Monday, April 13, 2015

The Long Goodbye

I know this will come as a surprise to most, but I am shutting down the B³ blog.  There will be no more blog updates, effective today.  6 years, 2 months and 1,363 blog articles later, I'm closing up shop.

Shutting down the blog is something I've been thinking about for awhile now.  Before anyone asks, it has absolutely nothing to do with this past season.  My close friends can attest to that because I told them before the season even started that this was likely the blog's last season.

I think it's time to move on.  I've noticed in the last year or so that the blog just hasn't been that much fun for me.  My heart is just not in it.  I wish it wasn't that way, but that's just how it is.  I always told myself that when it's not fun anymore it's time to shut it all down.  It's been a great ride but I'm ready to concentrate on other things.

When I started this blog back in February 2009, never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow into what it is today.  My intentions at the time were to create a place online to post my thoughts after each Stars game.  I certainly didn't think at the time there would be a lot of people interested in reading my inane ramblings.

But it grew and grew....thanks to all of you.  When the local paper's coverage of the Stars continued to disappear, we grew even larger.  I'm really proud of what WE built here.  Stars fans are ravenous.  They want to know more than just the final score.  Over the years, I tried to give them what they deserve, which is more than just a few sentences from the paper from someone who wasn't even there, or a link to a boxscore.

When writing blog articles, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the common Stars fan.  What would they want to know about a game, a trade, draft, tryout camp, etc?  What information, not provided to them by the team or the local paper, would be something they'd be interested in?  At the same time, I tried to write from the perspective of a fan.  I never portrayed myself as part of the organization.  I didn't want to be influenced by other entities.  If the Stars didn't play well, I said just that.  I didn't want to just blog about puppy dogs and rainbows.  Although I was quick to offer constructive criticism, I was also quick to praise when I saw the Stars play well.

So I hope I was able to give the fans something they found useful.  I'm certainly no expert, but I'd like to think I've watched and played enough hockey over the years to successfully impart my thoughts and feelings about the sport on this blog.

Without a doubt, the absolute best part of the growth of this blog has been the opportunity to meet and befriend so many great people over the years.  I am truly, truly blessed in that regard.  Stars staff, players, parents, family members, fans, fans of other USHL teams, etc.  This blog has allowed me to build friendships that I'm sure will last the rest of my life.  I am eternally grateful for that.

I thought about asking around to see if any Stars fan(s) out there wants to take over the blog, but I think the best decision is to shut it down.  I'd hate to have someone take it over and then flake out on the responsibility.  I'll probably keep the site up for the next couple of years, but I suppose eventually I will not pay the fee to renew the domain.  A lot of time and effort went into the 1,363 articles posted here and I'd hate to have to delete it all tomorrow.

I'll shut down the blog's Facebook account, but I will keep the Twitter account open.  I love Twitter too much to walk away from that.  However, I will change the blog's Twitter account to my personal one.

I have a ton of people to thank, so let's get right to that.

Big thanks go out to the original Stars' front office staff:  Jim Pflug, Steve Zoucha, Jen Morand, and Micki Buhrman.  When this blog was in its infancy, they could have easily ignored me.  When I had questions, each one of them were always responsive, kind, considerate, and informative.  Jim Pflug was great to "work" with and was always accommodating considering my role as an unofficial blogger.  Jim and his staff never made me feel like an idiot with a blog, when that's really what I was (and still am).  Micki, especially, continues to be the heart and soul of the Lincoln Stars.  You aren't going to find a more beloved front office member than Micki.  Always friendly, always courteous, and always willing to help.  Micki is, quite simply, the best.

I really didn't get a chance to "work" with much of the new Stars staff, but Jon Hull was someone that was very friendly to me from the beginning and open to questions when I had them.  I wish him nothing but success in building something special here in Lincoln.

