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PREVIEW: Buccaneers vs. Fighting Saints 11/25

By Jordan Kuhns, 11/25/16, 12:00PM CST


Saints and Bucs get together for the first time this season



STINGY DEFENSE...Des Moines’ modus operandi this season is a lockdown defense that has allowed the fewest goal in the USHL through 16 games—33. Or, with simple math, just over two goals per game. Jan Ruzicka, the Buccaneers’ starting goaltender, ranks seventh in the goals-against average category (1.97) as one of eight goalies with a GAA under two, which is a tremendous feat.

HARD TO PLAY AGAINST...The Dubuque Fighting Saints continue to pile up points. Winners of four of the last five games, and a team that has gathered standings points in some capacity in the 10 of the last 13 games, the Saints have gone from bubble team to challenger in short order. During the recent winning stretch, Dubuque is averaging three goals per game and 1.6 goals against.

UNFAVORABLE MATCHUP...The matchup with the Buccaneers was not favorable to the Dubuque Fighting Saints last season. They rolled to leads in both games—a 2-0 advantage on the road, and a 1-0 lead on home ice, but ended up losing both games. 63 penalty minutes were doled out in total in the two meetings, including 37 of them against the Saints.


A CHANCE TO MOVE UP...If the winning ways continue, the Fighting Saints could find themselves in a very good position entering December. One win tonight could rocket them up to where Muskegon lies in second place, and at 24 points with two games in hand on the Jacks. Six of the Saints’ 10 wins on the season have come in the last ten games alone.

THE STREAK CONTINUES...Every night, he’s a factor. Zach Solow’s point streak has now hit nine games (2 goals, 10 assists). The team’s lone representative to the World Junior A Challenge in mid-December is arguably the player entering the tournament with the most credentials. The Northeastern commit has risen to seventh in league scoring (18 points) and fifth in league assists (12).

KOBE! SWISH...One of the most gifted playmakers in the league, and part of the Buccaneers’ “Waterbug Line,” Kobe Roth has led the way in scoring. The Minnesota-Duluth commit from as far north in Minnesota as you can get, has romped over his point total from last season (3), and has points in five of the last seven games for the Bucs, including five assists.


SHOTS SMOTHERED...The Saints’ recent stretch has made them the hardest team to generate offense against. Their 23.72 shots against per game mark is the best in the league by almost a full shot. The shot totals over the last couple of games illustrate this point nicely: 16 (vs. BLM), 22 (vs. MAD), 21 (vs. CR). The team continues to be middle of the pack in shots for, however.

WHAT TO EXPECT?...Both teams feature exceptional special teams. The Fighting Saints and the Buccaneers are the only two teams in the USHL that have a power play and penalty kill rank in the top five. Des Moines’ power play is marginally better, but Dubuque’s penalty kill has had more success.