Weekend Preview: Gamblers Aim for Bounce-Back Effort Against Musketeers

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GREEN BAY, Wisc. —  Following a weekend in which the Gamblers were swept by Cedar Rapids despite holding early leads in both games, Pat Mikesch and company will aim to recuperate as they host Sioux City for two games this weekend at the Resch Center.

Saturday and Sunday’s contests are scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. and 3:05 p.m., respectively, and will serve as the only meetings between both clubs during regular-season play. In four games last season, Green Bay went 1-2-1 versus the Musketeers.

Though Mikesch’s roster managed to corral two points on a pair of overtime losses against Team USA’s U18 roster back on Jan. 2-3, the club is still seeking its first victory of the new year, going 0-4-2 over its first six games since the turn of the calendar.

Green Bay’s struggles have affected its conference positioning, as its 30 PTS is currently nine points out of the USHL’s final playoff spot. This weekend will no doubt prove crucial to the Gamblers, whose schedule from this point forward doesn’t get any easier.

To get a feel for how things might shake out, let’s take an in-depth statistical look at and comprehensive overview of both clubs. For continual notes and updates throughout each contest, make sure to follow us on Twitter at @GamblersHockey.

Team Season Stats
Green Bay: 13-17-4 record | .441 WPCT | 30 PTS (seventh in East)
Sioux City: 21-11-3 record | .643 WPCT | 45 PTS (first in West)

Team Home/Road Splits
Green Bay (home): 5-6-1 record | .458 WPCT | 2.67 GPG | 3.67 GAA
Sioux City (road): 8-7-2 record | .563 WPCT | 3.35 GPG | 3.18 GAA

Special Teams Comparison
Green Bay: .136 power play% | .807 penalty kill%
Sioux City: .217 power play% | .847 penalty kill%

Categorical Leaders
Points: SC Adam Johnson (42) | GB Brian Bowen (30)
Goals: SC Adam Johnson (18) | GB Chris Brown (12)
Assists: SC Adam Jonson (24) | GB Brian Bowen (20)
Plus-minus: SC Ryan Zuhlsdorf (+19) | GB Grant Frederic (+2)

Goaltender Comparison
Kevin Reich (GB): 6-5-1 record | 2.62 GAA | .921 save% | 29.8 SV/G
Jason Pawloski (GB): 5-11-3 record | 3.48 GAA | .898 save% | 29.1 SV/G
Collin Olson (SC): 16-5-2 record | 2.85 GAA | .907 save% | 25.5 SV/G
Cam Gornet (SC): 5-6-1 record | 2.33 GAA | .917 save% | 22.2 SV/G

One of the keys for the Gamblers this weekend will be special teams play. After a scintillating month of December that saw Green Bay convert on .258% of its power plays, January has far less effective, yielding a power play conversion rate of just .053%. Penalty killing hasn’t necessarily been a problem, Mikesch says, but getting the power play back on track might prove crucial against one of the USHL’s most well-rounded squads.

“Some of it is your opponent and things they do well, but the power play has been sloppy,” said Mikesch. “We haven’t been able to get the shots and puck recoveries we did when we were on a good run around Christmas. I’ve been happy with the penalty kill; you’re going to have breakdowns, but for the most part we’ve been effective against very good teams. Wednesday will be a big special teams day, and having a longer week will be nice.”

First-year forward Marc Michaelis may have as much to do with Green Bay’s power play success moving forward as any other player on the roster. The Minnesota State recruit scored a pair of goals in last weekend’s two-game set against Cedar Rapids — one of which came on the man advantage — and now has four points in six games at the top of the Gamblers’ line chart since joining the roster last month.

“He’s been good; he and Chris Brown definitely have some chemistry,” Mikesch said. “He had two games that were right before he took off for the world juniors and everything was a little hectic for him. His looked extremely tired in first two games after getting back from that; it was such an emotional experience for him and that team. He had fresher legs this past weekend against Cedar Rapids, and I think that helped him out.”

With Jason Pawloski’s status currently up on the air after withstanding a minor injury last Friday, Kevin Reich may be called upon to start each of this weekend’s games between the pipes. Cedar Rapids’ talented forward lines got the best of Reich in last Friday’s loss at the Resch Center — he allowed five goal in the game, most since joining the roster in October — but Mikesch believes the Iserlohn, Germany native will recover.

“No doubt about it,” Mikesch said. “He bounced back on Saturday night (in Cedar Rapids); he played a very good game. When we took those penalties in the first period, he kept us scoreless even with all the shots on goal. As far as that Friday night game, there’s a couple goals he’d like to have back. But he responded well Saturday night against one of the best teams in this league.”

Mikesch spoke to the importance of playing well at home prior to last weekend, and will continue to communicate the same message to his young roster throughout practice this week. It’s an important message, too, considering that 18 of Green Bay’s final 26 regular-season games will take place at the Resch Center. If all goes according to plan, the Gamblers should return to postseason contention swiftly. If not, who knows.

“We talked about it as a team today, focusing on it as one game at a time,” Mikesch said, “but recognizing that we need to make a move. I’m shocked that we haven’t had a run this year where we put together a big five-out-of-six or even eight-out-of-nine. I think that’s still in that locker room. But we can’t approach it like that’s what we have to do; we have to approach it game by game and be ready to play on Saturday night.”

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