Gamblers Monthly Recap: January 2014

Matt Weis was stellar for Green Bay in February
Matt Weis was stellar for Green Bay in February

January Record: 4-5-0 (2-2-0 home, 2-3-0 road)
Team Stats: 3.00 GPG | 2.89 GAA | 12.5% shot conversion rate | 91.3% save rate
Individual Leaders: Points: Matt Weis (13) | Goals: Matt Weis (5) | Assists: Matt Weis (8)

As  has been the case for most of the 2013-2014 regular season, the Green Bay Gamblers’ month of January yielded a mixed bag of results.

Coming off three consecutive victories over stiff Eastern Conference competition in Dubuque (twice) and Cedar Rapids to finish out December, it seemed as though head coach Derek Lalonde and company were headed for their first true ‘breakthrough’ in a year that’s featured plenty of highs and lows.

“I thought we played a really solid game — even better than the first two coming off the break,” Gamblers associate head coach Pat Mikesch said after his team’s 2-1 new year’s eve victory over Cedar Rapids. “We need to come in with a similar mentality like we’ve had here.”

Unfortunately, the Gamblers weren’t able to ride their momentum into January, falling to Chicago 4-3 Jan. 5 to start the month. Cam Hackett recorded 33 saves in 37 opportunities in the contest — a solid performance considering it was his first start in nearly three months due to injury.

Green Bay responded, however, defeating Sioux City by a 5-2 score Jan. 10 at the Resch Center despite being out-shot 42 to 20. Jared Rutledge saved a 41 shots in the contest — his fifth-highest total of the season — while Drew Best tallied his ninth goal. “Drew’s good when he competes,” Lalonde said after the game. “He’s going to make plays, he sees the ice well, he makes his line-mates better.”

A tough stretch of games ensued for the Gamblers, dropping three straight hard-fought games against Dubuque (on the road), Cedar Rapids (on the road) and Sioux City (at home) by a 4-1 score. But just when it seemed as though Green Bay was ready to plummet, Lalonde’s bunch responded — and in a big way.

In their seventh game against the Steel, the Gamblers road their hot stick of Matt Weis — who tallied his second multi-goal game of the season in the contest — and goaltender combination of Jared Rutledge and Cam Hackett to a 6-0 road victory in Chicago, marking Green Bay’s second shutout of 2013-2014.

Weis and company followed it up with a 2-1 OT victory over Team USA in the organization’s 25th annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ game Jan. 25, which featured Connor Hurley’s third game-winning goal since joining the team via trade late  in December. “We acquired him to be a difference-maker,” Lalonde said after the victory.

Green Bay wasn’t able to follow up its epic victory against Dubuque Jan. 28 at the Resch Center, though, falling 4-2 to the Fighting Saints. But the Gamblers finished out the month on a high note, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit in Lincoln to capture victory No. 19 of the season.

February features six home contests for Green Bay — including games against Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Omaha, among others — which makes establishing late-season momentum all the more important.

“I think the inconsistencies we showed throughout the year is something you cannot have in the playoffs,” Lalonde said. “The good news is, we’ve played at a level that could be very dangerous and that gives us a chance come playoff time.”

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