Thursday, December 18, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux City Musketeers

Only one game remains before the seven-day holiday break for the Lincoln Stars, and that game will take place Friday night in Sioux City, IA against the Musketeers at the Tyson Events Center.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

Unless you're lucky enough to be in Sioux City on Friday night, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.

With a record of 7-12-3 (12 points) the Lincoln Stars are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, two points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Since they last played the Musketeers on 12/5/14, the Stars are 1-3-0 in their last four games.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the fifth of six meetings between the Stars and the Musketeers during the 2014-15 regular season.  The Stars have a very respectable 2-2-0 record in their four previous meetings with the Muskies.  Through 22 games played so far this season, the Stars have played the Musketeers more than any other USHL team.  However, after Friday night, the Stars and Muskies will only play one more time during the regular season.

The Musketeers currently occupy first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 16-6-1 (33 points).   In their last seven games played, the Muskies have a record of 5-2-0, and one of those five wins was a 3-1 victory last weekend against the top team in the USHL, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

As I right this article on Thursday evening, the Musketeers are in Fargo, ND to take on the Force.  The Force won that game, 4-2.  Sioux City goaltender Collin Olson started for the Muskies against Fargo, so because he was on the losing end, I would not be surprised if backup goaltender Cam Gornet gets the start against Lincoln on Friday evening.  Although Gornet only has 6 games of USHL experience under his belt, one of his two wins on the season came against Lincoln on 11/27/14 in a 2-0 shutout victory in Sioux City.

Much like the two teams the Stars faced last weekend, the Musketeers will be missing some key players from their lineup on Friday.  Forward Joe Snively and defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf are representing Team USA at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Defensemen Neal Pionk and Jerad Rosburg are out of the lineup due to injury.

As for the Stars, they are relatively healthy (from what I know), other than forward Christopher Dodero who was placed on the 25-day injured reserve list on 12/10/14.  I've heard rumors of some upcoming player movement on the Stars, but I'll wait until the team announces it.

Stars forward Ludvig Hoff is in Italy at the moment representing Norway in the 2015 IIHF U20 World Championship.  Through four games for Norge, Hoff has racked up 8 points (2g, 6a) and 31 PIM's.  Atta boy, Ludvig.

As I mentioned above, apart from one game, the Stars have played the Muskies pretty close so far this season, to include two wins in four games.  Sioux City will be coming off a road loss, and are a bit shorthanded personnel-wise.  This is another great opportunity for the Stars to pick up two points, and some much needed momentum and confidence heading into the holiday break.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to watch this game on FASTHockey Friday night as it happens, but I plan on watching the replay on Saturday morning and will post a recap article sometime later that day.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

B³ Weekend Recap: 12/12 & 12/13

It was an another up and down weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they were shutout Friday night at the IceBox by the Dubuque Fighting Saints by the score of 1-0, but rebounded Saturday evening with a 3-2 OT shootout win against the Waterloo Blackhawks in Waterloo, IA.

Boxscores:
12/12:  Dubuque 1, Lincoln 0
12/13:  Lincoln 3, Waterloo 2 OT SO

The Stars currently have a record of 7-12-3 (17 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, six points behind the sixth place Sioux Falls Stampede, and two points ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Dubuque 1, Lincoln 0

Former Stars goaltender Jacob Nehama, who was cut from the team at their tryout camp this past June, got some revenge in a Fighting Saints uniform as he stopped all 34 shots he faced to shutout his former team.

Dubuque was missing so many players in this game due to injury or suspension, they called up a number of players from their affiliate roster, and actually were able to "loan" two forwards from the NAHL in order to fill their roster.

Despite all of the new faces, the Fighting Saints put a blanket on the Stars and really limited the amount of quality offensive chances they had in this game.  Yes, the Stars had 34 shots on goal, but many of those shots were not high quality.  Time after time, the Stars would enter the zone and get one shot on goal before the Saints gained possession of the puck and moved the puck right back out of their zone.  Lincoln very rarely were able to sustain offensive pressure in the Dubuque zone, especially in the first two periods.

It's well known that the Fighting Saints play team defense better than most teams in the USHL, and it was certainly on display this past Friday night.  I thought the Saints did a great job getting between the puck and their goaltender when the Stars had possession of the puck.  Many shots from Lincoln were blocked or deflected.

The lone goal came early in the first period when Saints forward Mitchell Smith beat a Stars defenseman to the outside before skating in on Cam Hackett and roofing a shot glove-high.  There wasn't much Hackett could do on the play.

I thought Dubuque was the better team overall through the first two periods, but Lincoln certainly played with more urgency in the third period.  But Saints goaltender Jacob Nehama stood tall in the final twenty minutes when the Stars threw everything they had at him.  At the final horn, Nehama skated out of his crease and pumped his right hand up and down as he was mobbed by his teammates.  I'm sure he was pretty happy to prove people wrong.

As well as Nehama played that night, I thought Stars goaltender Cam Hackett played even better.  Hackett definitely had tougher saves to make throughout the match compared to Nehama.  Hackett stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal, and was the only reason the Stars were a shot away from tying this game.

Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay in this game, while Dubuque went 0-for-2.  The Stars are getting better with moving their feet more to draw penalties.  However, Lincoln's PP unit really struggled most times.  In this game, they were lucky to get the puck into the Dubuque zone and set up.  Most often there were met at the blueline with a line of red jerseys and were forced to dump the puck in.  Again, give credit to the Fighting Saints who put on a clinic on how to effectively play unselfish team defense.

Lincoln 3, Waterloo 2 OT Shootout

It wasn't exactly pretty, but the Lincoln Stars escaped Waterloo, IA with two points after a 3-2 shootout victory against the Blackhawks.

This was one weird game to watch.  I'm not sure where to start.  Lincoln was very, very lucky to get two points.

Thanks to a number of calls against Waterloo in the first period, the Stars got on the scoreboard first with a 5-on-3 PP goal scored by Patrick Polino.  Polino accepted a pass from below the left faceoff circle in the Waterloo zone before firing a sharp-angle shot that got past Blackhawks goaltender Trevor Gorsuch.

The Stars extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period thanks to another powerplay goal, but this one came from forward Joe Lappin.  On the play, forward Miguel Fidler brought the puck from behind the net out front in a stuff attempt.  The Stars immediately crashed the net and Joe Lappin was able to bat the puck into the net on the goal-mouth scramble.

At the end of the second period, the Stars held a 2-0 lead and seemed to have all the momentum on their side heading into the final twenty minutes of regulation.  Shots were 21-20 in favor of Waterloo through two periods.

Waterloo scored two goals in the third period to knot the game at 2-2, and outshot Lincoln 16-1.  Yes, the Stars had one shot on goal in the third period and that lone shot on goal came with 35 seconds remaining in regulation.

I've been watching Stars hockey for a long time, and I don't think I've ever seen them just stop playing as they did in the third period of this game.  It was hard to watch.  Waterloo players were skating hard to pucks, while Lincoln players floated around in a daze.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, this game went to a skills competition to name a winner.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped all four shooters he faced, while Grant Jozefek scored the only goal in the shootout to give Lincoln the 3-2 win.

Lincoln went 2-for-7 on the powerplay, while Waterloo was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  An encouraging stat: Lincoln has not given up a powerplay goal in four straight games (8 powerplay chances against in those four games).  Stars are also limiting the amount of times they are shorthanded per game, also.