Thanks to Brandon Anderson (BA Photos) and Barb V. (Shooting Stars Photos) for allowing me to share their incredible photography on this blog.  Words are ok, but being able to share game photos on this blog really helped me convey my message to all of you out there in Stars Nation.  Both are extremely skilled at what they do and I am proud to have shared their work here.

Big thanks to Brian Werger, Director of Communications for the USHL.  Just like the majority of the original Stars' staff, Brian never treated me like an outsider.  Whenever I had a question about anything, he was quick to respond.  The USHL is lucky to have Brian on their team.

Thanks to Stars radio announcer and historian Mike Melbye for his support of the blog.  Like everyone else with the Stars, Mike could have ignored the blog but he has always a big supporter and has asked for my input on certain things, which is appreciated.

College hockey/NHL journalists such as Chris Dilks, Brad Schlossman, and Chris Peters are guys whom I respect a ton, and I really appreciate all of their support over the years.  Each of them were always open to questions when I had them.  Scouts such as Andrew Weiss and Dan Schrader are two guys I respect a lot as well and have valued their opinions.

Behind the scenes, there are a number of people whom I can't thank publicly but they know who they are. These are people I exchanged emails/notes with almost daily.  A lot of these people would keep me informed of Stars related news to make sure I hadn't missed anything.  Keeping Stars Nation informed of the latest news can be a lot of work, but these friends helped me out tremendously.

My good friend, Scott C., from Omaha is someone I met because of the blog and he has helped me with a lot of graphics stuff behind the scenes.  Scott and his wife commute from Omaha for every Stars home game. You won't find two more committed Stars fans than them.  Much thanks to Scott for his help and more importantly, his friendship.

Although I only met Jason O. recently, he has helped me with a lot of Stars related stuff behind the scenes on the blog.  He has been a great resource and someone with whom I could bounce ideas around.

Thanks to my valued friend, Ryan W., who is someone I met through hockey about 10 years ago or so.  Ryan's "Unofficial USHL Blog" had a huge influence on me, and was a big reason why I decided to create this blog back in February, 2009.

Huge thanks goes to my friend, Nate (aka BellTolls), who has helped me with the blog since almost the beginning.  A lot of what he helped with was the behind the scenes stuff, but his assistance and friendship over the years has been invaluable.

Without the love, support, and patience from my incredible wife, Trishia, I would have quit a long time ago. She frequently joked that I was married to the blog during hockey season.  She has been my rock and I want to make up to her all the time I lost during my "marriage' to the blog.

Lastly, I'd like to thank the best junior hockey fans in the entire world; the die-hard, true-blue fans of Stars Nation.  You folks are the best.  I've said it a million times, but without the fans, I'd just be talking to myself on the blog.  You were the fuel that kept me going all these years.

Thanks again to everyone who made this blog a daily stop on your internet rounds.  I truly appreciate all of your support over the years.  It was a blast, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Go Stars.

-Tim Sattler (Yeti)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

B³ Lincoln Stars 2014-15 Season Recap

Here we are at the end of another Lincoln Stars season.  If you would have told me back in October that this Stars team would finish dead last in the USHL, I'd probably would have had a good laugh.  But that's how it turned out.

I had a feeling this team might struggle early on, especially since they were bringing in a new head coach, new-ish GM, new management, new front office staff, and the youngest roster in the USHL, but I did not think this team would finish the way they did.

When fans asked me what I expected of the 2014-15 Stars before the season ever started, I said they probably wouldn't be a playoff team, but if the young kids on the roster gelled quickly and caught fire, they might made a run of it.  I figured this would probably be a .500 club, but I also thought they could surprise me and be a little better.  However, the team struggled with consistency all season long, and missed the playoffs for second straight season, which has never happened in franchise history.

A lot contributed to the second worst season in Lincoln Stars history, and we'll talk about that here in a bit.  I'm a bit of a statistics junkie, so I first want to review some numbers from this past season.  I'm not trying to be negative here, but these numbers are certainly not fun to look at.  But I truly believe there is truth in numbers.

