Riese Gaber reached a career milestone, and the Dubuque Fighting Saints matched their longest winning streak of the season on Friday night at Mystique Community Ice Center.
The Saints held off Green Bay, 4-2, for their sixth straight win and seventh straight on home ice. Dubuque also won six straight to begin the season.
Gaber, playing the 200th game of his Junior hockey career and his 99th for the Saints, became just the third Dubuque player in the USHL Tier I era to reach the 50-goal mark for his career.
His league-leading 28th of the season gave the Saints a 1-0 lead at 16:41 of the first period. He joined Seamus Malone and Colin Theisen in Dubuque’s 50-goal club.
“It’s a pretty cool milestone to hit, but there’s a few more coming up and I’ll have to keep working hard to get rewarded,” Gaber said. “When it’s all said and done and I look back at my time here and see my name on a prestigious list like that, it’ll be pretty special. It’s pretty cool but also very humbling.”
Matthew Kopperud brought the puck into the Green Bay zone and moved it to Gaber, who found Stephen Halliday in the right faceoff circle. Halliday worked the puck to the goal crease, and Gaber deflected it in for the milestone goal.
Green Bay answered just nine seconds later. Jarrett Lee notched his fourth goal of the season by sliding a shot past goalie Erik Portillo. Jake Schmaltz had the lone assist on the play after feeding the puck to Lee from behind the net.
Antonio Venuto gave the Saints their second lead of the night 17:29 into the second period. Tommy Middleton drew a delayed hooking penalty while putting a shot on Green Bay goaltender Nicholas Grabko, but before the Gamblers could gain possession, Venuto deposited the rebound into a wide-open cage from the right faceoff circle. Ian Pierce picked up a secondary assist on Venuto’s 12th goal of the season by shooting the puck on net from the right poing.
Jimmy Glynn stretched the lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Mark Cheremeta weaved through the Green Bay defense while the Gamblers lost track of Glynn on the backdoor. Cheremeta skated in on Grabko before feeding a backhand pass to Glynn, who hit a wide-open net for his seventh goal of the season.
“What a great play by Mark to take the puck low to high (in the zone), and I’m not even sure how he saw me, but it turned out to be a pretty big goal,” Glynn said. “The key all night was our positivity on the bench. Green Bay has a really good team and we stuck with it all night.”
But the Gamblers again found a quick answer. Leading scorer Jesse Tucker cashed in a Ryan O’Reilly feed for his 17th goal of the year less than two minutes after Glynn’s goal.
The Saints regained a two-goal cushion with 5:44 remaining in regulation. USHL scoring leader Ty Jackson scored his 15th goal and 50th point of the season on Dubuque’s first power play of the night. Glynn and Halliday assisted on the goal, which came after Grabko stopped a pair of shots in tight.
Dubuque improved to 3-0 this season against the Gamblers. The teams wrap up a home-and-home tonight in Green Bay.