Once again, Hackett saved Lincoln's bacon with a number of big saves in this game.  Without his consistent play, this is another third period collapse.  Hackett stopped 37 of 39 shots on goal in regulation and OT, along with the four shooters in the SO.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night, but Hackett has established himself as the clear #1 goaltender as of late with his play.  He wasn't always consistent in his play during the first couple of months, but he has really turned it on.  In his last six starts, Hackett has stopped 205 of 218 shots on goal (.940 save percentage).  His win loss record (2-4-0) in those six games isn't the best, but that's because Lincoln averaged 1.67 goals scored.  He's standing on his head, but not getting much offensive support.

The Stars found a way to win in the end, but I'm not sure I've seen a team flip the switch as much as the Stars have done so many times this season.  They are very Jekyll and Hyde.  The first two periods of this game, Lincoln showed that they were the better team.  In the third, they just stopped playing.  The consistency issue continues to be a problem.

Stars had a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd period against a team that was 1-11-0 in their last 12 games and were missing their top 3 forwards (Boeser, Sheehy, Novak).  They never should have allowed Waterloo back in the game.  There's no excuse to stop competing.  There's no killer instinct with this team.

The Stars had 7 powerplay opportunities to Waterloo's 4, and Lincoln was still outshot 39-23.  I hate to sound negative after win, but that's not a good stat at all.  With the amount of PP chances that Lincoln had in this, the Stars should have outshot the shorthanded Blackhawks, or at least kept it close.

Hopefully the Stars can learn a lot on how not to play based on their performance in the third period.  Learn from it, and move on.  Hopefully next time they have a third period lead, the Stars can keep a boot to the throat of their opponent.

Lincoln will have one more game to play before the holiday break, and that will come this Friday in Sioux City, IA against the Musketeers.  The Muskies are the top team in the west, but the Stars have done pretty well against them so far this season, going 2-2-0 in four games.

Thanks for reading. Go Stars.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Dubuque and Waterloo


With only three games remaining before the Christmas break, the Lincoln Stars will host the Dubuque Fighting Saints at the IceBox on Friday night before going to Waterloo, IA to face the Blackhawks on Saturday.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each contest this weekend.

If you you can't make it to any of the games this weekend you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars currently have a record of 6-12-3 (15 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, five points behind the sixth place Omaha Lancers, and one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Lincoln is 1-5-1 in their last seven games played.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent Friday night at the IceBox will be the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who sit in fourth place in the USHL eastern conference with a record of 13-7-1 (27 points).  After getting out to a fast 12-4-0 start to the season, Dubuque is only 1-3-1 in their last five games played.

This will be the first of two meetings between the Stars and the Fighting Saints this season.  Their final regular season tilt will come in Dubuque, IA on Saturday, January 10th.

The Fighting Saints will be without quite a few players for their game against Lincoln.  According to this thread on the "Finish Your Check" USHL message board, the Saints will be without the services of forwards Zack Zulkanycz, J.D. Dudek, Ryan Stevens,  Jakob Romo, and defensemen Sasha Larocque due to injury.  Forwards Jacob Benson and Evan Smith are out of the lineup due to suspension.  Additionally, forwards Seamus Malone, Dylan Gambrell, and defenseman Blake Hillman are participating in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

Because they'll have so many players out of the lineup, the Saints will likely have to call up some of their affiliate list players to fill spots on the roster.  So this is a great opportunity for the Stars, who are relatively healthy and are only missing Ludvig Hoff from their roster, to pick up two points against a depleted Fighting Saints squad.

One player on the Dubuque roster who is healthy and is most likely very eager to play against Lincoln is former Stars goaltender Jacob Nehama.  Nehama was free agent acquisition by the Saints before the season began and he has proved to be their MVP so far.  Jacob got a ton of press earlier when he started the season winning the first 11 games he started.  Since then, he has struggled a bit going 0-3-1 in his last four starts.

Nehama was released by Lincoln this past June after the Stars decided to go with goaltenders Petyton Jones and Hunter Shepard instead.  Cam Hackett was later acquired by Lincoln from Green Bay, and Hunter Shepard was released.  If he starts this Friday evening against Lincoln at the IceBox I'm sure Nehama will want to prove a lot of people wrong within the Stars' organization.

On Saturday, the Stars will travel to Waterloo, IA to battle the Blackhawks, who are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 6-13-2 (14 points).

This will be the third of four meetings this season between Lincoln and Waterloo.  The Stars are 0-2-0 in the two previous meetings with the Blackhawks, with both losses coming at the IceBox.

To say that Waterloo is struggling right now is an understatement.  To put it simply, this team is a defensive mess.  They have some of the top forwards in the entire USHL, but team defense is big problem and their goaltending is leaky at best.

In their last game, Waterloo beat the Fargo Force by a score of 4-1 to snap a 10-game losing streak.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Blackhawks lost 10 straight games.  During that 10-game skid, Waterloo was outscored 53-20.  Yikes.

I mentioned Waterloo's top forwards above, which consists of the highly touted Brock Boeser, Tyler Sheehy, and Tom Novak.  Boeser, Sheehy, and Novak are Waterloo's top three point scorers, but all three will be out of the lineup against the Stars due to their participation in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge.  Waterloo defenseman Hayden Shaw is also playing at the World Junior A Challenge so he will not play against Lincoln either.  What a shame. ;)

If there was any weekend so far this season that the Stars could pull out two wins, I think this is the weekend.  Yes, the Stars have really struggled as of late to play consistent hockey, but I think the Saints and the Blackhawks are really vulnerable right now.  The Saints are a walking M*A*S*H unit, and the floundering Blackhawks will be without their top three forwards.  Great opportunity for the Stars to grab four points.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

P.S. - I want to apologize to all of my readers for not posting a pregame, or postgame blog article for the Lincoln vs. Tri-City game this past Tuesday night.  The Stars lost that particular game by a score of 2-1.  I was traveling for work this week and I haven't had much time at all to devote to this blog.  I take pride in keeping #StarsNation informed of the latest news, but this time real life got in the way.  I hate when that happens.  But again, my apologies.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

B³ Weekend Recap: 12/5 & 12/6

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
It was an up and down weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they skated to a quality 5-3 win Friday night at the IceBox against the Sioux City Musketeers (top team in the west), but then gave up a 3-1 lead in Omaha against the Lancers and lost 5-3.

Boxscores:
12/5:  Sioux City 3, Lincoln 5
12/6:  Lincoln 3, Omaha 5

The Stars currently have a record of 6-10-3 (15 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, five points behind the sixth place Omaha Lancers, and one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to view the current league standings.


Sioux City 3, Lincoln 5

Against the team that blanked them on Thanksgiving night, the Stars got out to a quick lead and held on to beat the visiting Sioux City Musketeers by the score of 5-3.

Seven of the eight goals scored in this game all game in the first period, and it was Lincoln's Ludvig Hoff who got it started with 5th of the season just one minute and one second into the period.  It was "Teddy Bear Toss" night at the IceBox for this game, so the fans got to throw their stuffed animals barely after first sitting down.  I'll post a video at the end of this article that I took with my phone of the scene at the IceBox as the bears started to fly.

Ludvig's goal, and the next goal scored by Lincoln which came from Chris Klack about 11 minutes later, were almost mirror images of one another.  Both players has possession of the puck just to the left of the Sioux City net before skating a few strides in front of goaltender Collin Olson before stuffing it between the goaltender's pads.

