BLOOMINGTON, IL–The Dubuque Fighting Saints have plenty of reason to celebrate heading into 2015. The Fighting Saints scored twice in the third period, and scored on three consecutive shootout attempts to earn a 4-3 victory over the Bloomington Thunder on Wednesday night at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in their final game of 2014. Dubuque waited until the final day of 2014 to pick up their first shootout win of the calendar year, breaking a string of five straight defeats, including two this season. The shootout victory was the club’s first since December 7, 2013 and earned Dubuque a third straight victory heading into a pair of games at home this weekend against rivals Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.
Coming off an 11-goal weekend, Dubuque red-hot offense wasted no time picking up where they left off. Dylan Gambrell opened the scoring on 16 seconds into the game to put Dubuque up 1-0. Kavanagh left the puck to Gambrell in the slot, and the forward cut in and fired a wrist shot over goaltender Logan Halladay’s shoulder for his 10th goal of the season.
The Thunder would use the powerplay to tie the game midway through the first period. Vince Pedrie scored his 7th goal of the year on a redirect from the low slot. Pedrie got a piece of an Alec Mehr shot from the right point at 10:39 to make it 1-1.
In the second period, Dubuque was unable to capitalize on multiple powerplay opportunities and the Thunder used the momentum from its penalty kill to score the go-ahead goal. Following a penalty kill, the Thunder collected the puck at center and rushed into the Dubuque zone. Jack Jenkins shot was denied by Dubuque goaltender Jacob Nehama, but the rebound sat loose in the crease and Blake Gober scored his 3rd goal of the season past an outstretched Nehama to make it 2-1 Thunder at 8:41.
After seven unsuccessful attempts, Dubuque’s powerplay finally converted on its final chance in the third period to tie the game. Gambrell scored his second goal of the game on a mad scramble in front of the goal. A bouncing shot handcuffed Halladay and Jacob Benson’s rebound shot was denied. The puck sat loose in the crease and Gambrell deposited the rebound top corner for his second goal of the game at 9:13.
Bloomington received three powerplays consecutively late in the game, but it was Dubuque who briefly took the lead. Brett Boeing scored his team leading 13th goal shorthanded at 16:11 to put Dubuque up 3-2. After being denied by Halladay on a breakaway seconds before, Boeing collected a loose puck, fought off a defender and fired a wrist shot that deflected up and over Halladay’s glove.
Shortly following, Bloomington used its final powerplay chance to tie the score. Shane Bednard struck with only 1:30 to play in the game, walking the puck from the corner and around Nehama to make it 3-3.
Following an overtime session, the game headed to a shootout. Dubuque was 0-2 in the shootout this season and had not scored a goal on seven attempts. That all changed Wednesday night.
Boeing, Kavanagh and Gambrell all struck in the shootout and Nehama stopped Matt Mendelson’s attempt to earn Dubuque the victory.
Dubuque went 1-for-8 on the powerplay while Bloomington was 2-for-5. The Fighting Saints outshot the Thunder 41-27. Dubuque took the season series with the Thunder, improving to 3-0-0 against the expansion franchise. The two squads meet for the final time in February in Dubuque.
After the silver ball drops, the Dubuque Fighting Saints will ring in the New Year with two home games against their biggest foes this weekend. The top team in the USHL, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, visit the Mystique Community Ice Center Friday for the first time this season. Puck drop is 7:35 p.m. Saturday, the Fighting Saints host the Waterloo Black Hawks featuring a noise-maker giveaway courtesy of One Stop Tax and Accounting Service. Puck drop is 7:05 p.m. Tickets are available to both games by calling 563.583.6880 or online at DubuqueFightingSaints.com.