Urbandale (IA)In order for the Des Moines Buccaneers to make it back into the United States' Hockey League playoffs the coaching staff knows the team needs to do a better job of keeping the opposition from racking up goals at the pace they allowed last season.
This past weekend may very well signal the team has what it's been looking for defensively. The Buccaneers allowed only four goals against total, in splitting two games with Lincoln and Tri-City. Des Moines held opponents off the board in four of six periods plus an overtime session as veteran goaltender Billy Christopoulos had one of his better weekends in his career.
Christopoulos stopped 74 of 78 shots against for a .949 save percentage and that doesn't include denying all three shootout attempts in Friday's victory at Lincoln. He made 24 saves in the third period and overtime combined to allow the Buccaneers the opportunity for that victory, which was the team's first in Lincoln since March 17, 2010.
"Billy was fantastic for us both nights" said head coach Jon Rogger. "On Friday, he stole a game stopping 22 shots in the 3rd period alone to give our guys some momentum. He made some great saves while we were shorthanded in overtime as well."
On Saturday against Tri-City he was even better making 31 saves, including a couple of jaw-dropping denials in the first period, as he again put the Buccaneers in a position to win. The Buccaneers eventually lost the game 1-0 but Christopoulos and the defense did their part.
"Billy played extremely well again on Saturday. He made a couple of big saves early on to keep us in the game. Anytime your goalie only allows one goal in a game, you can say he did his part" added Rogger. "I thought we played well defensively both nights...we played good in our own end."
Des Moines' penalty kill was an unblemished nine-for-nine with a number of key kills particularly late in the victory on Friday. For the season, the Buccaneers have killed off 88% of opponent's power plays.
"We played extremely aggressive and made our opponents make plays gaining the zone" commented Rogger. "We did a tremendous job of blocking shots and staying in shot lanes."
Though the defense had a good weekend, the Buccaneers' struggles on offense cost the team a perfect weekend. Des Moines scored three goals in regulation in their victory on Friday but were shutout for the second time this season in the 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Tri-City on Saturday.
The Buccaneers have scored only seven goals in their first four games but one of the reasons is the team's roster which remains hindered despite additions last weekend. While the Buccaneers did get the season debuts of Danny Elser, Marcel Godbout and Willem Nong-Lambert the team was without forwards Jake Jackson, Marcel Kurth and Mike Marnell with injuries.
"Right now we have to find a way to throw more pucks on net with traffic in front of the goalie. We are playing too much perimeter hockey and I feel that the goalies are able to track the puck too easily" said Rogger. "There were a lot of rebounds on Saturday with no one around to take advantage."
September is a month for that final outdoor barbeque or a final trip to the lake house and rarely does it bring nostalgic memories of hockey. However, with blustery winter conditions still weeks away (hopefully) there were enough people in Central Iowa thinking hockey to give the Buccaneers a 3% increase in attendance through their first three games.
Two of the games were played in September, including one of the earliest home openers in team history on September 21st.
Locals will have plenty of time to do other activities before taking in another Buccaneers' game as the team plays eight of their next nine games on the road.
Second-year forward Ryan Galt announced his commitment to Division I Nebraska-Omaha last week. An Omaha, native, Galt is tentatively slated to head to his hometown university in 2015-2016 but could be taken at the conclusion of this season.
Galt had 25-points last season and opened this season up with a hat trick on September 21st.
The Des Moines Buccaneers are preparing for their 34th consecutive season in the United States Hockey League. Since 1980, the Buccaneers have produced hundreds of NCAA Division I players and dozens of professional alumni. Season Ticket Packages and Corporate Partnership information for the 2013-2014 season are available by calling (515) 278-2827.
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