I don't believe it's fair to compare this team to the 2009-10 team that finished dead last in the USHL, but I'm going to post some statistics below to illustrate the two worst seasons in franchise history.  Again, I'm not trying to pile on here.  Believe me, I would much rather be recapping a playoff season for the Stars.

2014-15 Regular Season
Overall record:  18-37-5 (2nd worse record in franchise history)
Winning percentage:  .342 (2nd worst winning percentage in franchise history)
Home record:  10-20-2 (most regulation home losses in a season in franchise history)
Road record:  8-17-3 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season)
Goals scored:  150 (2nd lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against:  242 (most goals allowed in franchise history)
Shots on goal:  1,594 (least amount in franchise history)
Shots on goal against:  2,131 (2nd most in the USHL this season)
Penalty minutes:  1,183 total minutes (lowest amount since the 2002-03 season)
Power play percentage:  14.3% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Power play goals scored:  31 (least amount in franchise history)
Power play goals against:  58 (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Penalty kill percentage:  74.9% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals scored:  6 (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals against:  9 (8th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team shooting percentage:  .094 % (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team save percentage:  .886% (16th place out of 16 teams)
Average attendance:  3,197 (first time in franchise history the team did not finish in the top 3 in league attendance)

2009-10 Regular Season
Overall record:  16-36-8 (franchise low)
Winning percentage:  .333 (franchise low)
Home record:  8-18-4 (least amount of home wins in a season ever)
Road record:  8-18-4 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season ever)
Goals scored:  143 (2.38 average goals per game - lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against:  220 (2nd highest total in franchise history)
Shots on goal:  1,829 (6th place out of 14 teams)
Shots on goal against:  1,832 (8th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty minutes:  1,775 total minutes (most in franchise history)
Power play percentage:  14% (12th place out of 14 teams)
Power play goals scored:  42 (11th place out of 14 teams)
Powerplay goals against:  69 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty kill percentage:  79.46% (11th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored:  5 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals against:  11 (7th place out of 14 teams)
Team shooting percentage:  .078 % (franchise low)
Team save percentage:  .880% (franchise low)
Average attendance:  4,146 (first place overall-fourth straight season the Stars led the USHL in attendance)

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's interesting to look at the parallels between the two worst teams in franchise history.  The 2009-10 team was hit hard by injuries.  That particular roster was a revolving door of players.  This year's team didn't have that problem.  They stayed relatively healthy.

The young, inexperienced roster, a rookie head coach, a new GM and owner probably all combined to contribute to what we saw this season on the ice .  We can only hope those in charge learned a lot of lessons this season, and know they can't make them again next season.

GM Jon Hull's vision was that this would be a puck possession team.  Unfortunately, that didn't come to fruition and the stats above are indicative of that.  The shots totals specifically indicate that this team spent more time chasing the puck than they did with possession of the puck.  If you don't have the puck on your stick you can't shoot it on net.  That's not rocket science.

In my opinion, team defense was a big reason why this team failed.  I don't want to single out just the defensemen because defense is a team aspect.  All players have to buy in and play together as a unit.  However, the inexperience on Lincoln's blueline coming into this season played a big part.  Of the seven defenseman on the roster who started the season in Lincoln, only Connor Frantti had prior USHL experience.  I've said for years that if you don't have USHL experience at that position, you're going to struggle.  I don't care how good your goaltending is.

Speaking of goaltending, it wasn't consistent in 2014-15, but I definitely think the problems I mentioned in the paragraph above had a LOT to do with why Cam Hackett and Peyton Jones struggled at times this season.  Game in and game out, they faced a shooting gallery.  They didn't get much help from their teammates.  They saw more rubber than roadkill on O Street in Lincoln.  Honestly, without Cam Hackett, I wonder if this team would have won 12 games.  He'd get my vote as team MVP.  His end of season numbers might not be pretty, but neither was the defense in front of him.

I'm hopeful that the defensemen coming back next season, now with a full year of USHL experience under their belt, will strive and we'll see much better play overall as a defensive unit.  That obviously will help the goaltenders as well.