After the Klack goal which gave Lincoln a 2-0 lead with roughly 9 minutes remaining in the first period, the Sioux City coaches pulled goaltender Collin Olson and replaced him with Cam Gornet who played the rest of the game.

Starting with the Klack goal, both teams combined for six goals scored in the next eight minutes of the first period.  Miguel Fidler gave Lincoln a 3-0 lead at the 12:19 mark of the period thanks to a powerplay goal scored.  On the play, a Lincoln shot from inside the blueline was stopped by Gornet, but the rebound went right to Fidler who jammed it into the open net.

The Muskies stopped the bleeding temporarily with a goal scored exactly three minutes after Fidler's PP goal to pull to within two at 3-1.

However, Patrick Polino gave the Stars a 4-1 lead at the 15:49 mark thanks to a nice play by teammate Joe Lappin.  Lappin skated the puck into the SC zone along the boards and did a great job getting past a Muskies defender while keeping possession of the puck.  Lappin then fired a pass to a streaking Polino who had beaten his man before redirecting the Lappin pass past Gornet.  Polino's goal, which which was his fifth of the season, turned out to be the eventual game-winner.

Sioux City fought back with two goals scored within a minute very late in the first period to pull to within one goal.

After a wild and crazy first period, the Stars took a 4-3 lead into the first intermission.  Shots were 16-15 in favor of Lincoln.  Lots of scoring in the opening twenty minutes, and not a lot of defense by either team.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 12 of 15 shots on goal in the first period, but then stood on his head the rest of the game stopping all 28 Sioux City shots he faced.

Seven goals were scored in the first twenty minutes of the game, but only one was scored in the remaining forty minutes and that goal came from Stars forward Dominick Sacco in the second period.

Sacco's goal was a beautiful shorthanded tally, which was the first SH goal the Muskies had given up all season long.  On the play, Sacco and Ludvig Hoff led the charge out of their own zone and entered the SC zone 2-on-2.  Hoff passed it Sacco just as the two entered the SC zone, and it was Sacco who pulled off a nifty drag move using his defender as a screen before ripping the shot past a surprised Gornet.  It was Dom's second shorthanded goal of the season.

The score would remain 5-3 the remainder of the second period, and all of the third.  Stars were outshot 28 to 10 in the final two periods of the game, but Cam Hackett stood tall with a number of big saves.  Hackett, who stopped 40 of 43 on the night, was the main reason why Lincoln got the two points in this game.

Lincoln seemed to go into a shell after getting the 5-3 lead, especially in the third period.  But overall, it was a quality effort against the top team in the western conference.

Lincoln 3, Omaha 5

It was looking good for the Stars on Saturday night in Omaha as they built a 3-1 lead over the Lancers, but Lincoln gave up four unanswered goals and lost to their arch-rival by the score of 5-3.

I didn't attend this game, nor did I watch it on FASTHockey, so this recap will be very brief.  If I have time today I'm hoping to watch a replay of it on FASTHockey.  If that happens, I'll come back and add some thoughts.

I had a few friends (both Lincoln and Omaha fans) attend the game and both said pretty much the same thing.  Stars played very well to start, got out to the 3-1 lead, but then put it into auto-pilot.  The Lancers took awhile to wake up, but once they did, they pushed the Stars around again physically and gained control of the game.

Lincoln goals were scored by Blake Christensen, Biagio Lerario, and Joe Lappin.  For the second time in 19 games this season, the Stars outshot their opponent, this time 31-30 over the Lancers.  Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 25 of 30 shots in the loss.  Considering how well Cam Hackett had played the past three games, I'm surprised he didn't get the start.  But maybe the Lincoln coaches wanted to give him a rest.

The Lancers started goaltender Zach Driscoll in this game, which was his very first USHL appearance after being aquired by the Austin Bruins of the NAHL.  Not a bad start for the '97 netminder as he stopped 28 of 31 for the win.

I mentioned this briefly on Twitter this morning, but as a fan it's pretty frustrating to see the Stars lose so many games to the Lancers the past few seasons.  Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Lincoln is 8-17-3 against Omaha.  So basically, the Stars have only won 8 games in the past 28 meetings between the two teams.  There's no better feeling beating the Lancers, and there's no worse feeling losing to the Lancers.

If we want to look at some positives from this weekend, it seems as if the offense has woken up.  Also, Lincoln got out to early leads in both of these games, which is good.  For the most part, the Stars stayed out of the penalty box as Sioux City had only 3 powerplay opportunities, while Omaha had only one last night.

It will be a busy week for the Stars coming up with three games in five days.  On Tuesday night in Kearney, NE, the Stars will take on the Tri-City Storm.  Friday evening at the IceBox, Lincoln will host the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  Then on Saturday in Waterloo, the Stars will knock heads with the Blackhawks in what could be a battle for last place in the western conference standings.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Omaha


The Lincoln Stars will look to snap a four-game winless streak this weekend with a Friday home tilt against the Sioux City Musketeers, and a Saturday road game against the Omaha Lancers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for both games.

If you you can't make it to any of the games this weekend you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars are currently in seventh place in the USHL western conference with a record of 5-9-3 (13 points), one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent Friday night at the IceBox will be the Sioux City Musketeers, who sit comfortably in first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 14-5-1 (29 points).

This will be the fourth of six meetings between the Stars and the Muskies this season.  Lincoln is 1-2-0 in the three prior contests against Sioux City.  Last week on Thanksgiving night in Sioux City, the Musketeers blanked the Stars by a score of 3-0.  It was the first time this season that Lincoln was held scoreless in a game.

The Stars will be holding their annual "Teddy Bear Toss" during the Friday night game against Sioux City, as well as their annual "ACS Breast Cancer Jersey Auction."  Busy night for the Stars' staff.  The Stars were originally supposed to wear the special ACS jerseys back on November 7th against the Musketeers, but that game was rescheduled due to an on-ice issue.  Click here to read more about the two Friday events.  Bring your new stuffed animals and your checkbook for the jerseys.

Saturday night in Omaha, the Lancers will host the Stars for the first time this season at the Ralston Arena, in Ralston, NE.  The Lancers currently sit in fifth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 7-7-4 (18 points), five points ahead of the Lincoln Stars.

This will be the second of eight regular season meetings between the two bitter rivals.  Just two weeks ago at the IceBox, the Lancers bullied the Stars around on their home ice and beat the good guys by a score of 4-1.  Interestingly, the Lancers are a much better road team (5-2-2) so far this season than they are a home team (2-5-2).

The Lancers were dealt a big blow to their roster this week when it was announced that goaltender Hayden Hawkey tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the season.  Big, big loss for the Lancers.  Hawkey was the USHL Goaltender of the Year last season, and was supposed to be the #1 guy again this season in Omaha.

Considering how the Lancers have struggled to score goals so far this season, having one of the top goaltenders in the league in Hawkey was certainly a plus for them to fall back on.  Now, the Lancers won't have that.  Look for '97 goaltender Kris Oldham to likely start for Omaha against Lincoln this Saturday night.  Oldham has only 6 USHL games under his belt.

Attention!  There will be two volleyball games played Friday night at the Devaney Center, so be prepared for another potential UNL parking mess.  There is a game at 4pm, and then the Huskers will play their game at 7pm.  Be prepared and leave earlier than you normally would.

Sorry for the short recap!  It's been a busy week for me at work, so not a lot of blogging time.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

B³ Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

Michael Gillespie celebrates after a goal against Cedar Rapids
Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
The Lincoln Stars went 0-2-1 in three games over the long Thanksgiving weekend with regulation losses to Sioux City and Des Moines, and an overtime shootout loss to Cedar Rapids.

