DUBUQUE, Iowa — In a game the Dubuque Fighting Saints needed to have, they got it. With the score tied 2-2, and regulation time winding down, the captain broke the tie. P.J. Fletcher swerved off the wall into the high slot, and snapped a shot that deflected past goaltender Tyler Muszelik and into the net to give the home team a 3-2 lead, and proved to be the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over Team USA at the Mystique Community Ice Center on Saturday night.
As a result, for the first time this season, the Fighting Saints are in a playoff spot for the first time all season, after starting the year with a 1-10-0 record.
The Saints’ fourth power play of the night expired, but the attack did not. Dubuque worked a cycle game, and Fletcher pulled the puck off the wall and into a shooting position. The puck ticked off of a Team USA player out in front of the goal to find a way into the back of the net. It was Fletcher’s 13th goal of the season. It also responded to two Team USA tallies in the third period.
Matt Savoie added the empty-net goal at the 17:57 mark of the third period with Muszelik at the bench for the extra attacker.
Team USA roared back from being dominated in the second period to tie the game off of two Fighting Saints turnovers. A bouncing puck at the line evaded Daniyal Dzhaniyev and sent Ryan Chesley on his way on a breakaway, and his goal at the 2:13 mark of the third period cut the lead in half.
The same happened to Savoie, and as Cutter Gauthier stole the puck, he fed the puck across to Devin Kaplan who snapped the puck past a sprawled out Lukas Parik to even the score at two.
The Saints took the lead as part of a completely dominant second period. Dubuque outshot Team USA 20-7 in the middle frame, and outscored them 2-0. At 8:13, Zane Demsey filtered the puck wide of the USA net, and Stephen Halliday waited for the puck to come to him off the kickplate. He roofed the puck into the open goal and gave the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Max Montes added to that lead, as failure led to success. Sent on a breakaway by Evan Stella, he was initially denied. But after cycling the puck down low, Riley Stuart spotted Montes who found an open spot to extend the lead to 2-0.
Parik picked up his third consecutive win for the Fighting Saints. In his last four starts, he has given up two or fewer goals, and has posted save percentages north of .900. He made 19 saves in his third consecutive win. He is 6-3-0 in his last nine appearances for the Fighting Saints heading into the most crucial final week of the season.
The Saints make their final road trip of the season to Green Bay on Monday, April 19 for a 7:05 p.m. start. Catch the action on the Fighting Saints Radio Network, or on HockeyTV.