DUBUQUE, Iowa — In a must-win game, staring down an opponent that looms over them in the Eastern Conference standings, the Dubuque Fighting Saints took care of business. The Saints scored four goals in the first period, and were buoyed by a hat trick by forward Matt Savoie, en route to a resounding 8-2 win over the National Team Development Program. The win marked head coach Oliver David's 100th win as the bench boss of the Fighting Saints.
David's 100th win makes him the second Fighting Saints Tier-I era coach to hit the century mark, and sits 17 wins from tying Jim Montgomery for the top spot in franchise history.
Savoie dazzled the talent evaluators and spectators in the audience at the Mystique Community Ice Center on Sunday afternoon with a three-goal effort that officially pulled the Saints away from the NTDP. His first came on a one-touch passing play through the slot, as Halliday and Cronin teamed up to find the Albertan forward sitting alone in the left circle to make it 4-0.
That goal chased starting goaltender Gibson Homer, and brought in Kaidan Mbereko, who was welcomed to the game by Savoie by scoring on his first shot faced.
Savoie continued his dissection of the Team USA defense on the heels of a failed NTDP clear. He kept the zone and flung a shot from distance that found the top of the net to extend the Saints' lead to 4-0.
It would be 5-1 on the heels of a Jeremy Wilmer goal. While shorthanded, the Saints broke free on a 2-on-1 break. Defenseman Michael Feenstra feathered Savoie the puck and he buried the biscuit to further extend the lead.
Andrei Buyalsky, Connor Kurth and P.J. Fletcher all scored for the Saints, and the lead was stretched as far as 8-1 at the 8:31 mark of the third period.
It took an inspired effort by the Saints in the first period to set the tone for the matchup. Against a team that was nearly unbeatable when they scored the first goal, the Saints got the first one and controlled the game from there. John Evans cleaned up the rebound on a shot from Henry Thrun, who made his return to the lineup for the first time since November 7, 2020.
The Fighting Saints found themselves shorthanded by two men after Evans' goal, as Kurth and Cronin took back-to-back penalties. Lukas Parik, who made 33 saves in the victory, held the fort, killed the penalty, and Buyalsky made the NTDP pay with an individual effort and a goal to double the Saints' lead.
Dubuque's penalty kill was relied upon for the win, and was pushed to hold the fort seven times. The Saints held the fort with seven successful penalty kills, and won the special teams battle with a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the win.
The Saints have now closed the gap in the standings to nine points with the win, and will take on Team USA for a pair of games next Friday and Saturday in Plymouth, Michigan. The action can be heard on the Fighting Saints radio network, or on HockeyTV.