Boxscores:
11/26:  Cedar Rapids 4, Lincoln 3 OT SO
11/27:  Lincoln 0, Sioux City 3
11/29:  Des Moines 3, Lincoln 2

The losses dropped Lincoln record to 5-9-3 (13 points) on the season.  The Stars are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, one point ahead of the Waterloo Blackhawks who have lost 9 straight games.

Click here to view the current league standings.

I'm going to quickly recap each game below.  Instead of individual articles for each game I thought I'd combine all three games into one recap article.

Cedar Rapids 4, Lincoln 3 OT SO

In what was their best effort over the long weekend, the Stars outplayed the top team in the USHL for 60 minutes but came up short in the shootout.

Dominick Sacco got the Stars on the scoreboard very early in this game to give his team a 1-0 lead and pump up the fans in attendance.  However, the Roughriders exploded for three straight goals in the remaining minutes of the first period to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.  All three CR goals (one was shorthanded) were on breakaways.

Despite the score, I really thought the Stars played well in that first period.  They made a few mistakes that Cedar Rapids converted into goals.  The Roughriders took full advantage of the few offensive chances they had in the period, but otherwise I thought Lincoln was the better team.

Down 3-1 to the top team in the USHL, the Stars could have easily rolled over on their backs and let the Roughriders rack up even more goals, but Lincoln didn't quit.  Stars goaltender Peyton Jones and his teammates shut the door on the potent Roughriders offense the rest of the game, while Michael Gillespie scored once in the second period and once in the third period to knot the score at 3-3 after sixty minutes.

Neither team scored in the overtime period so this game was decided by a skills competition (shootout).  The only goal scored in the shootout came from the Roughriders which gave them the two points and the 4-3 victory.

Shots were 26-23 in favor of Cedar Rapids.  Stars goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 23 of 26 and 2 of 3 in the shootout.  Lincoln went 1-for-4 on the powerplay while the Roughriders went 0-for-6.  Credit the Lincoln penalty kill unit for keeping the Stars in this game.  Cedar Rapids had one of the top powerplay units in the league, and the Stars put a blanket on them all game long.

Considering how well the Stars played against the top team in the league, I had hopes they would ride that momentum and play even better against Sioux City and Des Moines.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Lincoln 0, Sioux City 3

For the first time this season, the Stars were shutout as the Musketeers blanked the Stars in Sioux City, IA by a score of 3-0.

I'm not sure I want to devote a lot of time to this particular recap.  It wasn't an enjoyable experience to watch it on FASTHockey.  Mentally (and physically), I'm not sure the Stars ever got off the bus.  It was ugly.  The only positive was the play of goaltender Cam Hackett, who stopped 37 of 39 shots in the loss.  You can't ask more from your goaltender on the road than what Cam provided.  He just didn't get any help.

The Muskies got out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and outshot the Stars 17-5.  In fact, the Muskies outshot Lincoln 31-8 through the first two periods.  SC scored a meaningless empty-net goal to round out the scoring very late in the third period.  The final shot total was 40-20 in favor of SC.  From my viewing on FASTHockey, I think the off-ice officials in Sioux City were generous in giving Lincoln 20 shots on goal.

Anyway, the shutout loss was certainly a letdown compared to the way the played the night before against Cedar Rapids.

Des Moines 3, Lincoln 2

The Stars snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Saturday night as the Des Moines Buccaneers scored two late powerplay goals to come from behind and beat Lincoln by a score of 3-2 at the IceBox.

For the most part, I thought Lincoln played pretty well the first half of this game, but seemed to tire as the game went on.  Like the Omaha game last Friday at the IceBox, I thought the bigger, more physical Bucs wore down Lincoln, which showed in the third period.

Max Humitz gave the Stars a 1-0 lead very late in the first period, and at the time it seemed like the Stars would take the lead into the first intermission.  However, the Bucs scored a powerplay goal with only 2.6 seconds remaining to take the wind out of the Stars' sail and knot the game at 1-1 going into the first intermission.

After a scoreless second period, Patrick Polino opened the scoring in the third period with a shorthanded tally which gave Lincoln a 2-1 lead with roughly 14 minutes remaining in the game.  The IceBox exploded.  The Stars had all the momentum on their side, and from my seat, I really thought the team would rally together and hold off the Bucs.

However, a careless double-minor penalty for high-sticking was called on Lincoln's Joe Lappin at the 10:36 mark of the third period was the beginning of the unraveling.  Bucs forward Tanner Karty scored two powerplay goals during the ensuing four-minute penalty to Lappin to give the Bucs all that they would need to escape the IceBox with two points.

As good as Lincoln's penalty kill unit had looked the last home game against Cedar Rapids, it looked just as bad against Des Moines.  Special teams woes continue to haunt the Stars.  The Bucs went 3-for-7 on the powerplay, while the Stars went 0-for-2.  For the most part, the Stars have cleaned up the undisciplined stick-related penalties that we saw a lot of the past couple of seasons, but they were front and center Saturday night, unfortunately.

Stars goaltender stopped 35 of 38 shots in the loss.  Again, I'm not sure you can ask for more from your goaltender than what Cam provided in these past two games.  He stopped 72 of 77 shots on goal (.935 save percentage) in the two regulation losses to Sioux City and Des Moines.

The long weekend started off pretty well with the Stars playing an inspired, 60-minute effort against Cedar Rapids, but it ended with a thud with the shutout loss to Sioux City and the third period collapse against Des Moines.

Sorry for the abbreviated recaps of these three games.  I wanted to take full advantage of the long weekend and spend as much time as possible with family.

The Stars will be back in action this upcoming weekend with a Friday night home tilt against the Sioux City Musketeers, and a Saturday road game against the Omaha Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

B³ Thanksgiving Preview: Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Des Moines


The Lincoln Stars will will play three games over the long Thanksgiving weekend against some of the top teams in the USHL right now.

Wednesday evening at the IceBox, the Stars will host the red-hot Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  On Thanksgiving evening in Sioux City, IA, the Stars will battle the Musketeers.  The Stars will wrap up the weekend with a Saturday night tilt back at the IceBox against the Des Moines Buccaneers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each of the three games.

If you you can't make it to any of the games this long weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars are currently tied for last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 5-7-2 (12 points).  Click here to view the current league standings.

Wednesday's opponent will be the top team in the USHL right now, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. This will be the first of only two meetings between the Stars and the Roughriders during the 2014-15 season.  The final regular season matchup will take place in Cedar Rapids on 4/1/15.

 The 'Riders have a record of 15-2-0 (30 points) and are in first place in the USHL eastern conference.  Cedar Rapids has the top goal scorer in the league (Jiri Fronk - 15 goals in 17 games), the top goaltender in the league (Ben Blacker: 10-2-0, 2.01 goals against average, .941 save percentage), the top scoring offense (4.3 goals per game) and top defense (1.9 goals against per game) in the league, and they are in the top three in both powerplay (25.3%; 2nd overall) and penalty kill percentage (88.5%; 3rd overall).  Wow.

To say the Stars will have their hands full in this game is an understatement.  You will not find a team in the USHL that is clicking as well as the Roughriders are right now.  However, we've seen the Stars play a 60-minute game and beat very good hockey clubs this season.  The Roughriders put their skates on just the same as the Stars, so there's no reason to think that this is an automatic win for Cedar Rapids.  If they don't take the Stars seriously and just half-ass it, Lincoln can certainly win this game with a 60-minute effort.  Winning the special teams war is a must for the Stars, also.