Special teams was an issue the entire season, unfortunately.  The Stars never got into a groove this season with the man advantage.  Uncharacteristically, Lincoln's penalty-kill unit this season was just as disappointing.  In past season, even when the Stars were the most penalized team in the league, the PK unit was in the top third of the league.  The penalty kill unit, along with the Stars' power play, never improved during the season, in my opinion.  In fact, I'd argue that it got worse as the season transpired.  The numbers above show that special teams wise, this was the worst performance in Stars history.

Three players on Lincoln's roster played all 60 games this season:  forwards Dominick Sacco, Patrick Polino, and defenseman Ryan Jones.  Big props to all three.  To make it through an entire season and not miss any games, considering how fast and physical the league is, is very impressive.

It certainly wasn't the season we as fans wanted to experience, but we are all very proud of our Stars here in Lincoln.  I want to thank each and every player on the roster for busting their ass and sacrificing so much for our entertainment this season.  Their effort will not be forgotten.  I also would like to thank all of the player parents for sending their sons to Lincoln.  It was a pleasure watching them this season, and they will always be a part of our extended Stars family.

Thanks again to all of you who make this blog a frequent stop on your internet rounds.  It has been an honor keeping this blog active for all of your Lincoln Stars needs.  I've said it a million times, but without you, I'd still be talking to myself.  So thank you for your patronage.

Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that I'll be making a big announcement on the blog tomorrow (Monday), around noon.  I can't let the cat out of the bag just yet, but make sure you come back here around noon on Monday to check it out.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

B³ Weekend Recap: 4/10 & 4/11

Stars celebrate a win in Omaha on Saturday
Thanks to Devan for the photo
The Lincoln Stars finished out the 2014-15 regular season with back-to-back games against the Omaha Lancers this past weekend.

On Friday at the IceBox, the Lancers skated past the Stars by a score of 6-1.  At Ralston Arena on Saturday, the Stars responded with a 2-1 OT shootout win to close out the season on a positive note.

4/10:  Omaha 6, Lincoln 1
4/11:  Lincoln 2, Omaha 1 OT shootout

The Lincoln Stars finished the 2014-15 regular season with a record of 18-37-5 (41 points).  The Stars were 10-20-2 at home this season, and 8-17-3 on the road.

Lincoln finished in last place in the USHL western conference, and last place overall in the league.  Click here to view the final league regular season standings.

Omaha 6, Lincoln 1

The final score might indicate otherwise, but I thought the lopsided 6-1 win for the Lancers was a much closer game than people might think.

The momentum turning play came very late in the first period.  With the game scoreless at 0-0, the Lancers were able to get a puck past Stars goaltender Cam Hackett with only 12 seconds remaining in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead.

I thought the Stars had played very well in that first period, and the late goal was a killer.  The Lancers used that momentum to scored three unanswered goals in the third period to basically put the game outside of Lincoln's reach.

It was a typical rough and tumble type of game between these two teams that really don't like one another.  The 2nd period alone saw 61 penalty minutes called, including one big fight between Biagio Lerario and Anthony Angello, and a spearing major (and game misconduct) by Lancers goaltender Kris Oldham.

In the third, the Lancers scored two more goals before the Stars finally got on the scoreboard to ruin the shutout bid by Omaha..  With the Lancers leading 6-0 at the midpoint of the third period, Stars forward  Sean MacTavish collected a rebound from an Ethan Price shot and fired it past Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll.

As I said above, I really don't think the Stars played that bad in this game.  I've certainly seen them play much worse at the IceBox this season.  They had plenty of opportunities to score goals in this game, but puck luck wasn't on their side.  Meanwhile, what chances the Lancers had, they made the most of them.

