DUBUQUE, Iowa — To secure home ice in the opening round of the Clark Cup Playoffs, winning both games was a necessity. Consider step one accomplished. The Dubuque Fighting Saints rattled off four unanswered goals, and survived a late push by the Green Bay Gamblers to win 4-3 on Friday night at the Mystique Community Ice Center. A win tomorrow pushes the Saints into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and puts them in a first round matchup with the Gamblers at home.
The 12th consecutive game in which the Saints relinquished the first goal proved to be somehow beneficial. An early goal from Lean Bergmann was erased almost immediately by Alex Steeves on the power play, and the wheels came off for Green Bay from there.
Steeves’ goal started a night in which the Saints dissected the league’s best power play. Dubuque’s power play went 3-for-6 on a night where the Gamblers had discipline issues. The goals rolled along for Dubuque, who continued to pour it on into the second period.
A botched faceoff play by Green Bay ended in Dubuque’s favor. Jan Kern spotted Dalton Hunter spinning off of his winger on the draw and Hunter pulled a backhand move to slip the puck past Maksim Zhukov to give the Saints the 2-1 lead—a lead in which they would not give up.
The second period started in style. Jacob Semik’s slap pass to the side of the goal found the blade of Adam Tisdale to give the Saints their second power play goal of the night, and a 3-1 lead. They would have to wait 16 minutes later to strike again, as well on the power play, as Quinn Preston’s backhander found Chayse Primeau out in front, and his 21st goal of the season gave the Saints their biggest lead of the night at 4-1.
Green Bay made it a game late with two quick ones to cut the lead to one. A tic-tac-toe setup on the power play gave the Gamblers life with five minutes left in the third period. Trenton Bliss took the centering pass from Brock Caufield to cut the lead to two, and then Caufield took a home run pass from circle to circle and buried his shot through Cole Weaver to get the lead trimmed down to one.
The Saints’ forceful forecheck stifled Green Bay’s further attempts to break out of the defensive zone, and the Saints held on to force a winner-takes-home-ice final game of the season with a guaranteed matchup against the Gamblers in round one.
The Fighting Saints celebrate Fan Appreciation Night tomorrow night, presented by American Trust. The first 1,000 fans will receive a team poster, and one lucky fan will win $5,000 as the grand prize of the Winning Edge promotion. For tickets to this incredible night with playoff implications on the line, call the box office at 563.583.6880, or go to DubuqueFightingSaints.com.