Saints Eliminated From the Playoffs
Dubuque, IA- The Dubuque Fighting Saints were eliminated from the USHL playoffs on Wednesday night, as they were swept in the best-of-five series by the Indiana Ice after falling 3-1 at Mystique Community Ice Center. The loss marked the first time since the return of the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the USHL that they were defeated in a playoff series, following their Clark Cup championship during the 2010-2011 season.
Neither team was able to solve the oppositions' goaltending early on, with multiple great saves by Dubuque's Matt Morris and Indiana's Jon Gillies. Gillies in particular was tested early and often, saving 14 Dubuque shots in the first period. Many of those came during a 5:00 major penalty on Peter Hand for head contact, which he was also given a game misconduct and disqualification. With the penalty kill, the Ice were given the momentum they needed to capitalize on a goal to give them a lead at the 13:44 mark, when Robbie Baillargeon scored an unassisted goal, for the 1-0 lead, which would hold through the first period. It was Baillargeon's third goal of the post-season.
The Ice then extended the lead just 37 seconds into the second period when Jacob Fallon scored on a rebound in front of the net for a 2-0 lead, as Sean Kuraly and Daniil Tarasov given assists on the play. Tarasov, who set a USHL record with five points in game two of the series, was held to the single point for the evening, as the Fighting Saints rarely allowed him the puck throughout the evening. Following the early goal, Dubuque's defense tightened up, not allowing any further damage and keeping the team close at the end of the second period, 2-0. Matt Morris, who saved 24 shots total in the game, saved 12 of 13 shots in the second for Dubuque.
In the third period, the Fighting Saints finally got on the board at the 12:48 mark, as Tyler Lundey lit the lamp on a touch pass from Teddy Doherty and Gerard Hanson right in front of the net to pull Dubuque to within 2-1. In the final minutes, the Fighting Saints released a barrage of shots against Gillies, but he was up to the task on each occasion. All told, Gillies stopped 34 of 35 shots on the evening, including a number of difficult saves. An empty net goal by Sean Kuraly sealed the fate of both teams, scoring unassisted at 19:17 to send the Ice to the conference finals and the Fighting Saints out of the playoffs.
The Ice now move on to the conference finals to take on the Green Bay Gamblers, who defeated Youngstown in their conference semifinals, three games to one. The Fighting Saints finish their season with an overall record of 38-23-4, including playoffs, and fail to become the first team since the Omaha Lancers in 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 to win back-to-back Clark Cups.