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Fighting Saints Capture Clark Cup with 3-2 Overtime Win in Game 3

May 17, 2013 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Dubuque Fighting Saints News Release

FARGO, North Dakota-A historic season full of memories that will last a lifetime came to a glorious close Friday night. Frankie DiChiara was the hero, and the Dubuque Fighting Saints wrote the perfect ending to their storybook season, and thanks to 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 over the Fargo Force at the Scheels Arena, the Fighting Saints are the 2012-2013 Clark Cup Champions. Dubuque finished a 3-0 series sweep of the Clark Cup Final and closed out a season in which they earned both the USHL's regular season and post-season championships.

DiChiara scored 8:17 into overtime to give the Fighting Saints the Clark Cup. Dubuque charged up ice on a three-in-two. Captain Shane Sooth gave the puck to DiChiara down the left wing. The forward made a power move to the net around Fargo goaltender Cameron Johnson and tucked in a shot underneath his left pad to send the Fighting Saints pouring off the bench and earn Dubuque the title of the 2012-2013 Clark Cup Champions.

In the third period, the Fighting Saints were within thirty seconds of raising the Clark Cup. Sooth scored a powerplay goal for the Fighting Saints 8:05 into the third period. Sooth won a puck battle along the boards and cut to the middle of the ice. The captain wristed a low shot that snuck through Johnson's pad and trickled over the goal line to give Dubuque a 2-1 lead.

The Fighting Saints dominated the remainder of the third period until there was just 29.9 seconds remaining when the Force extended its season with a last minute goal to send the game to overtime. With Johnson on the bench for an extra-attacker, the Force worked the puck to the right wing then in front of Brey. Fargo's Alex Iafallo fired a no-look backhander that snuck between Brey's leg's before he could react to send the Scheels Arena into a frenzy and tie the game at two at 19:31.

The Force actually opened the scoring in the game despite having to comeback late. Fargo scored the lone goal of the game's opening frame on the powerplay. Only seconds after missing a wide-open net and clanging the post with a shot, Austin Ortega made his second chance count. The sniper struck for his 8th goal of the postseason at 11:30 of the opening frame. Ortega hit the post on a wide open net from the right side but stayed with the play and snuck to the left wing. He got a pass from Christopher Buchanan and one-timed a shot over Dubuque goaltender Arthur Brey to make it 1-0 Force. Dubuque outshot Fargo in the game's opening frame 12-8, but Force netminder Cameron Johnson continued where he left off in Game 2 after coming into the game in relief and made several strong saves.

Early in the second period Dubuque continued to press and finally caught Johnson out of position to even the score. Brandon Carlson, once a member of the Fargo Force, burned his former club with his first goal of the postseason. After a scramble in front of the goal, the puck popped loose to John Stevens who put a backhander towards the goal. The puck was sliding towards the goal when Carlson deflected it over the goal line at 2:48.

After a third period where Dubuque outshot Fargo 17-7, the two teams were even with four shots each in the overtime session. Between the pipes Brey stopped 29 shots for the Fighting Saints and finished the playoffs at 9-1-0 for Dubuque. The Fighting Saints outshot the Force 43-31 in the game. Dubuque went 1-for-2 on the powerplay while the Force was also 1-for-2. Mike Szmatula was named the playoff MVP. He has seven goals and five assists in 11 playoff games.

The Fighting Saints captured the Clark Cup for the second time in three seasons since their return to the USHL in 2010. Two years ago, Dubuque captured the Clark Cup in its first season back in the league, claiming the Western Conference Championship with playoff series wins over Fargo and Sioux Falls, en route to a 3-1 series win over the Green Bay Gamblers in the Clark Cup Final. The original Fighting Saints captured the Clark Cup three others times under Head Coach Jack Barzee, earning the title in the inaugural 1980-1981 season, again in 1982-1983, and in 1984-1985.

The Clark Cup provides the perfect end to a historic season for the Fighting Saints. Dubuque jumped out to a 9-0-0 start and the chemistry, team-first attitude, and talent level of the group of 23 players was apparent from day one. In the 2012-2013 campaign, Dubuque earned a franchise record 45 wins, captured the Prairie Farms Cowbell Cup for the second straight year as the top team in Eastern Iowa, and earned the Anderson Cup as the USHL regular season champion for the first time in 30 years.

Friday's game was also Head Coach and General Manager Jim Montgomery's final game behind the bench for the Fighting Saints. Montgomery has accepted the Head Coach position at the University of Denver and will take over one of the top college hockey programs in the nation next season. Montgomery spent three seasons in Dubuque and helped establish the Fighting Saints as one of the nation's elite junior hockey programs.

The Fighting Saints are hosting a Clark Cup Championship Celebration Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Mystique Community Ice Center. All fans are encouraged to attend this free event that will feature the entire Fighting Saints team and staff in attendance, and a full production that includes music, a lightshow, introductions, comments from the coaches and players, as well as a special live performance of the Fighting Saints Rap song by Casey Olinger.

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