BLOOMINGTON, IL–A night after a line of USHL veteran led the Dubuque Fighting Saints to victory, it was the strong play of USHL rookies that earned the Fighting Saints a sixth straight win. Trey Dodd, Ryan Stevens and Willie Knierim all scored to help give Dubuque a 5-3 victory at the US Cellular Coliseum Saturday night. Gavin Nieto stopped 25 shots, and Dubuque’s penalty kill held Bloomington to 0-for-6 on the powerplay.
The Thunder grabbed a 1-0 lead on home ice courtesy of Jacob Slaker, who scored on a rebound just 2:31 into the game. It was the Dodd, Stevens, Knierim line that would provide the answer to the early goal late in the period.
At the 16:50 mark, a mistake by Bloomington goaltender David Jacobson allowed the Fighting Saints to tie the game. The netminder played the puck behind the goal and took his time returning to the crease. Dodd recognized this, and fired a bad angle shot to the net. It hit a Bloomington defenseman’s skate and popped to Knierim. With Jacobson just getting back to the net, Knierim lifted a shot into the top corner to make it 1-1.
Just 39 seconds later, the Fighting Saints took the lead. Stevens scored his first USHL goal on a beautiful individual effort. The Texas native cut off the left side half boards and made a power move to the net. He fought off a defender and beat Jacobson with a wrist shot glove side to make it 2-1 Dubuque at 17:29.
In the second period, a shorthanded goal by Ryan Siroky only 2:47 into the period tied the game. The puck hopped Seamus Malone’s stick on the blueline and Siroky raced up ice, firing a shot over Nieto’s blocker to make it 2-2.
After several strong saved from Nieto to keep the game even, Gordie Green would break the tie for Dubuque at the 11:52 mark. Mitchell Smith collected a pass from Sasha Larocque along the goal line. He centered the puck to Green in the slot, and the Ann Arbor, Michigan native beat Jacobson with a shot glove side for his fourth goal of the year to make it 3-2 Dubuque.
The Dodd, Stevens, Knierim line would strike again 2:04 later on a three-on-one rush. Dodd lead the charge and finished the play on a give-and-go with Stevens. Dodd’s one-timer from the right side beat Jacobson low to double Dubuque’s lead.
In the third period, Bloomington would cut the lead to one with a goal from veteran Jack Jenkins. The puck hopped off the end boards and Jenkins backhanded a shot between Nieto’s legs to make it 4-3 Fighting Saints at 1:04 of the third period.
The Thunder’s powerplay had multiple chances to tie the game but came up empty handed and Evan Smith scored his first USHL goal on the empty net with three seconds left to give the Saints the 5-3 win.
Nieto stopped 25 shots to earn his first win the Fighting Saints. Bloomington outshot Dubuque 28-25 in the contest.
Dubuque returns home for Military Appreciation Night, presented by Kwik Stop, Dairy Queen and Fazoli's, next Friday at 7:35 p.m. Veterans and active military members receive $3 off per ticket with their military ID. The Fighting Saints will be wearing special red, white and blue jerseys featuring the stars and stripes that will be auctioned off after the game will all proceeds to the Veterans Freedom Center. For tickets to this special night, fans can call 563.583.6680 or visit DubuqueFightingSaints.com.