One big key to this game was the special teams play of both teams.  Omaha went 2-for-4 on the powerplay, and also scored one shorthanded goal.  Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay and were never able to solve Omaha's terrific PK unit.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 24 of 30 in the loss.  Lancers goaltender Kris Oldham stopped 18 of 18 before he was ejected for the spearing major.  Zach Driscoll stopped 6 of 7 shots in relief of Oldham for Omaha.

Tough game to end the home season at the IceBox, but I was happy to see a near sellout crowd.

Lincoln 2, Omaha 1 OT Shotout

The Stars showed a lot of resolve in fighting for a 2-1 OT shootout victory Saturday night at the Ralston Arena over the Omaha Lancers.

I wasn't able to watch this game in person, or on FASTHockey, but I did listen to the radio broadcast.

This was a much different game than what fans saw on Friday night.  It obviously wasn't as high scoring, and although there was some penalties called, it wasn't as frantic as Friday evening's game.

The only goal the Lancers scored in this game came in the latter half of the first period when Ryan Donato scored and even-strength goal to give his team a 1-0 lead.  After that, it was all Peyton Jones as the rookie goaltender stood on his head and did not allow another puck get past him.

The score would remain 1-0 in favor of the Lancers until the 8:11 mark of the third period when Stars defenseman Dylan Woolf scored his second goal of the season to knot the game at 1-1.  Wyatt Kalynuk and Sean MacTavish picked up the assists on Woolf's game-tying goal.

From the sounds of it, the Stars dominated the third period and had many more quality chances than the Lancers.  However, the Stars were not able to score the game winner in regulation.

After a scoreless five-minute OT period, this game went to a shootout.  Lincoln first two shooters (Dominick Sacco, Michael Gillespie) both scored, while Peyton Jones stopped the only two shooters he faced to seal the 2-1 victory.

Really happy to see the boys end the season on a high note with a win against Omaha on their own ice.  I'm sure that felt good.

Peyton Jones stopped 30 of 31 shots to pick up the win.  Very happy for him to finish out the season with a big win.  Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll stopped 26 of 27 in the loss.

I'm going to take a bit of time here to try to recap the town hall meeting the Stars hosted this past Friday at the IceBox.  Stars GM Jon Hull was on hand to answer any questions fans might have.  I arrived just a few minutes late, but I tried to record most of what was said on my cell phone.  I'd say there was between 200-250 Stars fans in attendance at the town hall meeting, much more than what I expected.

I'm highlight what I thought were the more important questions asked, and then the answers from Jon Hull below.  As I said, I missed the very beginning so if I forget to include anything that was said below, please leave a comment.

-Question/concern about how the Stars players have developed over the course of this season.
Jon Hull:  "Development" is a tricky word.  I see big strides in a lot of areas.  One area we have failed in was that we have lost hockey games in small stretches this season.  We seem to be a team that starts well, gets a lead, and in a 4-5 minute stretch, things have gone against us.  Some players have gotten better and grown, and some haven't.  We as a staff have to do a better job at fostering these players and making sure we give them every opportunity to succeed.

-Question/concern about a disconnect between the coaching staff and the players.
JH:  Chris Hartsburg and I are a young coach, GM duo. We need to grow together for this team to be successful.  As a manager, I need to do a better job of supporting him, and pushing our style of play so that he can connect more with the players.  I believe that if there is any fault between our coach and our players, it's on me. I have to do a better job at managing this club.  I have to do a better job at making sure we want to play the way I say we want to play every night.  I intend to do those things.

Question/concern about the head coach's lack of ability to take responsibility for losses
JH:  I don't want to be in the habit of speaking for Chris. If there is a general feeling from our fan group here that that's what he does, then that falls on my shoulders and I need to do a better job.  I need to make sure he doesn't throw our players under the bus and he supports our team, because I do.  That's going to change.  That's on my shoulders.

Question/concern about key player skills he (Jon Hull) wants to improve on heading into next season.
JH:  I feel we have a group of talented defensemen coming back next season, with 7 guys returning.  One area we've lacked some depth this season is at center.  I think we've lacked some size, but more importantly some skill at center this season.  Goaltending has been inconsistent at times.  If we have the opportunity to get a high end goaltender, we will.  If we have the opportunity to build through a couple more forwards and depth at center, we will.  Overall skills we need to improve on is that we need to possess the puck more, a lot more.

