Saints Players Head Home After Clark Cup Win

Courtesy: Dubuque Fighting Saints

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By James Steward

DUBUQUE, Iowa – With the Clark Cup resting comfortably at the Mystique Community Ice Center, members of the Dubuque Fighting Saints began to pack their bags and head back home early this week. By vanquishing the Green Bay Gamblers in the Clark Cup Final, the Fighting Saints ensured that the Cup has been awarded to ten different franchises over the course of the last ten years. As the focus shifts to next season, the Fighting Saints will face the formidable challenge of becoming the first team since the 1993-94 Omaha Lancers to repeat as Clark Cup Champions.

Before the team looks ahead to next year, however, the accomplishments of this year’s squad bear repeating. With the ultimate team goal of winning the Clark Cup accomplished, the Fighting Saints became only the second true expansion team in USHL history to capture the Cup, along with the 1996-97 Lincoln Stars. Several individual Fighting Saints were honored along the way. Matt Morris earned playoff MVP honors with his 9-2 record, 1.53 goals against average, and .943 save percentage. Morris and John Gaudreau were both named to the regular season all-rookie team, with the latter scoring thirty-six goals and seventy-two points in his first year in the league. Morris and Gaudreau were also named to the All-USHL Second Team along with Vinny Saponari, who scored sixty-four points in fifty-six games, and was third in the league with forty-six assists. For his efforts in assembling the team that was historically successful in its first season, Head Coach and General Manager Jim Montgomery was voted by his peers USHL General Manager of the Year.

According to Montgomery, the Fighting Saints expect to have eleven of their players back in uniform next season for the defense of the Clark Cup. The Saints have ten players who are committed to attend colleges next season. The Fighting Saints will suffer the greatest losses to their defensive corps. Minnesota natives Derek Docken and Tony Larson will head north to play at Alaska-Anchorage. Moving a bit closer to home will be Connecticut native Luke Curadi, committed to play at RPI in New York, Philadelphia-area native Nick Luukko who will become a Catamount at the University of Vermont, and Joakim Ryan, who hails from New Jersey and will patrol the blue line for Cornell. Madison native Eric Johnson will stay in the Midwest but move farther from home, joining his brother Mike at Notre Dame in the fall.

The Fighting Saints losses offensively will be far less significant in number, but a high level of talent will depart. Team MVP Saponari will ship to Boston to play at Northeastern, and Captain TJ Schlueter will enroll and play at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan. Jordan DiGiando and Scott Wamsganz will remain teammates as they will play for Colorado College next season. Joe Bueltel and Brooks Bertsch are uncommitted to any college, but both have exhausted their junior hockey eligibility and cannot return to the team.

Defensively, only Tyler Amburgey will be back, but both goaltenders, Matt Morris and Jackson Teichroeb are expected to return, giving the Fighting Saints an opportunity to develop their inexperienced defensemen in front of a pair of veteran netminders. Up front, the Fighting Saints will have the benefit of far more familiar bodies.
Gaudreau and Zemgus Girgensons, who combined for 121 points during the regular season on a line with Saponari, will try for an encore in 2011-12. Additionally, the line of John Doherty, Tyler Lundey, and TJ Moor, which played together to great success throughout the playoff run, will return intact. Shane Sooth, who tallied forty-nine points for the team, Riley Barber, who had twenty-eight, and Shane Walsh, who added sixteen, will all be back in Fighting Saints jerseys next season.

Season tickets are currently on sale, and fans who are interested should call the Saints at (563) 583-6880. The team will begin the journey to next season with its tryout camp starting on Wednesday, June 8th and ending with an All-Star game on Saturday, June 11th at 7 PM. Details on tickets for the All-Star game will be finalized and released at a later date.

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