The message is clear: the Dubuque Fighting Saints aren’t finished yet.
After Saturday’s loss at home, Dubuque players and coaches all echoed the same sentiment: there was still a lot of fight left in this team.
“We lost three in a row in early November. After that, we won 10 in a row,” said Dubuque Fighting Saints head coach Jason Lammers. “There are obviously some things that we want to improve, but we feel like we’re really close. The guys have mentioned to me that they believe that we can do that again. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we’re aiming toward.”
The Fighting Saints are going up against a Tri-City Storm squad focused on becoming the first Clark Cup champions in team history. But while Dubuque was on the bus en route to Kearney, NE, players mentioned that they will be ready come Friday night.
“It’s just a business trip this weekend,” said veteran forward Dallas Gerads. “Everyone knows what we have at stake, but we’re still going to play, have fun, and do the little things the right way.”
Lammers is looking for veterans to step up in Game 3 to help lead what could become a historic comeback. The last USHL team to go down 2-0 in a series and win the Clark Cup was the 2010 Green Bay Gamblers, who were coached by current Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. Lammers is excited for the challenge and believes his players are ready too.
“First and foremost, it would start with our leadership group and what they’ve done for our team. What they mean to our team is tremendous,” said Lammers. “Hunter Miska has been here before and he’s been through this situation.
“I think there’s someone you don’t necessarily expect who’s going to be great for us this weekend.”
Alternate captain Evan Smith echoed his head coach’s comments, and believes the team’s depth will be what stands out this weekend.
“I think anyone in our lineup can do it,” said Smith. “We’re pretty deep with all four lines and all of our defense. They contribute in various ways, so I think there’s going to be big plays coming from a lot of guys.”
An interesting note that Lammers and his team mentioned in practice this week was the resiliency when facing the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders while they were one win away from clinching the Anderson Cup. Dubuque won 10-2 at home and followed up the performance with a 5-2 win in Cedar Rapids.
A different Cup will be in the building this weekend, but Dubuque plans on keeping the box locked and stowed away until Tuesday night.
“Our mental makeup is that we’ve been a resilient group all year. We’ve won 13 overtime games, and we’ve responded all year,” said Lammers. “We believe we can do this, and we’re going to take it one game at a time, one shift at a time, one minute at a time. The best part about our group right now is that we believe.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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