Question/concern about the lack of attendance this season at the IceBox.
JH:  Obviously, a winning team fills a rink.  I will say in the large picture, there are things that happen ever day in our club that people aren't aware of.  We chose to operate the whole season with no sales staff.  Zero.  None.  Because we've tried to fix things in the front office.  We've tried to hire the right personnel.  Standing to my right is our new executive director, Kate Hrnicek, who is going to lead all of our sales from now on forward.  Ryan Schiff's (Stars owner) theory was that he had time, and he wanted to wait until he found the right person to handle sales and growth in those areas.  In our estimations and our numbers, if we would have had a sales staff, we wouldn't be down in attendance this season.

Question/concern about the the communication lines between the head coach and the GM.
JH:  I have to be involved, and be here more, if I want to have more of an impact on this hockey team day-to-day.  That's what I intend to do.  We have the next five months (offseason) here to learn, get better, and spend a lot of time together.

Question/concern about the players who can return next season, are they excited to return?
JH:  The general comment I've gotten from players is that they are excited to return to Lincoln next season. These are good signs. Biagio Lerario, who recently committed to Brown University, could have went to college this fall but chose to come back to Lincoln to get better.  Players love playing in Lincoln.

Question/concern about if the team has a goaltending coach.
JH:  We do have a goalie coach.  His name is John Helkin (sp?) whom we fly in from Toronto once a month.  He spends around 4 days here working with our goaltenders in practice.

Question/concern that it would be nice to have the head coach at the town hall meeting to talk to fans.
JH:  His (Hartsburg's) vision moving forward has to be mine.  We have to grow together, and I'm a big part of that.  I have to have a big footprint on that next year.  If there are shortcoming this season, that's on me.  It's not on Chris.  He's a young coach.  I feel that he's done a good job in some areas. He has the intangibles to make this hockey club good.  But I feel that a lot of it has to come from me, and I need to be more involved.  If there is an area that we have failed, the ownership is on me.

Question about at what point next season, if we don't progress, do you cut the cord on the head coach?
JH:  For me to talk about a timeline on our head coach is very premature.  I know it's frustrating.  I know you want to win more games.  I'm in it, trust me.  I moved my family across the country.  A wife that didn't want to move, that had never been away from her family.  I care about this team.  I really care about this group.  Our focus is getting better now.  I don't think putting a timeline on our coach is realistic.  We want to take steps forward.  We want to get better and we think we've put the right pieces in place to do that.

Question/concern about the possibility of adding bigger players next season.
JH: I don't equate big with physical.  If you look at our team this season, were in the top 3 in fighting majors, and near the top in overall penalty minutes.  By standards, we're near where prior Lincoln Stars teams have always been.  The game of hockey is trending in a different direction.  In every league, there is more emphasis put on puck possession, and skill.  If I have the opportunity to bring in a player that is big, strong and physical, we will do it.  Maybe the perception of this team having a lack of physicality is because we've chased the puck a lot this season.

Question/concern about does the team draft players for our system, or to match our coach.
JH:  Big picture is we want those two things to be the same.  We always want speed, skill and aggressiveness.  We always want those things.  But there are times when I see a kid play and I think that he would play well under Chris.

Question/concern about the low shot totals this season.
JH:  We chase the puck a lot.  We don't possess the puck, therefore we can't shoot it.  That's a problem we're trying to remedy.

Question/concern about the possibility of the team hiring a second assistant coach next season.
JH:  There's probably some merit to that.  It's been discussed a couple of times with our ownership staff and myself.  As long as the coaches are all on the same page, another set of eyes would certainly help.

Question/concern about if ticket pricing will be going up next season.
JH:  Ticket prices are NOT going up.