On a rare, Thanksgiving night game, the Stars will travel to the Tyson Event Center Sioux City, IA to battle the Musketeers.  The Muskies are in first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 13-4-1 (27 points).  This will be the third of six meetings between the Stars and Muskies so far this season.  Lincoln is 1-1-0 in the prior two games against Sioux City.  The last times these two teams met in Sioux City, which was on 10/25/14, the Muskies prevailed by the score of 5-3.

The last time the Stars played on Thanksgiving was in 2010, on the road in Sioux City against the Musketeers.  Lincoln won that game in OT by the score of 2-1.  Dominick Shine had the game winning goal in OT.  Let's hope history repeats itself four years later.

Sioux City is on a bit of a roll as of late, going 5-1-0 in their last six games played.  During those six games, the Muskies outscored their competition 32-20.  In their last game at home, the Muskies scored 7 goals on a very good Tri-City squad to win, 7-5.  Sioux City forward Joel Janatuinen (from Finland) had three goals and 1 assist to lead the Muskies on offense in that particular game.

Lincoln's final opponent this Turkey Day weekend will be the Des Moines Buccaneers who are in third place in the USHL western conference with a record of 9-6-2 (20 points), 8 points ahead of the Stars.  This will be the third of eight meetings between the two teams this season.  Lincoln is 1-1-0 in the prior two games against the Bucs, winning their last meeting by a score of 5-2 at the IceBox on 11/11/14.

After starting the season on an incredible tear, the Bucs have cooled down as of late.  After beating the Stars in Des Moines on 11/8/14 by the score of 5-3, the Buccaneers have lost four straight games and were outscored 18-6 in those four losses.  The Buccaneers play Tri-City at home on Wednesday this week, and against Omaha on Friday in Des Moines leading up to the road game Saturday night at the IceBox against Lincoln.

Three games in four days for the Stars this week, and they are playing some quality competition.  It won't be easy but I'd like to see the Stars get at least 4 points out of the upcoming three games.  These three contests should also be a good litmus test to see how the Stars respond after the disappointing home loss last Friday against the Omaha Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Omaha 4, Lincoln 1

Blake Christensen trades punches with an Omaha player
Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
The Omaha Lancers marched into the IceBox on Friday night and outworked the Lincoln Stars in route to a 4-1 victory in front of a near sellout crowd.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars back down to last place tie with Waterloo in the USHL western conference with a record of 5-7-2 (12 points).

 Click here to view the current league standings.



I really, really liked the way the Stars started this game.  They were buzzing around the Omaha net and put some quality shots on Lancers goaltender Hayden Hawkey.  I mentioned this on Twitter, but based on what I saw in the first period, I wouldn't have expected that the Stars would have lost the game 4-1.

Neither team would find the back of the net in the first twenty minutes.  Shot totals were 12-7 in favor of Omaha in the first period, but the Stars had to kill a five-minute major for boarding which was whistled on forward Miguel Fidler.  Lincoln's PK unit did a great job killing that long major and momentum really seemed to be on their side at that point in the first.

As well as I thought Lincoln played in the first period, for the most part, it was all Omaha the final two periods of this game.

The Lancers scored two in the second, and two in the third period (including an empty-netter).  Down 3-0 late in the third period, the Stars spoiled Hawkey's shutout attempt thanks to a powerplay goal by Lincoln forward Ludvig Hoff.

Shots were 27-22 in favor of Omaha in this game.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 23 of 26 shots in the loss.  Omaha goaltender Hayden Hawkey didn't have to work too hard to get the win, stopping 21 of 22 shots.

Lincoln went 1-for-4 on the powerplay while Omaha went 0-for-3.  I thought Lincoln's PK unit did a great job in this game, however the PP unit still is a mess.  They did get the one goal, but otherwise I thought it looked very disorganized.  I haven't seen a lot of improvement in terms of the PP unit so far this season.  It flat out looks terrible.  The Stars had plenty of PP opportunities in the third period to get back into this game, but many times couldn't even get the puck into the Omaha zone.

I know a lot of Stars fans were upset at the officiating last night, but the Lancers definitely deserved to win this game.  They made some adjustments in between the first and second periods and out-muscled the Stars during the last forty minutes.  The Lancers were bigger, stronger and wanted it more than Lincoln.  From my seat it seemed like the Stars wilted as the game progressed due to Omaha's physical play and intense forecheck.  Lincoln had no answer.  Omaha simply ground them down.

It certainly doesn't get any easier for the Stars as their next two games are against the top two teams in the USHL right now.  This upcoming Wednesday (day before Thanksgiving) at the IceBox, the Stars will host the red-hot Cedar Rapids Roughriders, who have the top record in the USHL at 14-2-0.

Then on Thanksgiving day in Sioux City, the Stars will take on the Musketeers, who are tops in the western conference with a record of 12-4-1.  Some tough games ahead, but all games at this point are tough.  There are no easy games in the USHL.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Omaha Lancers vs. Lincoln Stars

Stars forward Brad Hawkinson scores the GWG in OT
to beat Omaha at the IceBox on 3/23/13
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photography
The best rivalry in all of junior hockey continues this Friday evening when the Lincoln Stars host the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox.

The Stars will only play the lone home game this weekend, but it's a big one.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for the game Friday night against the Lancers.

If you can't make it to the game, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.



With a record of 5-6-2 (12 points) the Lincoln Stars are in sixth place in the USHL western conference, one point ahead of the last place Omaha Lancers.  The Stars are 2-0-1 in their last three games played.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the first of eight meetings between the Stars and the Lancers during the 2014-15 regular season. The Stars' all-time record against the Lancers is 53-63-12 (Home: 31-26-8; Away: 22-37-4).  Thanks to Mike Melbye for those all-time stats.

As I mentioned above, the Lancers currently occupy last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 4-7-3 (11 points).   Although they started the season very slow, winning only once in their first nine games played , the Lancers have rebounded a bit and are 3-1-1 in their last five games played.

Still, it's odd to see the Lancers near the bottom of the standings.  Most pundits expected them to be a pretty good team this season, especially considering the amount of players returning from last season, which includes 2013-14 USHL Goaltender of the Year, Hayden Hawkey.

Offensively, the Lancers have really struggled to score goals so far this season.  Through 14 games, Omaha has scored only 31 total goals (2.2 average per game), which is dead last in the USHL.  To compare, the Stars average 3.3 goals scored through 13 games played.

One player for the Lancers who has not had any trouble scoring goals is forward Shane Gersich.  The University of North Dakota commit (and Washington Capitals draft pick) has racked up 15 points (10g, 5a) so far this season.  His 10 goals accounts for 32% of the total goals the Lancers have scored this season.  Gersich is definitely a player the Stars will need to watch closely Friday night at the IceBox.

The Stars are coming off a very successful long road trip to Youngstown, OH where they earned 3 of a possible 4 points with a 5-4 OT loss last Friday against the Phantoms, and then a 4-3 OT win on Sunday.

Switching gears....

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
For the second time so far this season, Lincoln Stars d-man Cam Lee was named the USHL Defenseman of the Week.

Click here to read more about that.

Here's an excerpt from the USHL.com article linked above:

Cam Lee, D, Lincoln Stars:  The defenseman had two points (1g, 1a) and registered a plus-seven rating in helping the Stars earn five of a possible six points in the standings during the week.  He was a plus-one in Tuesday’s 5-2 victory over the Des Moines Buccaneers as the Stars snapped a three-game losing streak.  

