ON THE POINT...When you start the season with a 10-game winning streak, you are usually in a good place to succeed. The Chicago Steel may be 8-5-3 since that point, but they have remained atop the Eastern Conference amidst the perceived struggles. A big reason for their overwhelming success this season has been their goal differential—a staggering +33. No team has scored more than the Steel, either.
THE SCORING STABLE...Chicago’s goal differential, and league-leading offense, is anchored by three players who have scored more than 10 goals, and 12 players who have scored 10 or more points. Johnny Walker leads the way for the Steel in goal scoring, and that was mostly due to a seven-game goal scoring streak. Jack Badini, now at 11 goals, has four tallies in the last five games.
THE PENALTIES MOUNT...The Saints have made a home of the penalty box on many nights. They average 19.31 PIMs per game, which ranks second in the league, and have taken the second-most major penalties in the league (11). Much like last season, however, they bait the opposition into the box as well, with 454 PIMs by the opposition, which ranks fourth-most.
THE CAVALRY ARRIVES...The Dubuque Fighting Saints will receive reinforcements in two ways tonight. First, Zach Solow and associate head coach J.B. Bittner return from the World Junior A Challenge after winning the gold medal before the break. Solow will look to continue his outrageous 13-game point streak (18 points in that span), which dates all the way back to October 28.
MEET THE NEW GUY...Dubuque also welcomes the tallest player who has ever played for the team, Keenan Suthers, after his acquisition from the Muskegon Lumberjacks last week. Suthers, a St. Lawrence commit, played for the NTDP, Des Moines, Muskegon, and now Dubuque. The 6’7” giant is slated to center David Brumm and Quinn Preston tonight.
TAKE THE MIDDLE PATH...Chicago plays an even game in the first period, but the scoring opens up the longer the game goes. Most impressively, Chicago dominates the second period, with a +21 goal differential, and a +13 goal differential in the third period. Dubuque does all of the heavy lifting in the first period, at +10, but is even from there on out.
GUARDIANS OF THE GOAL...Tonight could feature two of the best goalies in the entire USHL going toe-to-toe. Jaxon Castor, and his 1.98 GAA, could end up tussling with Chicago’s Ales Stezka, who ranks one slot behind him in terms of goals-against average (2.05). Castor topped Stezka in the last meeting—a 3-1 win on November 26.
STEEL GATE...Chicago’s penalty kill is certainly a tough nut to crack, but they are especially hard to best while they are the road team. The Steel’s PK is 46-for-49, which calculates to a 93.8% success rate. As a whole, they rank second-best in the league behind Fargo, at 92.5%.