These were the highlights, in my opinion.  A lot of folks really didn't have specific questions, and just wanted to vent.  I'm not going to include ever single thing said in the meeting here on the blog.  The meeting itself lasted 45+ minutes long.  That's just way too much info to post it all here.

I'm going to post a 2014-15 season recap article later tonight.  Stay tuned for that.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Lincoln Stars vs. Omaha Lancers

Former Stars forward Danny Irmen
Thanks to Layla for the photo
The Lincoln Stars will wrap up the 2014-15 regular season this weekend with a home-and-home series against the Omaha Lancers.  

Friday's contest will take place at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Saturday evening's game will be played at the Ralston Arena in Ralston.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

The Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 17-36-5 (39 points).  

Lincoln is 1-7-0 in their last eight games played and were outscored 45-19 in those eight contests.

The 36 losses by the Stars this season ties the team record for the most losses in one season with the 2009-10 team that finished with a record of 16-36-8.  Click here to view the current league standings.  

The Omaha Lancers are firmly in third place in the USHL western conference with a record of 33-17-8 (74 points).  

These games this weekend will be the seventh and eighth times the Stars and Lancers will have met this season.  Lincoln is 2-3-1 in the past six contests against Omaha this season.  Stars forward Ludvig Hoff has 9 points (3g, 6a) in the six games vs. the Lancers this season.  Lancers forward Shane Gersich also has 9 points (5g, 4a) in six games vs. the Stars.

The Lancers cannot finish the season any higher or lower than third place in the west, so it will be interesting to see how competitive they are this weekend considering they may not have a lot to play for.  Omaha has had a recent rash of injuries and their head coach was actually suspended one game by the USHL "for his team receiving their 3rd instigator penalty of the season."

I've been told by an acquaintance who is a Lancers fan that leading scorer Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson will likely not play this weekend against the Stars.  JFK hasn't played for the Lancers since 3/13/15, so I assume he's injured and the coaches are saving him for the playoffs.

As for the Stars, they have called up two of their more talented younger players on their affiliate list in '98 forwards Ethen Frank and Dominick Mersch.  Both will play the final two games of the season against Omaha.

Frank was selected by the Stars in the 2nd round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  The native of Papillion, NE tips the scales at 5'10", 175 pounds.  Ethen was called up by the Stars for one game back in December of 2014 where he scored 2 points (both assists) in Lincoln's 7-5 win over the Musketeers in Sioux City.  Frank scored 90+ goals this past season for the Omaha AAA U16 program.  Ethen has committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan University, but he will be back in Lincoln next season and should play a prominent role as a top six forward.  Frank will wear #39 this weekend.

Mersch was selected by the Stars in the 1st round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  The native of Park Ridge, IL tips the scales at 6'0", 175 pounds.  Dominick will be playing in his first USHL games this weekend for the Stars.  This past season for the Chicago Mission U16 program, Dom scored 16 points (12g, 4a) in 25 games played.  Dominick has committed to play college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, but like Ethen Frank, Mersch will be back in Lincoln next season and will be another young player counted on to do big things.

With the addition of Ethen Frank to the lineup, for the first time ever, the Stars will have two Nebraska natives (Frank, Ethan Price) in the lineup.  Coincidentally, Frank and Price both played for the Omaha AAA program.

Stars forward Waltteri Hopponen will miss the final two games this season as he will be participating in the World U18 Championships, representing Team Finland.

A reminder, the Lincoln Stars are hosting a town hall meeting on Friday, April 10th at 5:15pm at the IceBox.  Stars GM Jon Hull will be available to answer questions from the fans who attend.  Lincoln owner Ryan Schiff will not be in attendance.  Free pizza will be provided.  You must have a ticket to Friday's game to attend the town hall meeting.  If there is anything you'd like to get off your chest about what has transpired this season, on or off the ice, this is your time to do it.  