The 17-year-old then scored a goal and finished with a game high plus-three rating in Friday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Youngstown Phantoms.  Lee then finished his week by dishing out an assist and again finishing with a game high plus-three rating in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Youngstown.  The Ferguson’s Cove, Nova Scotia native has eight points (4g, 4a) through 10 games this season, tying for 11th in scoring among USHL defensemen.  He is committed to Providence College.

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
In other news breaking this week, Lincoln Stars forward Michael Gillespie has committed to play college hockey at Ohio State University, starting the fall of 2015.

 Click here to read more about that.

Here's an excerpt from the article linked above:

Lincoln Stars forward Michael Gillespie has committed to play college hockey at Ohio State University following his USHL career.



Gillespie is currently tied for the team lead with 11 points (9g, 2a) in 13 games for the Stars this season.  His nine goals are tied for the sixth-most overall in the USHL.  The 18-year-old has netted eight goals over his last nine games.

The New City, New York native came to the Stars after being selected by the team in Phase Two of the 2014 USHL Draft.  He previously played for the New Jersey Rockets and New York Saints hockey programs.  Last year, he was named the EHL Rookie of the Year while playing for the Rockets.

Gillespie is joined by Stars teammate Miguel Fidler who is also committed to Ohio State University.

World War III kicks off tomorrow night in front of what will hopefully be a sellout IceBox crowd.  No matter where each team is at in the standings, these battles between the Stars and the Lancers are always epic.  Can't wait to see another one in person.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Youngstown 3 OT

Stars forward Biagio Lerario scored the game-winning goal with only 28 seconds remaining in overtime tonight in Youngstown, OH to give Lincoln a 4-3 sudden-death victory over the Phantoms.

The Stars earned three of four possible points this weekend on their long road trip to Youngstown.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 5-6-2 (12 points) on the season, and have moved into 6th place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current league standings.

I was traveling to Colorado this afternoon, and I caught bits and pieces of this game on the 93.7 FM "The Ticket" radio app.  I was hoping to watch a replay of the game tonight, but I have crappy wifi where I am at, so that's not going to happen.  So as a result, this "recap" will be very brief.  I apologize for that.

Each team scored one goal a piece in each of the three periods tonight.  The Phantoms got out to an early 1-0 lead at the 5:11 mark of the first period, however Stars forward Miguel Fidler answered with his second goal of the season much later to knot the game at 1-1.  Shots were even at 12-12 through twenty minutes.

Youngstown took a 2-1 lead at the 7:18 mark of the second period, but once again, the Stars would answer back.  Michael Gillespie scored his team-leading 9th goal of the season at the 12:01 mark of the middle stanza to even the score at 2-2.  Shots were 15-7 in favor of Youngstown in the second period.

The Stars actually took a 3-2 lead at the 4:31 mark of the third period on a Grant Jozefek breakaway.  The Phantoms answered quickly less than a minute later to tie the game at 3-3, where the score would stay through sixty minutes.  Shots were 12-8 in favor of Lincoln in the final period in regulation.

In the five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime period, Stars forward Biagio Lerario scored the game-winning goal with only 28 seconds remaining to win the game for Lincoln.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 33 of 36 shots on goal to record his third win of the season.  From what I was told by people who watched the game, Cam played very, very well and was a big reason why the Stars were able to get the two points tonight.

Lincoln went 0-for-1 on the powerplay (only one PP in the entire game?), while the Phantoms went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

Nice to see the Stars were able to blank the Phantoms on the powerplay tonight as the Phantoms went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  As I said the other day, once this team starts winning more and more special teams wars during games, they'll start picking up more points.  5-on-5 this team can play with any team in the league.

It's also nice to see forward Miguel Fidler pick up two big points tonight (he had one goal and the primary assist on the Lerario's GWG).  Fidler has struggled at times this season, but it appears he's turning it around and playing with more confidence.  He came into this season with a lot of hype behind his name, being an Ohio State commit and Florida Panthers draft pick.  Fidler started slow, scoring only two points in his first ten games played. but he has three points in his last three games.

The Stars will be back in action this Friday at the IceBox against their rival the Omaha Lancers.  No matter where each team is in the rankings, the Stars and Lancers always battle hard during these rivalry games.  Can't wait for that one.  World War III comes to the IceBox this Friday night.  I can't wait.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Youngstown 5 OT Shootout

The Youngstown Phantoms scored the game-tying goal with only one minute remaining in the third period before winning in the OT shootout Friday evening to beat the visiting Lincoln Stars by a score of 5-4.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the OT loss, the Stars dropped to 4-6-2 (10 points) on the season.  With the one point the Stars earned, they are now in a tie with the Omaha Lancers for last place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current league standings.

I caught bits and pieces of this game on FASTHockey on Friday night, but I was able to sit down and watch the replay this morning.

There was no scoring in the first period of this game, but overall I thought Lincoln played pretty well.  No slow start for Lincoln either as the Stars outshot the Phantoms 10-7 in the first twenty minutes.  Lincoln's penalty kill unit, and goaltender Peyton Jones, were tested three times in the first period and held the Phantoms off the scoreboard.

Patrick Polino gave the Stars a 1-0 lead early in the first period thanks to some good teamwork between Polino and Grant Jozefek deep in the Phantoms' zone.  Polino forced a Youngstown defender to make a pass sooner than he wanted to, and Grant Jozefek jumped on the turnover.  From along the boards, Jozefek quickly turned and wristed a backdoor pass across the slot to a streaking Polino who one-timed the puck into the net.

After the Polino goal, it seemed like the Phantoms kicked it into a higher gear and really put some heavy pressure on the Stars' defense and Peyton Jones.  Jones really had to make some big sames in the early to mid portion of the second period to keep the Phantoms off the scoreboard.

However, a Youngstown powerplay goal at the 10:16 mark tied this game at 1-1.  On that particular goal, the shot came from just inside the blueline and it appeared that Jones may have been screened.

Just about two minutes after their first goal of the game, Youngstown struck again on a rebound shot past Jones.  On that goal, a quick shot off a faceoff in the Lincoln zone looked looked like it was initially saved by Jones, but the rebound went right to a Youngstown forward who capitalized with the goal.

Youngstown took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.  Shots were 14-7 in favor of the Phantoms in the second period.

In a wild and crazy third period, both teams combined for five goals scored, including four in the last five minutes of the game.

At the 11:48 mark of the third period, Dominick Sacco scored on an odd-man rush to even the score at 2-2.  After a bit of a slow start to the season, Dom has really exploded as of late.  In the first 6 games of the season, Sacco had 3 points (all assists).  In his last 6 games played, Dominick has scored 8 points (5g, 3a).

Youngstown's third goal of the game, which was shorthanded, was definitely the one goal the Stars would want back.  Lincoln turned the puck over in their own zone when they had numbers, and Phantoms forward Ryan Lomberg somehow got loose with the puck before he backhanded a shot glove-high past Jones.  It was an ugly goal that really shouldn't have happened had the Stars protected the puck better in their own zone.

The shorthanded goal by Lomberg gave the Phantoms a 3-2 lead with just about 5 minutes remaining in the third period.  Rather than roll over and give up the two points to the Phantoms, the Stars dug and and mounted an incredible comeback with two goals scored in a 1:04 stretch late in the third period.

