The Green Bay Gamblers (22-18-6) will host the Omaha Lancers (33-9-5) Friday and Saturday night before inviting conference rivals Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (28-15-2) for a Sunday afternoon matchup. Puck drop for Friday and Saturday’s games is 7:05pm while Sunday is a 3:05pm faceoff. Tickets start at just $9 day before game and are $10 day of game. For more information on tickets and promotions visit gamblershockey.com. For group ticket rates contact the Gamblers Group Hotline at (920)405-1265.
Friday vs. Omaha: This will be the first time the two clubs faceoff against one another this season. Omaha will come into the weekend as the league’s best team with 71 points through 47 games. Matt Nelson, a former Gamblers defenseman, is enjoying a nice season with the Lancers registering seven goals and five assists with a +15 rating. Friday is a Bud Night where you can enjoy $2 Buds and Bud Lights, and it is also BMO Harris Bank Hat Night.
Saturday vs. Omaha: Omaha will come into the weekend with 14-3-3 road record while Green Bay is 13-5-2 on home ice. The Lancers are the only team in the USHL to have clinched a playoff berth. Saturday is Festival Foods Family Night ($1 hotdogs and sodas) and Dairy Day presented by Pagel’s Ponderosa. Tickets start at just $8 for kids 14 and under.
Sunday vs. Cedar Rapids: Sunday’s meeting will be the sixth time this season the RoughRiders and Gamblers have met. Cedar Rapids holds the season series by a mark of 4-1 through the first five games. In the teams’ last meeting the RoughRiders won 2-1 in a shootout at the Resch Center. Sunday is Scout Day presented by Green Bay Animal Emergency Center and following the game it is the final Sun Drop Skate with the Gamblers.
Player to Watch: Evan Tironese in his first season with the Gamblers has accumulated six goals and 22 assists with +/- rating of 0 and 76 penalty minutes. Tironese is one of the top penalty killers for the Gamblers and has registered three shorthanded assists, all of which were to Ryan Lough.
Conference Standings: Green Bay currently sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points. They are two points behind the Chicago Steel but the Gamblers have one game in hand. Indiana sits atop the Eastern Conference with 67 points while Cedar Rapids is in second with 58 points and Dubuque is in third with 57 points.
Goaltending: Jared Rutledge earned his second shutout of the season and his 21st victory with a 26-save effort in a 3-0 win over the Youngstown Phantoms last Saturday. Rutledge has a goals against average of 2.72 and a save percentage of 91.1 percent.
Alumni Report: Austin Czarnick, a junior at Miami Ohio University, is leading his team in scoring with 11 goals and 28 assists for 39 points. The Washington, MI native has been named NCHC offensive player of the week three times this season.
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The Green Bay Gamblers announced that their games on Friday, March 7 and Saturday, March 8 have been moved to the Brown County Arena. The move is due to the Horizon League Men’s Basketball Tournament that will take place at the Resch Center on Friday and Saturday.
All tickets to the two Gambler games are $12.00 ($1.00 more day of game). Start time is 7:05 PM both nights.
For tickets contact the Resch Center box office at 494-3401. Group rates ($2.00 off per ticket) are available by calling Cindy Rasmussen at 405-1265.
The United States Hockey League last week announced the midseason USHL All-Star Teams for the Eastern and Western Conference presented by CCM. Green Bay Gamblers forward Nick Schmaltz and goaltender Jared Rutledge were selected among the USHL All-Star Second Team. The selections were determined by the voting of USHL coaches and general managers.
Schmaltz celebrates his 18th birthday this week and is currently tied for eighth in the USHL with 43 points (10g, 33a). His 33 assists are tied for the third most in the League. He leads the League with four shootout tallies in five attempts this season. The University of North Dakota commit is one of the top prospects for the upcoming 2014 NHL Draft.
Rutledge has been a workhorse for the Gamblers as he has played more minutes (2,153) than any other USHL goaltender this season. His 20 victories are tied for the third most in the League. The 19-year-old has compiled a 2.76 GAA and .910 save percentage over his 36 appearances. He is currently uncommitted to a college hockey program.
A total of 24 players were selected among the USHL All-Star First and Second Teams with each team consisting of three forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender.
The Green Bay Gamblers haven’t been in this position often.
Following their regulation loss Friday night to the Youngstown Phantoms – a game in which Green Bay allowed a season-high seven goals at home – the Gamblers were effectively leapfrogged by Chicago for the fourth and final postseason slot in the Eastern Conference, marking the first time since October that Green Bay wasn’t included in the playoff picture.
“It feels very weird,” head coach and general manager Derek Lalonde said. “It felt like the first time in a while here like our backs were to the wall.”
Fortunately for Lalonde and 4,477 fans in attendance at the Resch Center Saturday night, his team didn’t take the adversity lying down in the weekend finale against those same Phantoms.
After a scoreless first period that included an 11-4 shots advantage in favor of the home team, Green Bay broke through with the game’s first goal at the 9:14 mark in the second period. Receiving a pass from forward lines-mate Connor Hurley, Nick Schmaltz tallied his first goal in nearly a month’s time to put the Gamblers up 1-0 on its first power play opportunity of the night.
It was the eleventh goal of the season for the North Dakota commit, which extended his season points mark to a team-best 45.
“It’s good – I’ve had a few chances these last few games,” Schmaltz said after the win. “I’m obviously a pass-first kind of guy, but it’s always good to put one in the back of the net, too.”
Green Bay kept its foot on the gas pedal offensively in the period, as Ryan Lough came through with his thirteenth goal of the season just over a minute after Schmaltz’s score. The goal was the first for Lough since Dec. 28 against Cedar Rapids, and in turn gave the Gamblers a convincing 2-0 lead by the end of the second period.
Two key penalty kills – including one 3-on-5 disadvantage – helped preserve Green Bay’s two-goal margin in the second frame, in large part due to the impressive play from goaltender Jared Rutledge, who Saturday night posted his third shutout of the season and first since Jan. 24.
“He was excellent tonight,” Lalonde said of Rutledge. “He was the difference in the game, as he’s been throughout. We needed this game and he really stepped up. We killed those penalties, we did have a two-goal lead, but we were very tired the last five to six minutes of the second and they took it to us. For him to close the door and get through that led us to victory.”
Anthony Walsh put the dagger in Youngstown’s comeback hopes with his first goal of the season, a score that immediately followed the Phantoms’ pulling of goaltender Sean Romero.
With the victory, the Gamblers now boast a 22-18-6 record through 46 regular season games and salvaged two critical points for the weekend. Green Bay (50 PTS) remains a mere point back of Chicago (51 PTS) for the conference’s final playoff spot with a two-game set with Omaha on the horizon next weekend.
“Big series – one of the top teams in the west,” Lalonde said, “and we get Cedar Rapids again. Three really good teams and I’m just glad we get them at home.”
With the season winding down and ground to make up, what’s Green Bay’s mentality moving forward?
“We’ve got 14 game left, we’ve got a lot of home games,” Schmaltz said. “I think we’ve got the top two or three offensive players in the league and three deep lines, so we’re deep in our forwards. We just have to bear down and play well in the defensive zone like tonight.”
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