Saints Prep for Final Weekend in Dubuque

Courtesy: Dubuque Fighting Saints

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By James Steward

DUBUQUE, Iowa – After sixty regular season games, countless hours of practice, and nearly a month of postseason games, the Dubuque Fighting Saints have reached the doorstep of their ultimate goal. With two victories at the Mystique Community Ice Center this weekend, the Saints would capture the Clark Cup in front of their home fans. For a franchise in its first year in the USHL, the speed with which hard work has paid dividends has been striking.

By capturing game two of the Clark Cup Final against the Gamblers in Green Bay on Saturday night, the Fighting Saints swung home ice advantage into their favor for the best-of-five-game series. The Fighting Saints will face off at 7:00 in Dubuque on Friday and Saturday nights for games three and four of the series. If the Fighting Saints win the Clark Cup, it would be only the second time in USHL history that a true expansion team would win the Clark Cup, with the other franchise to accomplish the feat being the 1996-97 Lincoln Stars.

Throughout the playoffs, it has been the Fighting Saints’ defense that has propelled them to victory. Dubuque has scored timely goals to be sure, including two overtime game-winners, but they have averaged only 2.33 goals per game in the postseason.

With Matt Morris patrolling the paint at the net-front, however, the pressure has been taken off of the Saints’ offense. In starting all nine playoff games, Morris has compiled a 7-2 record while stopping 94.1% of the shots he has faced and chalking up a miniscule goals against average of 1.53.

As in the regular season, USHL Rookie of the Year John Gaudreau has once again led the offensive charge for the Fighting Saints. Gaudreau has tallied nine points on four goals and five assists for the team, which ranks third of all players in the playoffs. Linemates Vinny Saponari and Zemgus Girgensons have carried the load as well, with Saponari leading the Clark Cup Playoffs with five goals, and ‘Z’ having scored two game-winning goals.

Returning hero Marine Lance Corporal Christopher Billmyer will drop the ceremonial first puck on Friday night. The Fighting Saints’ crowd of 3,429 at the Billmyer Benefit Game against Chicago on November 24th was then the largest to ever watch a hockey game in Dubuque. Billmyer, a Dubuque native, was injured in combat in Afghanistan the previous month. The game along with a charity auction and other donations raised $45,000 for him and his family. The Fighting Saints hope to have a similar crowd in attendance to say thanks in person to Billmyer, and to cheer on the Saints to a win in a pivotal game three.

As fans pack the arena for the games this weekend, the first 1,500 fans on Friday night will receive a free rally towel, courtesy of Bierie Dental in Dubuque. Fans are encouraged to bring their rally towels from the Western Conference Finals to help cultivate the exciting playoff atmosphere this weekend. Fighting Saints Head Coach Jim Montgomery said that he believed the towels contributed to what he judged to be the best environment for his players all season long during the series with Sioux Falls.

Before they head out to the Mystique Community Ice Center this weekend, fans should remember to set their DVRs. KCRG’s channel 9.2 will offer a live telecast of games three and four starting at 7:00 on both Friday and Saturday. Voice of the Fighting Saints Patrick Murray will provide play by play, and Don Keck will handle the color commentary. The audio from the broadcast will be simulcast on Dubuque’s Super Hits 106, your radio home for Fighting Saints hockey. Both games will be rebroadcast on channel 9.2, which is available on Mediacom channel 109, immediately after the game and on the following day. Game three will be rebroadcast at 1 PM on Saturday, and game four will be rebroadcast at noon on Sunday.

Fans interested in tickets for either of this weekend’s games can call the Fighting Saints at (563) 583-6880, visit www.dubuquefightingsaints.com, or stop by the Mystique Community Ice Center Box Office between 10 AM and 6 PM, Tuesday through Friday. Pregame coverage on Dubuque’s Super Hits 106 for games three and four starts at 6:40, and KCRG 9.2’s broadcast will begin at 7:00.

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