USHL Hockey is a dream come true.

 
Just after a faceoff.

Just after a faceoff.

Last week I caught up with Fighting Saints center Evan Janssen.  The 5’11”, recently-turned 20-year-old center has 20 points and a +7 rating for Dubuque this year.  The Fighting Saints are the best team in the United States Hockey League this season – with a 42-10-7 record, 93 points, a division title, and soon the playoffs will be starting.

On the bench, preparing for his next shift.

On the bench, preparing for his next shift.

I asked Evan what he attributes the Saints’ success to this season.  “We have an unbelievable coaching staff.  They properly prepare us every week and keep us focused.  We also have a great group of guys. Everyone has a team first attitude which is a huge key to our success.  We’ve got a very unselfish team“.    Which definitely shows, with 15 skaters having at least 20 points.  And get this… everyone on the team has a positive +/- rating.

Evan digging for the puck during a game.

Evan digging for the puck during a game.

Evan played for the Green Bay United during the 2010-11 season (where he tallied up 74 points in 25 games), and for the Alaska Avalanche (NAHL) during the 2011-2012 season (where he finished with 48 points in 59 games).  I asked him how playing for the Saints differs than his previous teams.  He replied “The Fighting Saints organization is run in a very professional manner.  We get treated very well here.  It’s the real deal.  Alaska was a lot of fun but our team had a very small budget.  Our locker room was a mobile home that was placed out back behind the rink; we didn’t even have any running water inside of it.  Our average attendance per game was around 200 people where as here in Dubuque its around 2,700.  It was a blue-collar life style up there.  Aside from the that, the hockey in Dubuque is definitely a step up from Alaska.  It’s a faster, more skilled game and everyone has great hockey sense here.

Evan Janssen hustling after a puck in practice.

Evan hustling after a puck in practice.

Growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Evan started skating at just 3 years old.  “Our neighbors built a rink in their backyard every year.  Throughout our elementary school years, we were out on the rink every night until are parents made us come in“.  A very familiar story to anyone who played sports as a kid.

Listening intently to the coaches.

Listening intently to the coaches.

Being a Green Bay Native, and playing for GB United, I asked if he would have perhaps rather played for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL.  “It was pretty cool to see that my hard work over the years was starting to pay off.  It had always been a dream of mine to play in the USHL since I grew up watching the Gamblers.  But I love Dubuque. I  love playing here, and I wouldn’t want it any other way“.  After his time on the Fighting Saints, Evan hopes to play Division 1 college hockey; which is the primary goal of the United States Hockey League.

John Stevens (left) and Evan Janssen.

Dubuque Fighting Saints John Stevens (left) and Evan Janssen.

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