When the Ice swept two games against a hot Dubuque team at the Pepsi Coliseum in early December, little did we know that it would touch off an 11-game streak without a regulation loss.
A little bit of symmetry happened Saturday night, as the Fighting Saints scored three first-period goals and then held on to beat the Ice 5-4 in Dubuque.
Dubuque entered the third period with a 5-0 lead, but the Ice scored four times in the third period to nearly steal the game. Daniil Tarasov had a hat trick, including two goals 30 seconds apart in the final minute to cut the Fighting Saints' lead to one.
Christian Hilbrich also scored for the Ice, and Jacob Fallon had two assists.
But the early part of the game didn't start off well for the Ice. The contest started with a bang -- Woody Hudson and Dubuque's Matt Youso dropped the gloves just four seconds into the game. But at 8:31, Tarasov was given a five-minute major for head contact, and Dubuque cashed in with Milos Bubela scoring on the power play for his first USHL goal just 43 seconds later. Just 11 seconds after the penalty ended, Dubuque's Eric Freschi scored a second goal. Shane Sooth, the Saints' second-leading scorer, added a third goal in the final minute of the first period.
That chased Ice goaltender Jon Gillies, who stopped 12 of the 15 shots he faced. Dalton Izyk came on for the final two periods. Dubuque scored twice in the second period and held the Ice to five shots. Sooth and Dubuque leading scorer Zemgus Girgensons assisted on both goals. Both finished with four-point nights. Sooth had a goal and three assists, Girgensons four assists.
Tarasov got hot in the third, notching his seventh multi-goal game of the year and his first hat trick of the season. The hat trick gave him 60 goals and 120 points for his USHL career, and moved him within one goal of Green Bay's Austin Farley for second on the USHL scoring list. Lincoln's Kevin Roy leads with 28 goals. Tarasov has 23 this season, to go along with 22 assists. Roy (53), Farley (48) and Tarasov (45) are also 1-2-3 in points. At +21, Tarasov is also third in the league in +/-.
He scored a power play goal at 6:30 of the third on an assist from Fallon. Hilbrich scored unassisted two minutes later, and then Tarasov scored with 38 and 8 seconds left, the latter with Izyk pulled for an extra attacker.
The final-minute outburst meant that Izyk became the goaltender of record, as Dubuque's fifth goal became the game-winner. Saints goaltender Matt Morris made 14 saves, including three on seven third-period shots. Izyk stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced.
The Ice have a three-game, three-city weekend next weekend, starting at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday against Chicago, then up to Muskegon on Saturday and Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Friday and Saturday home games were forced to have venue changes due to Super Bowl festivities at the Fairgrounds.