Urbandale (IA) After a rough day of work, a place to turn to for comfort and reassurance is at home. Familiar surroundings and a set routine allow one to reset and build optimism for the next day. Returning home was something the Des Moines Buccaneers surely needed after playing eight out of nine games on the road before earning a 5-2 victory over Cedar Rapids at Buccaneer Arena on Saturday night.
Des Moines went 3-5-1, including four straight losses, during that nine game span that had the Buccaneers at home only once in one-month. However, last Saturday the Bucs started a stretch that sees them play 9 of their next 11 games at home and the team began it the right way.
Joe Gilhooly scored two goals and Michael Marnell potted the game winner in his second game of the season to lead the Bucs to the victory over Cedar Rapids.
“Joe brings that energy and that’s why we brought him here” said head coach Jon Rogger after the game. “And it’s great to have Mike back because he plays a big role in the offensive production for this team.”
Billy Christopoulos was strong in net, making 27 saves to earn his first home win of the season.
This period of home games, which leads into the holiday break in mid-December, is an important juncture in the Buccaneers’ season. With the team sitting seven points out of a playoff spot, it’s an excellent opportunity to gain traction in the Western Conference standings.
Of the next 10 games, eight are at home and six games total are versus teams with records below .500%.
On Friday and Saturday of this week, the Buccaneers are home against the Lincoln Stars, which is one of those teams with a sub .500% record.
“They (Lincoln) are a better team than their record says they are” notes Rogger. “They only have two wins but have lost a number of close games including one to us earlier in the season so this won’t be easy this weekend.”
What could help the Buccaneers out greatly is the potential return of a number of players to the line-up. Defenseman Josh Couturier’s two-game USHL suspension has ended while forward Marcel Godbout will return from helping Team USA to the World Junior A Challenge Gold Medal the last two weeks.
In addition, a few other players could be cleared from injury as early as this weekend further deepening the Buccaneers’ roster. At times this season, the Bucs’ roster was a thin as a crepe due to various injuries and suspensions forcing the coaching staff to get creative with line combinations and on multiple occasions working with only three forward lines or using players out of position.
While figuratively knocking on wood the entire time, Rogger sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There is a possibility that in the next couple weeks we could be very close (to a full roster).”
Greer Makes Short Impact
With the roster depleted due to injuries and suspensions the Buccaneers’ called in affiliate players A.J. Greer and Alex Jasiek for the weekend. Greer in particular made his presence known, scoring the Bucs’ lone goal in their 3-1 loss at Cedar Rapids on Friday and then netting a short-handed go ahead tally in the third period of Saturday’s win.
But, like a guest star on a sitcom, it was only a temporary situation. Fans will have to wait a little while longer to see Greer play again as the Joliette, QB native has returned to New England to continue his prep school education.
However, there is a chance he could rejoin the team at some point this season. Greer was the Bucs’ seventh pick in last May’s Phase II draft and is committed to Penn State.
Rookie forward Joe Gilhooly is making the most of his opportunity with the Des Moines Buccaneers and the United States Hockey League. Since being given a tryout a few weeks back, the Brooklyn, NY native has had his name frequently appear in the box score.
He scored two goals in Saturday’s win and assisted on the team’s lone goal in Friday’s loss. Gilhooly has registered points in three straight games and in five of the eight games he has played since joining the team Oct. 18th.
He has 6-points (3g, 3a) overall.
Defense and goaltending have been a sore spot for the Buccaneers in some recent seasons but so far this year, the team has been much improved in this area. While there have been a couple games that skew the statistics in a negative direction, the Buccaneers have managed to allow three goals or less in 10 of their 14 games played.
This includes allowing no more than three goals against in four straight games.
The Buccaneers are on pace to allow 206 goals, which would be a 39 goal improvement from last season and their second fewest allowed since 2006-2007.