Frankie DiChiara parked himself in front of Lincoln goaltender Jackson Teichroeb and watched as teammates Dylan Gambrell and Niklas Nevalainen worked their magic behind the net.
In one quick motion, DiChiara turned a centering pass into a tie-breaking, momentum-shifting goal over Teichroeb's left shoulder Saturday night. Including DiChiara's game-winner, the Dubuque Fighting Saints scored four unanswered goals in the final 10:31 for a 7-3 victory in a battle of USHL heavyweights at Mystique Community Ice Center.
"I was just fortunate to be at the back end of a couple of great plays by Niklas and Gambrell," said DiChiara, who scored 2:10 after Lincoln tied the game, 3-3, on a Brent Wold shorthanded goal. "Even after they tied it, all the guys on the bench were like, 'We still got 'em. They scored, but we're dominating them.'
"We were all over them, and we just had to keep making them play defense. We were the fresher team in the third period, and it showed."
The Saints outshot the Stars, 14-5, in the final 20 minutes. Peter Quenneville, Mike Szmatula and Keegan Ford added insurance goals in the final 6:39 to blow open what had been an entertaining, back-and-forth contest.
"The game got a little out of control in the second period. They're such a big, physical team, and they try to push you around," said Szmatula, who scored two goals and assisted on a third. "But we played as a team, and we kind of grinded them down. We knew that, if we kept playing our game, they'd eventually start turning pucks over and we'd capitalize.
"Everybody on the bench believes in each other, and we're willing to stand up for one another. But we also did a good job of being disciplined when we had to be disciplined."
The Saints converted 2 of 6 power plays while Lincoln scored just one man-advantage goal in three opportunities.
"One of our objectives in every game is to be the more disciplined team, and tonight, clearly we were," Saints coach Jim Montgomery said. "We knew they'd try to slow the game down with a lot of scrums, so we stayed out of them."
Two of the scrums involved Teichroeb, who played for Dubuque two seasons ago. He took a pair of costly stick penalties, which drew the ire of a crowd that originally greeted him with friendly cheers.
Shane Sooth and John Stevens also scored goals for the Saints in support of goalie Arthur Brey, who made 23 saves to improve to a USHL-best 12-0-0. Gambrell and Seamus Malone contributed a pair of assists each, while Jeff Taylor, Matt Benning, Eric Freschi, Sooth and Stevens added one helper apiece.
Eric Scheid and Paul LaDue scored goals for the Stars.
"We definitely knew what we were getting into coming here," Stars coach Chad Johnson said. "Coming off a loss (Friday in Chicago), we played with a lot of urgency. You have to play that way against Dubuque. If you try to take any short cuts against them, you'll pay for it."
The Saints improved to 9-0 at Mystique and remained the only USHL team without a home loss.
"This is our house, and the No. 1 objective is taking care of our house," Malone said. "We're not going to let anyone come in here and try to push us around.
"I love playing here, and I love the fans here. It's such a great atmosphere here, and it definitely takes our game to another level.