A tremendous assist by Blake Christensen to a streaking Cam Lee tied the game at 3-3 with 3:53 remaining in regulation.  Christensen skated the puck into the Phantoms' zone along the boards and waited for Lee who was crashing the net before threading the needle to Cam who one-timed it into the net.

Just about a minute after the Cam Lee goal, the Stars scored again to take a 4-3 lead with only 2:49 remaining in regulation.  An incredible individual effort by Lincoln forward Chris Klack allowed him to score his first goal in a Lincoln Stars uniform.  After receiving a great home-run pass by defenseman Ryan Jones, Klack skated into the Youngstown zone on a partial breakaway.  While being dragged down from behind, Klack somehow got a shot off on his knees that got past the Youngstown goaltender.  This one was a beauty.

It was looking like the Stars were going to ride the momentum of the two quick goal to victory, but that wasn't the case.  Referee Lucas Martin had to be the show all night long, and that didn't change very late in the third period when he called the Stars for a minor penalty with only 1:21 remaining.

The Phantoms pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker during the ensuing powerplay and eventually scored a 6-on-4 PP goal with about a minute left in the third period to knot the score at 4-4.

Shots were 13-10 in favor of Lincoln in the third period.

In the five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period, the Phantoms outshot Lincoln 3-0 but were held scoreless.  In the skill competition (shootout), the Phantoms scored once and the Stars were blanked which gave Youngstown the two points.  Have I mentioned how much I hate the shootout?  It's so silly to end a game with a skills competition.  They don't end basketball games with free-throw shooting contests, do they?

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 30 of 34 in the loss, however I thought he played very, very well considering the amount of quality shots he faced.  Without some of his big saves in the first and especially second periods, the Stars never would have had the opportunity to lead in this game.

The Stars finished 0-for-5 on the powerplay, while the Phantoms went 2-for-8 with the man advantage and scored one shorthanded goal.

All in all, it was a pretty quality road effort by the Stars last night in Youngstown from what I saw on FASTHockey.  Unfortunately, the Stars lost the special teams war which pretty much lost them the game.  I'm hoping this team can learn to play better on the PP and PK, because 5-on-5 they are a pretty good hockey club.

I normally don't like mentioning this on my blog because it may come across as sour grapes, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a team dive and embellish as much as the Youngstown Phantoms.  It was terrible, especially in the 3rd period and in OT.  I saw Ryan Lomberg, after embellishing a high stick penalty that was called against Stars defenseman Ryan Cook in the OT period, actually smile and laugh to his teammates on the bench afterwards.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  Gutless.

These two teams have Saturday off, but they will get back at it Sunday afternoon for a 4:05pm CST tilt.  After listening to Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg after the Friday game, the Sunday game could be an interesting one to watch.  When interviewed on the radio by Mike Melbye, Hartsburg was very critical of Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen.  In fact, Hartburg called Noreen a "mockery."  From what I've heard from people who were there, Noreen spent all night yelling and screaming at the refs...begging them for calls.  I guess Hartsburg wasn't a fan of that and called him out during the game, and afterwards.  I love it.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Youngstown Phantoms

16 hours away in Youngstown, OH, the Lincoln Stars are gearing up for a weekend series against the hometown Phantoms hockey club.  The two teams will play Friday evening, and Sunday afternoon.

Puck drops at 6:05pm CST on Friday, and at 4:05pm CST on Sunday.

If you you'd like to keep track of the Stars this weekend in Youngstown, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Phantoms enter these two games against Lincoln with a record of 7-5-1 (15 points), and are currently in fifth place in the USHL eastern conference.  The Phantoms are 4-3-0 in seven home games this season, but they've lost their last two games at home.  In those two most recent home games, the Phantoms gave up 12 goals against.

These upcoming two games will be the only times the Stars and Phantoms will face one another during the 2014-15 regular season.  

Youngstown is led by talented '96 forward Kyle Connor, who is thought of by many pundits to be the top forward in the entire USHL.  Through 12 games so far this season, Connor has scored 16 points (6g, 10a).  Last season for the Phantoms, Connor racked up 74 points (31g, 43a) in 56 games played.  The Michigan native will attend the University of Michigan in the fall of 2015, and is considered to be an early first round selection in the 2015 NHL entry draft.


Another talented Phantoms forward to watch for this weekend is Maxim Letunov, who hails from Moscow, Russia.  Through 13 games this season, Letunov has scored 14 points (7g, 7a).  Last season for Youngstown, Letunov potted 43 points (19g, 24a) in 60 games played.  Letunov was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 2nd round of the 2014 NHL entry draft.  The tall, lanky Russian has committed to play his college hockey at Boston University, starting the fall of 2015.

A somewhat familiar name on the Phantoms' roster is '94 forward Ryan Lomberg, whom the Lincoln Stars traded to Youngstown back in August.  Click here to read more about how the Stars originally acquired Lomberg's USHL rights and some of the issues with his leaving the University of Maine.  Less than a month after he was acquired by the Stars, he was traded to the Youngstown Phantoms for three draft picks.  Lomberg was originally obtained by Lincoln from the Muskegon Lumberjacks for an 11th round Phase II draft pick in 2015.  So basically, the Stars turned that 11th round pick into 3 draft picks (2015 Phase I 3rd, Phase II 2nd, and 2016 Phase II 6th) in the trade with Youngstown.  Heck of a return.

The Stars are coming off what could be their best 60-minute effort of the season, which was a 5-2 drubbing of the Des Moines Buccaneers this past Tuesday evening at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Hopefully the boys can keep the positive momentum rolling this weekend in Youngstown, OH.

In other news....

The Stars announced today that the 11/7/14 game against the Sioux City Musketeers that was postponed has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 25th.  Click here to read more about that.  Surprisingly, UNL has waived the parking fee for that game.  Honestly, I'm shocked that UNL would turn down the opportunity to collect money.

Anyway, I'll post recaps of the games this weekend here on the blog so come back for those.  

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Des Moines 2, Lincoln 5

Chris Klack shows off the military themed jerseys worn by the Stars
Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
The Lincoln Stars got out to a quick 3-0 lead and cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Des Moines Buccaneers Tuesday evening at the IceBox.  The win snapped Lincoln's three-game losing streak.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The win improved Lincoln's record to 4-6-1 (9 points), good enough for 8th place in the USHL western conference. 

 Click here to view the current league standings.


Through the prior 10 games this season, the Stars were plagued a bit by slow starts, but that certainly wasn't the case Tuesday night against the Bucs.  I thought the Stars came out strong and played with a sense of urgency that I hadn't seen in a long time.  They seemed to forecheck more aggressively (especially in the first period) than what I've seen in the past, which was refreshing.  The Stars didn't give the Bucs a chance to think before they had a body on them, separating them from the puck.

Michael Gillespie got the party started with his 8th of the season (leads the Stars) on a 3-on-0 with just under five minutes remaining in the first period to give Lincoln a 1-0 lead.  Stars took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, leading on shots as well, 14-10.

It was a relatively quiet first period (1 goal, 1 minor penalty), but that all changed in the second period with five total goals scored (four of which were on the powerplay), and 46 penalty minutes whistled.

Biagio Lerario made sure the Stars wouldn't start slow in the second period with his fifth goal of the season scored exactly one minute in.  The next four goals scored in the middle stanza were all on the powerplay.  Both teams were getting a little chippy with their play, so the refs really got whistle happy at this point.

Joe Lappin scored his first as a member of the Lincoln Stars (his first official USHL goal as well) at the 3:34 mark of the second period with a nice, quick PP wrister to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead.  Lappin's goal proved to be the eventual game-winner, also.

