Fresh off a road victory against the Sioux Falls Stampede, the Dubuque Fighting Saints will look to capitalize on their momentum heading in to two games at home. The Fighting Saints will play host to the Green Bay Gamblers and the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Green Bay has been a mixed bag this season, while Muskegon has been the best team in the USHL. Here is your extended weekend primer.
-The Green Bay Gamblers are coming off a 4-2 loss against the Lumberjacks. This was the third meeting in a row for the two teams with Green Bay winning one of the three. For Muskegon, they will play the Madison Capitols tonight before completing a three in three at Dubuque on Sunday.
-The Gamblers have given up 22 goals in their last four games. Recently they have given up seven goals in a game against the Flying Aces and eight against the Lumberjacks. On the season, the Gamblers are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of goals allowed, having given up 73 to date.
-The Dubuque Fighting Saints special teams have been hot or cold this season. Currently the team is towards the bottom of the league on both the power play and penalty kill. However, last game against Sioux Falls was an indication that things might be headed in the right direction. Dubuque was 1/3 on the power play and 6/6 on the penalty kill.
-James Sanchez, Willie Knierim and Matias Maccelli are all currently tied for the fifth longest point streak in the USHL this season. The trio have notched points in seven straight. Knierim has six goals and five assists. Sanchez has three goals and eight assists and Maccelli has four goals and seven assists.
-Green Bay has played the most road games in the USHL so far this season with 13 through their first 20 games. The Gamblers are tied with the Tri-City Storm, notching 16 points so far during road games, the top mark in the USHL.
-Muskegon is a juggernaut in every sense of the word. The Lumberjacks are on a torrid pace and, though it’s early, are chasing the all-time win record in the USHL. A big reason for that is that the team is good everywhere. They are first in the league in goals scored, second in goals allowed, second on the power play and first on the penalty kill.
-The Lumberjacks are exceptional on multiple levels, but the offense is where they shine. The team is currently scoring five goals per game and they have a goal differential of plus-47 through 19 contests. When they score, they do it in bunches as well. The Lumberjacks have scored five goals or more in 11 games so far this year.
-Egor Afanasayev leads the charge at forward for the Lumberjacks. Coming in to Saturday’s action, Afanasayev had 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. On the blue line, two-time reigning USHL Defenseman of the Week Alex Yakavenko brings the offense. Yakavenko has eight goals and 14 assists. In net, Brandon Bussi has propelled Muskegon to one of the best defensive starts in the league as well.
-For Dubuque, half of their wins have come with Aaron Randazzo in net and half with Matthew Thiessen. The two have complimented each other nicely and give the Saints a balanced approach to the goaltending situation. Both Thiessen and Randazzo have looked good in their last few starts.
-Saturday’s game will be Teddy Bear Toss at Mystique Ice Center. When the Saints score their first goal, the fans are encouraged to throw stuffed animals they brought to the game on to the ice. All of the stuffed animals will go to Toys for Tots in the Dubuque area.
-Sunday’s 3:05 start time will mark the first Sunday home game of the season for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Last season, the Fighting Saints are 1-3 in their last four Sunday games, dating back to the beginning of last season.
-After Sunday’s matchup with Muskegon, Dubuque will play two games in Muskegon the following weekend. The teams will play three of their four games this season in the next seven days. Muskegon visits Dubuque once more the second weekend in March.