Ty Jackson and his twin brother, Dylan, expected a steep learning curve as they adjusted to the United States Hockey League this season.
They’ve experienced it every step of their careers, so an up-and-down first half didn’t concern them.
But, since the holiday break, the 17-year-old Oakville, Ontario, natives have been playing with confidence. And the Dubuque Fighting Saints benefited from it Sunday afternoon.
Ty Jackson made a strong power move to the net, then tucked the eventual game-winning goal past goaltender Joseph Lamoreaux with 4:02 to play in regulation to help the Saints to a 3-1 victory over Madison at Mystique Community Ice Center. Dubuque earned a three-game weekend sweep after winning in Green Bay on Friday and home against Lincoln on Saturday.
“It usually takes us a little while to adjust to a higher level of hockey than we’re used to,” Ty Jackson said. “It’s new teammates, a new league, the speed’s different, and there’s more physicality with bigger, stronger guys. Now, we’re starting to hold on to pucks more and really make plays. It’s unfortunate that the last couple of weekends we haven’t been rewarded on the scoresheet. But we’ve been playing really good hockey on a line with Riese (Gaber) and at times (Verners) Egle. Finally, today, the work paid off.
“It’s really started to click for both of us since the break. It was good to get both a mental and a physical break. We were a little tired toward the end of the first half, but we came back to Dubuque refreshed. We’ve been skating and using our speed to create time and space since then.”
Ty Jackson’s 10th goal of the season was his third game-winner. His two linemates earned assists after winning puck battles in the right corner.
“Dylan and Riese were working hard down low, they found me in a good area, and I had room to walk to the net,” Ty Jackson said. “I was waiting for the goalie to poke check me and I tried to deke around him and slide it far side.”
Madison certainly didn’t play like a team that lost its 11th straight game on Sunday. The Capitols took a 1-0 lead with 14.5 seconds remaining in the middle period on a Robert Blueger goal.
Dubuque, which has won four straight, entered Sunday’s game with an 0-11 record when trailing after two periods. Only three other USHL teams have yet to record a win in those circumstances.
“The difference was we skated,” Saints coach Oliver David said. “We had the energy, and the guys did things right. We’re starting to get our timing in a good spot, in terms of our prep work. A lot of the credit goes to the guys for really believing in what we’re trying to accomplish and learning to play a complete game.”
Dubuque pulled even 7:34 into the third period while on the power play. Aidan Fulp moved the puck to Matias Maccelli in the left faceoff circle, and Dubuque’s leading scorer took a shot/pass toward the net. Logan Pietila got a stick on it for his 10th goal of the season.
“Their goalie was playing great the whole game, and we were testing him,” Pietila said. “We put a lot of shots on the board, but we just had to bear down a little more. Matias made a great play to find me on the backdoor.
“Any time you win three in a row on a weekend, it’s a great feeling. It was a matter of us putting together three really good games.”
Willie Knierim sealed the victory with an empty net goal set up by J.D. Greenway and James Sanchez with 21 seconds to play in regulation.
“You can’t overlook any team in this league, no matter what their record is,” Knierim said. “We came out flat the first period, but we showed a lot of heart and character to bounce back after that, especially playing our third game in three days.
“They’re a tougher team than their record. They keep battling, so it is kind of a relief to get a two-goal lead on them, even though there wasn’t a lot of time left.”
Aaron Randazzo stopped 21 of 22 shots to improve to 7-2-0-0 with a 3.28 goals against average and .875 save percentage. Lamoreaux made 38 stops.
Randazzo, a high school junior, will be a teammate of Lamoreaux at St. Cloud State University in a few seasons.
“It was exciting to play against him, and I’m looking forward to playing with him down the road, because he seems like a really good guy,” Randazzo said. “It’s a little friendly competition. At the end of the day, it’s just another game, and you have to approach it that way.”