December Record – 4-3-1 (2-1-0 home, 2-2-1 away)
Team Stats – 2.75 GPG | 3.13 GAA | 10.8% shot conversion rate | 90.1% save rate
Statistical Leaders – Points: Nick Schmaltz (7) | Goals: Ryan Lough (4) | Assists: Nick Schmaltz (7)
Though a 4-3-1 record may not suggest it, the Green Bay Gamblers’ month of December was one of the most exciting in recent memory.
Pushing their wins streak to four with a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory in Indiana Dec. 5 to open the month, the Gamblers traveled to Cedar Rapids the following night and came out on the losing end of the 4-3 regulation loss to the Rough Riders — a game that featured three lead changes and late offensive push in the game’s waning moments.
Four nights later, Green Bay stormed back from a 3-1 second period deficit against the Chicago Steel at the Resch Center to tie the game 3-3. Yet Chicago formulated its own three-straight-goal effort following the Gamblers’ surge, eventually taking the game 6-3.
“We had no energy from the get-go, and we probably didn’t deserve being up 1-0 after the first period,” Lalonde said after the game. “And we probably didn’t deserve to be tied 3-3, but Jared (Rutledge) kept us in there. We got exactly what we deserved. So hopefully it’s a good learning lesson moving forward.”
The Gamblers traveled to Des Moines for a two-game set the ensuing weekend, with the first game needing seven overtime shootout attempts from each squad before the Buccaneers’ Jack Jenkins won it with a goal past Rutledge on his team’s final attempt. Out-shooting Des Moines 32-28 in the next game, Green Bay was unable to convert, dropping their second and final game of the weekend.
With the midseason break upon them, the Gamblers made a few roster transactions.
On Dec. 20, Muskegon dealt forward Connor Hurley to Green Bay in exchange for Christian Wolanin, affiliate list player Joseph Cecconi and a pair of picks in the 2014 USHL Draft. Hurley was a second-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in last summer’s NHL Draft. They then negotiated with Des Moines, acquiring defenseman Tyler Dorantes and a seventh round pick in the 2014 USHL draft in exchange for their sixth round pick.
After assistant coach David Carle accepted a coaching position with the University of Denver, Green Bay named Josh Boyd to the coaching staff Dec. 18. A Columbus, Ohio, native, Boyd was an intern with the Atlanta Thrashers’ hockey operations department and scout for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.
Evidently, the trades and coaching switch lit a spark under the Gamblers, propelling them to a 7-5 road victory over Dubuque to open their second half schedule. Hurley scored his first goal with Green Bay in the contest, while Kevin Irwin tallied his team-best thirteenth goal of the season. Returning home the next night against the same Dubuque squad, Rutledge saved 35 of the Fighting Saints’ 36 shots –enough for the Gamblers to pull out a crucial 2-1 victory.
“I thought we played a really solid game — even better than the first two coming off the break,” Gamblers assistant head coach Pat Mikesch said after the win. “We didn’t capitalize off some of our scoring opportunities, our power play wasn’t as sharp as it should be, but for the most part, I was happy with our effort. That was a team that came in hard and ready to play.”
Hurley tallied the go-ahead score against Cedar Rapids on New Year’s Eve, his first home goal with the Gamblers, while Rutledge pitched another near shutout in saving 26 of the RoughRiders’ 27 shots as Green Bay closed out the month with another key Eastern Conference victory. “It felt really good,” Hurley said after the win. “Playing with those guys that I’m playing with, it’s unbelievable.”
The Gamblers will open up January with a road game against Chicago on Sunday, Jan. 5.