At this point in the second period, the Stars were clicking on all cylinders.  However, the Bucs stopped the bleeding (temporarily) at the 8:17 mark with a 5-on-3 powerplay goal to pull within two goals at 3-1.

Ryan Jones answered just a few minutes later for the Stars with his first goal in a Lincoln Stars uniform which gave Lincoln a 4-1 lead.  Jones' powerplay goal came on a blast from just inside the blueline, which beat Des Moines goaltender Ryland Pashovitz.  Immediately after the Jones goal, Pashovitz was pulled by the Des Moines coaches in favor of goaltender Ryan Ruck.

With just over two minutes remaining in the wild and crazy second period, the Bucs scored a PP goal to pull back to within two goals.  Stars took the 4-2 lead into the second intermission.  Shots were 10-7 in favor of Des Moines in the herky-jerky, whistle-filled second period.

The lone third period goal came on a nice odd-man rush by Stars forwards Michael Gillespie and Max Humitz.  Gillespie brought the puck into the offensive zone and showed tremendous patience before threading the puck at the last second to Humitz who was able to tap it into the open net.  Stars lead 5-2 at this point and would carry that score until the final buzzer.

The Stars went 2-for-5 on the powerplay, while the Bucs went 2-for-6 with the man advantage.  In regards to the powerplay, I thought Lincoln did a much better job being mobile while in the offensive zone.  I didn't see a lot of standing around.  Being more mobile created some quick odd-man opportunities in which the Stars were able to manufacture goals.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones was solid between the pipes, stopping 30 of 32 to notch his 2nd win of the season.  A quality performance by Peyton last night.  Apart from the two PP goals against (and one was a 5-on-3 goal), he shut the door on the Bucs at even-strength.

The Stars wore military-themed jerseys last night in honor of Veteran's Day.  Proceeds from the jersey auction (the Stars reported $7000 was raised) went to the Student Veteran Organization at University of Nebraska.

The Stars will go on their longest (in miles) road trip of the season this weekend when they take a 16-hour bus ride to Youngstown, OH to battle the Phantoms.  In another weird scheduling quirk, the Stars and Phantoms will play Friday night in Youngstown, and then on Sunday.  No game on Saturday.  More on that long road trip later in the week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Monday, November 10, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Des Moines Buccaneers vs. Lincoln Stars

On Veteran's Day at the IceBox on Tuesday, the Lincoln Stars will be looking to snap their three-game losing streak with a tilt against the visiting Des Moines Buccaneers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you can't make it to the game, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.

With a record of 3-6-1 (7 points) the Lincoln Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference, three points behind the seventh place Omaha Lancers.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent Tuesday evening, the Des Moines Buccaneers, are a familiar one for the Stars.  This past Saturday night in Des Moines, the Bucs beat the Stars by a score of 5-3.  Coming into Veteran's Day game, the Buccaneers have a record of 9-3-1 (19 points) and are in a two-way tie for first place in the USHL western conference with the Sioux City Musketeers.

The Stars will be honoring veterans with tickets specials Tuesday night along with a silent auction for the military themed jerseys the team will be wearing during the game.  Click here to read more about that.

To the left you'll see more particulars of the silent jersey auction, which the Stars tweeted earlier today.  If it's hard to read the text on the image you can click on it to enlarge it.

A $400 starting point is a little too rich for my blood, but it's going to a good cause.  As someone who grew up in a military household, I'm happy to see the Stars do this for veterans.

I've seen other USHL/college/NHL teams do this, and I've always wondered why the Stars didn't do the same especially considering how rabid our fans base is.  Seemed like a slam dunk to put a Stars logo on a digitized camouflage jersey and sell them after the game to benefit a veterans group.  I'm hoping this will now be an annual thing for the Stars.

Hopefully we'll see a good crowd for this game and a 60 minute effort from the Stars on the ice.  I'm sure there are a lot of Stars fans eager to get their live hockey fix after the postponement of the Friday night game last week.  Let's pack the IceBox and help the Stars get back into the winning column.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Des Moines 5

The Des Moines Buccaneers got out to a 3-0 start and withstood a third period rally by Lincoln to beat the Stars in Des Moines, IA by a score of 5-3.  The loss was Lincoln's third in a row.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 3-6-1 (7 points) on the season and are still in last place in the USHL western conference, three points behind the 7th place Omaha Lancers.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Another slow start for the Stars allowed the Bucs to jump out to a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the first period thanks to a powerplay goal by forward Mark Petaccio.  That lead increased to 2-0 at the halfway point of the first period after an even-strength goal from Bucs forward Joe Widmar.

Bucs took that 2-0 lead into the first intermission.  Shots were even at 13-13 through twenty minutes.

In the middle stanza, the Bucs added one more goal to take a 3-0 lead going into the second intermission.  Shots were 16-11 in favor of Des Moines in the second period.  Through forty minutes, I thought the Bucs were the more aggressive team with and without the puck.  The Stars had some good offensive chances, but overall I thought Des Moines was the stronger team.

As we've seen quite a bit this season, the Stars wait until they are down a few goals before they wake up, and that was the case in the third period.  Lincoln goals from Michael Gillespie, Patrick Polino (PP), and Dominick Sacco actually brought the Stars to within one goal with 4:54 remaining in the game.  Bucs led 4-3 at the time and the Stars seemed to have all of the momentum.

However, with less than a minute remaining, the Stars were unable to get the puck out of their own zone and it cost them.  Des Moines scored with 35 seconds remaining to complete the scoring and shut the door on Lincoln's comeback attempt.

Buccaneers forward Mark Petaccio finished the game as the #1 star with 4 points (2g, 2a).  Petaccio was a player I noticed immediately at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic in Sioux City.  At the time, he was playing for the Tri-City Storm.  He's a big kid who plays with an edge and was putting up points at the Fall Classic.  At the time I remember thinking to myself, "this kid is going to wreak havoc in the western conference.  I wish we had him in a Stars uniform."  Surprisingly, the Storm traded Petaccio to the Bucs before the regular season started.  Petaccio is a '94 (overager), so I'm assuming the Storm just didn't have room for him.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 42 of 47 shots in the loss, while Bucs netminder Ryan Ruck stopped 36 of 39 for the win.

Lincoln finished 1-for-5 on the powerplay while Des Moines went 2-for-4.  Special teams certainly hasn't been "special" for the Stars so far this season.  Patrick Polino's powerplay goal in this game broke a 0-for-21 snap on the PP for Lincoln.  No where to go but up in terms of productivity from the PP and PK units.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night in the waning moments of the third period, but I'm not sure why this Stars team waits until they are down 2-3 goals before they start playing at the level they are capable of.  They are a better team than their record indicates, I'm pretty certain of that.

Defensively, this team can play a whole lot better.  You aren't going to win too many games when you give up 47 shots on goal, and average 36 shots against per game.  Lincoln has given up at least 5 goals in four of their last five games played.

It will be interesting to see how this team responds this upcoming Tuesday when they face the Bucs again, this time at the IceBox.  We'll know a lot about their character, for sure.  I would expect them to play a 60 minute effort and get a little payback.

Don't forget that the game against Des Moines this Tuesday at the IceBox is Military Appreciation Night.  The Stars will be wearing special jerseys designed by trainer Corey Courtney to commemorate the event, and a silent auction will be held during the game for the jerseys.  Click here to read more about that.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.