In an up and down season, the Indiana Ice welcomed the USHL leading Dubuque Fighting Saints (30-6-3) into Pan Am Plaza Friday evening. Not what the doctor ordered to start a feel good stretch of wins.
The Saints slowly pulled away earning a 4-0 victory.
"We played with them for half of the game. In the end they showed why they are the best in the league," commented Indiana coach Jeff Brown. "They have high-end hockey sense."
They also had goaltender Connor Girard who stopped all 26 Ice shots in the shutout win. Girard improved to 7-0-1 in his last eight starts in net. Despite the final score, Indiana outshot the visitors who logged 25 shots.
Indy kept it close in the first 20 minutes, despite out-shooting the visitors 10-2 in the first eight minutes of the second frame. Dubuque scored on both of those shots to build a three-goal lead.
Frankie DiChiara went top-shelf 67 ticks into the middle stanza and Joe Manno, who had a pair of goals, completed a three-on-two rush 47 seconds later to give the Saints a 3-0 at the second intermission.
The first period started quietly as each team traded a pair of shots in the first ten minutes after the opening puck drop. Dubuque got on the board when Manno scored his first of the contest at 11:41. Manno tipped Peter Quenneville's blue-line slap shot past Indiana netminder Dalton Izyk.
Mike Szmatula finished the scoring with 1:12 before the final horn.
With seven players who did not start the season in an Ice sweater, Brown was somewhat pleased with the effort in what he felt was a necessary overhaul of the Indiana roster.
"There are changes to be done with the culture and we are working on it. We can't change overnight. I liked the way we battled tonight," Brown stated.
The battle moves to Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday against the Fighting Saints in "Hockey for Heart" night, presented by St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana. The puck drops at 7:05pm.