USHL Update – Dubuque Fighting Saints

By Jason Shaner
The 2000-2001 campaign has been tough to swallow for not only the Dubuque Fighting Saints coaching staff and players, but also for the Saints faithful fans. Prior to the beginning of the season rumors swirled as to whether or not the Saints would be around next year. Midway through the season the rumors became truth as it was announced the Saints were being moved to Tulsa, Ok to become the Tulsa Crude next season. With that being hung over them the Saints struggled early and often this season and although they have started winning a few games, the USHL playoffs have long been out of the picture, now they are playing for pride and memories.

Offense – Although Dubuque’s claim to fame is usually defense and goaltending, this season the Saints have been the proud possessor of one of the brightest budding stars in Jonathon Foster. Foster has 21 goals and 21 assists to lead the team with 42 points, not bad for a rookie. Foster is not the biggest of forwards as he stands in at 5’9” but he certainly is scrappy. On top of being tough in front of the net and at times fearless, he also is a strong open ice skater with the ability to fake his opponents out of their pads. Joining Foster on the offensive front is Luke Fulghum (Denver U.). Luke is a 3-year USHL veteran; the first 2 and ½ seasons were spent with the Waterloo Black Hawks, the Saints archrival. Luke certainly is the king of open ice moves as he is about as good as they get when it comes to overall skill for a forward. Combined between both teams on the season, Luke has scored 19 goals and 23 assists to tie Foster for the honor of the teams leading scorer. Luke’s slapshot is not rivaled by many and when he puts his mind to it, he can do whatever he wants to.

Defense – The Fighting Saints defense has, year in and year out been one that can incite fear in their opponents. This year however, the Saints lost a host of key defensive players and were unable to play consistent on the blueline. Mike Bry and Nick Larson lead the Saints defensive charge. Bry has 9 goals and 17 assists for 26 points with 41 penalty minutes. Larson has 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points and 52 penalty minutes. This season the Saints have the fewest penalties in the league. Normally the Saints are at the top of the list of that category, so on the positive side the Saints discipline has increased and they have taken fewer penalties. The Dubuque defense is not soft by any means, they can throw a check with the best of them, however, youth has done them in as they have made some poor choices. The D has improved as the season has gone on and they will only continue to improve.

Goaltending –
In between the pipes is another area the Saints have usually done well in and they had another star in net in that of Dan Weinreib. Unfortunately Dan got injured early on this year and has only seen limited action. His stats show the young and learning defense, as he is 6-11 with a 3.33 GAA and .899 saves percentage. Spelling Weinreib while he has been injured was Noah Ruden who, although the stats do not show it, played very well. Ruden is 6-18-4 with a 3.82 GAA and .892 saves percentage. Both goaltenders have the talent and ability to take it to the next level.

On the year the Saints are 14-33-4 good for 32 points and 11th place out of 12 teams. Obviously it is not what the Saints staff and players wanted for an ending, they have improved as the season has gone on which is a big plus for everyone involved. The players have not given up and have continued playing hard night in and night out. The Saints just did not have the personnel this season to achieve the success they were shooting for.

The Dubuque Fighting Saints, one of the original USHL teams is leaving after 20 + years in the city of Dubuque. The Fighting Saints are without a doubt as well known around the league as any team. The Fighting Saints have a proud and rich history and have turned out some household names in the world of hockey. In the late 80’s and early 90’s Dubuque was the team to beat, hanging a couple of banners en route to that distinction. The Saints churned out quality players such as NHL star Gary Suter. Other notable names that you hear regularly on the College and Pro levels are those of Josh Blackburn, Ron Wiitanen, Michael Ayers, Nick Anderson and the Ferraro twins Peter and Chris. When the Fighting Saints came to town, people came to watch. As the years have gone by, Saints attendance has slipped and their rink, the Five Flags Civic Center, which is not the prototype hockey rink has gone downhill. All of those things did Dubuque in. Sure, they will probably get a Junior B hockey team next season but that team will have some huge shoes to fill because they just won’t compare to the Saints and the history that franchise brought with it. As the city of Tulsa waits anxiously for the franchise to move to their 6,000 seat, state of the art facility, Dubuque is trying its best to hold its head high. When the 2000-2001 USHL season ends and the lights finally go off at the Five Flags Civic Center an era will end, an era that has been one of pride, excitement and quality. So if you are lucky enough to see Dubuque play one last time take a moment to soak it in and tip your hats to the Saints.

This is one of a number of articles to come out as the season winds down in the USHL. A Top Prospects article will be out soon as well as a playoff preview with matchups between the 8 teams who make the Clark Cup playoffs. Please email me with any comments positive or negative at [email protected]. I welcome feedback!