Oliver David really wanted his Dubuque Fighting Saints to play a complete, 40-minute game Saturday night.
Didn’t he mean 60?
“We did some real generic research and found Lincoln was 0-16 this year when trailing after two periods, so we really wanted to put ourselves in contention to have the lead after 40 minutes,” David said. “We made that kind of a game within the game.
“It was also a way to emphasize that we wanted to start on time and play at the pace we like to play. We didn’t do that (Friday) night in Green Bay.”
The game plan worked.
The Saints scored three times in the second period and stretched their winning streak to three games with an impressive 4-2 victory over the Lincoln Stars at Mystique Community Ice Center.
Matias Maccelli, Logan Pietila and Verners Egle each contributed a goal and an assist, and Chris Lipe added a pair of assists as the Saints earned a two-game sweep in the season series. Matthew Thiessen stopped 16 shots for his ninth victory of the season.
“I don’t know if a coach has ever told me that exactly, but it worked tonight,” Egle said of the 40-minute attacking philosophy. “I didn’t expect him to say that, but we all shifted our focus to playing really strong in the first two periods. We beat them, 4-1, after two periods, and that was a big key to winning the game.”
Fresh off his overtime goal Friday night in Green Bay that gave the Saints a 3-2 win, Maccelli staked the Saints to a lead just 50 seconds into the first period. Pietila and Lipe broke the puck out of the Dubuque zone to Maccelli, who lifted the stick of a Lincoln defenseman in the neutral zone to spring his own breakaway. Maccelli skated in on Tyler Johnson, deked the goaltender down and snapped the puck into an open net for his 17th goal of the year and 40th point.
“Obviously, it was a big goal right away to get the 1-0 lead,” Maccelli said of the Saints’ quickest goal at the start of a game this season. “After that, we worked hard and closed the game.
“It was a big win (Friday), and the whole team was comfortable coming to the rink today to play. We executed really well, and we won. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Dubuque nearly took a 2-0 lead in the final seconds of the period. Dallas Tulik and Cooper Haar skated in on Johnson on a 2-on-0, but Haar’s shot sailed over the net.
That gave Lincoln a shot of momentum heading into the second period. And, just 17 seconds in, Shane Pinto jumped on a loose puck in the blue paint and tapped it into an empty net for the equalizer.
The Saints answered just 2:01 later and controlled the rest of the period. Maccelli made a beautiful pass from the left wing boards through traffic to Pietila, who left no doubt in hitting a wide open net for his ninth goal of the season.
“Them scoring early was a wake-up call,” Pietila said. “We had to settle down and play our game. Scoring right away after they scored really helped our momentum as a team.”
The Saints extended the lead to 3-1 at the 10:35 mark, when Verners Egle buried a one-timer during a 2-on-1 rush with Willie Knierim. Lipe set up the rush with a slick outlet pass to Knierim.
Less than two minutes later, Egle set up Dallas Tulik for a power play goal that made it 4-1. Tulik took the pass in the high slot and fired a shot through traffic for his second goal of the season.
“Obviously, you still want to play a full 60-minute game,” Pietila said. “But, as a team, we talked a lot about our start and everybody playing hard so we can put a good first 40 together and have a lead. We’re pretty good, record-wise, when we do have a lead. Jumping out to that lead really helped us close out the game.
“That second period, we kept it simple. We put pucks on net, capitalized on our chances and made their defensemen turn. We played hard and played with grit.”
Lincoln pulled within 4-2 at the 5:11 mark of the third period on Tristan Ashbrook’s sharp-angle goal. The Stars pulled Johnson for a sixth attacker with 1:53 to play but couldn’t pull closer than the two-goal deficit.