Greg Brown emphasized his disclaimer that it’s just the preseason, but the new head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints certainly liked what he saw from his team this weekend.

That included a strong response following a teaching moment.

The Saints opened their exhibition slate with a 7-4 victory on Friday in Green Bay, then handled the Gamblers, 5-1, at home on Saturday. Both goaltenders — Philip Svedeback and Paxton Geisel — earned victories, and 15 different players tallied at least a point in the sweep.

“The effort and the emotion were great,” said Brown, who spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s New York Rangers. “We’ll knock off the details as we go, but it’s great to start off with those two blocks already in place.

“There’s always room for improvement. It’s early and every team is trying to figure out who can do what, but for a starting point, it was excellent. I really liked the emotion. There was a lot of chatter and a lot of energy. You could tell they’re excited to be playing with one another.”

The Saints return 12 regulars from last season and two others who had brief call-ups to Dubuque. Ryan Beck, who played for the Saints two seasons ago before opting for the Ontario Hockey League last season, also returned to Dubuque this season.

So, understandably, chemistry has been a strong point through the first two weeks of camp.

“We were all really connected as soon as we got here, and a lot of that has to do with everybody being so welcoming,” said Swedish defenseman Lucas Olvestad, a newcomer who scored goals in both games this weekend. “Chemistry starts off the ice and carries over to practice and the games.

“Everybody is working hard and trying to get better every day. There’s so much hockey sense and guys who can make plays. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The early results on the ice certainly help.

“It’s important to learn what it feels like to win as a group,” said defenseman Austin Oravetz, who played a portion of the season in Dubuque early last season. “It’s still really early and we have a long way to go, but this is a great way to start, putting up more than 10 goals in two games. We have a really good group, and it’s exciting to be a part of it, but we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The weekend wasn’t perfect, though, and the coaching staff found a perfect teaching moment from Friday night’s game. After jumping to a 4-0 lead in the opening period, the Saints got in penalty trouble and allowed the Gamblers to pull within 5-4 in the second stanza.

“We got a little comfortable and didn’t play with our brains as much as we needed to,” Brown said. “We took a penalty on the first shift, and we gave them the momentum for the rest of the period.

“The guys saw how difficult that made things for us. We had to play hard to hang on. It’s early in the season, but hopefully, it’s something that resonates with the guys for a long time.”

The following night, the Saints kept the foot on the gas for 60 minutes. They held a 25-5 advantage in shots through two periods and finished with a 32-16 edge.

“The guys played the right way and didn’t get selfish when we got ahead,” Brown said. “They kept doing all the right things, which was excellent to see after (Friday) night.”

The Saints conclude the preseason with home games against Cedar Rapids on Friday and Saturday. The regular season opens the following weekend at the USHL Fall Classic in suburban Pittsburgh.

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