The Dubuque Fighting Saints never trailed in their USHL regular-season opener on Thursday afternoon … until the 52-second mark of overtime.
Victor Czerneckianair scored a power play goal in the extra session to lift Tri-City to a 3-2 victory at the Fall Classic in Cranberry Township, Pa. Dubuque, which received a bonus standings point for losing in overtime, will play Omaha today before returning home.
“I thought we came out a little bit slow, but as the game went on, we played with more pace and confidence, and that’s what we need to do if we want to be successful,” said second-year forward Kenny Connors, who scored Dubuque’s second goal. “Tri-City is going to be a really good team in the West.
“We just have to have a better start (today). We have to come out fast and hard, work hard in the corners and make plays.”
Stephen Halliday, Dubuque’s top returning point producer from a year ago, opened the scoring at the 8:17 mark of the opening period. Lucas Olvestad and Axel Kumlin moved the puck defenseman-to-defenseman deep in the Dubuque zone before moving it to Halliday at his own blue line. Halliday carried along the left wing and beat Tri-City goaltender Arsenii Sergeev with a wrist shot just inside the left goal post.
“It’s always nice to get the first one on the board, and it might have sparked us a little bit,” Halliday said. “But we have to be a better team at the end of the day. We had a few costly penalties that put us on the other end of the scoreboard.
“It’s just one game. We have to work hard. We don’t have to do anything special. As long as we work hard, good results will happen.”
Philip Svedeback preserved the lead the rest of the period while facing 17 shots and a pair of Storm power plays. The Saints managed only five shots on Sergeev.
Tri-City knotted the score at 1-1 at the 7:15 mark of the middle period on a rebound goal by Gavin Brindley. Cole O’Hara picked up the lone assist on the play. Both teams took seven shots on net in the period.
Less than a minute into the Saints’ fourth power play of the game, Connors tallied a backdoor tap-in for a 2-1 lead. Tristan Lemyre won a faceoff back to Olvestad and sent the puck to Kumlin, who delivered a perfect feed to Connors for his fourth goal in 51 career games with the Saints at the 7:15 mark of the third period.
But Tri-City potted a power play goal of its own 6:11 later to make it 2-2. Svedeback made the initial save through traffic on a Mitchell Miller blast, but O’Hara jumped on a loose puck and scored.
Tri-City finished with a 35-17 advantage in shots. The Storm went 2-for-5 on the power play, while Dubuque finished 1-for-4.
“We started very slow, and Tri-City really had us back on our heels,” Saints coach Greg Brown said. “But Philip played really well and made a lot of big saves to keep us in it. A huge part of it was Tri-City played very, very well and played with a lot of pace and a lot of compete and made it difficult for our guys all over the ice.
“This was a good learning experience. We played together as a team much better in the preseason than we did today, so there were probably some nerves with it being the first game. We’ll work through it, hopefully immediately, and be better (today). The good thing is we’ve shown a lot of promise the last few weeks, so we’ll be able to respond to this.”