonio Venuto put on a show for the Saints. The line combined for 12 points in the two games. Cheremeta had five, Venuto had four (all assists) and Glynn added three goals.
-This will be the first time that the Saints see the Youngstown Phantoms this season. Last season, Dubuque was 1-2-0-1 last season against the Phantoms, but then swept the three-seeded Youngstown in the first round of the playoffs.
-Youngstown is led by Trevor Kuntar this season. Kuntar is the only skater over 30 points for Youngstown, totaling 42 points on 23 goals and 19 assists. Kuntar holds the longest point streak in the USHL this year, with points in 13-straight games. Though that point streak is no longer active, he is still one of the more dangerous scorers in the USHL.
-Youngstown’s deficiencies lie squarely in their inability to keep the puck out of the back of the net. The Phantoms have allowed 155 goals through 39 games. That is second worst in the USHL. Last season the Phantoms allowed 209 goals, which put them 11th in the league.
-Last weekend, the Saints were without Erik Portillo. Still, Dubuque was able to shutdown both Des Moines and Madison thanks to solid starts from Aidan McCarthy. McCarthy is now up to nine wins on the season. His 2.84 goals against ranks eighth in the USHL.
-This will be the last “new” opponent of the season for Dubuque. Even though they have yet to face the U-18’s, since the team is categorized under the umbrella of Team USA, the Phantoms will be the final new opponent of the season for Dubuque.
-Both nights will see the puck dropped at 7:05 pm at the Mystique Ice Center. The four game homestand is the second longest this season for Dubuque. They had a six-game homestand in the middle of November, going 4-2 in those six games.