I get a ton of anonymous comments left on this blog when things don't go right for the Stars (yet I hardly ever get comments when they are winning), so I hope all those anonymous people show up to the town hall meeting this Friday and voice their concerns.  Voicing them here on this blog as an anonymous entity doesn't do much, honestly.  The Stars' front office personnel may or may not read the comments here, but even if they do, it's hard to take them seriously when there is no name behind them.

Also, the Blueline Booster Club will be having their annual player plaque spring auction during the game on Friday.
The starting bid on all player plaques will be $50.00, and the "Buy It Now" option will be $125.00 per plaque. 

Bidding will begin at 6:00pm and go until 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd intermission.  

The auction sign-up sheets will be located in the south hallway of the IceBox.  Proceeds from the auction will go to the cost of the trading card packs.  

Click here to view photos of all of the player plaques up for auction.  I've included a photo to the left of what your typical player plaque will look like.

Well, the Stars won't be participating in the USHL Clark Cup playoffs this year, but you could say that Lincoln's playoffs will be this two-game series vs. the Lancers.  It's hard to know how competitive Omaha will be this weekend since they don't have a lot to play for, other than pride.  I'm sure the Lancers don't want to head into the playoffs on a losing streak, either.  

I'm hopeful the Stars can forget the losses and disappointment of this season and really come out strong this weekend against their rival and put two quality 60-minute efforts together.  Finish out the season with a bang and some positivity.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mike Melbye's Lincoln Stars All-Time Line Charts

A few weeks ago, Stars radio announcer and historian Mike Melbye reached out to me and asked if I could help him put together a list of players who would be worthy of being included on an all-time line chart(s). 

 Of course I agreed to help.

So what I did at the time was to create two different "teams," or line charts.  A first team, and a second team.  My first team consisted of former Stars players who were "no brainers."  The second team consisted of some no brainers, and some players one could argue for or against.

This past Tuesday, Mike was the guest speaker at the monthly Blueline Booster Club Meeting.  Mike unveiled his all-time line charts (which I'll include below), and brought along former Stars VP Steve Zoucha, and Stars hall-of-famer Derek Reynolds to help with the presentation and talk about some of the players on his list.

These lists are a lot of fun to about as fans, and I hope we get a lot of comments below.  There are so many great players to consider.  Mike's line charts below are pretty similar to the charts I shared with him a few weeks ago.  A few names on my line charts that weren't on Mike's were forwards Garrett Peterson, Jared Hanson, and defensemen Lee Marvin and Dax Lauwers.  I might also have Michael Bitzer on my 2nd team.

Without further adieu, here are the two all-time line charts Mike put together.  After the line charts, I'll include a note from Mike.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Ron Convey and Scott Grau for allowing me to be the speaker at the Blueline Booster Club meeting on April 7th.  Two good friends of mine had a story or two to share as well, and I appreciate Derek Reynolds and Steve Zoucha for showing up and making the night even more fun.  Thanks guys.
With Yeti’s help I came up with two ‘All-time Lincoln Stars Line Charts’ of 21 former players each and posted them at the meeting.  The line charts were for fun and to help with the story telling that went on.  I had several requests to post them, and I felt Yeti’s blog was the best place to do so.  
There had to be over a dozen guys that were left off that probably shouldn't have been, so feel free to make arguments for your picks that didn't make it.
See you all at the Ice Box on Friday night.

Congratulations to Biagio Lerario!

I'm a little late with this news that was announced yesterday, but congratulations go out to Lincoln Stars forward Biagio Lerario who will be attending Brown University starting the fall of 2016.

Biagio announced his commitment to Brown yesterday on Twitter.  Click here to read the tweet.  

Click here to read the official announcement from the USHL.

Biagio is finishing up his first full season with the Stars.  He is currently tied with Michael Gillespie as Lincoln's top point scorer with 34 points (20g, 14a) games played.  He has also racked up 110 penalty minutes.

Lerario was originally acquired by the Lincoln Stars in December of 2013 in a trade with the Chicago Steel.  In that particular trade, the Stars sent affiliate forward Gord Helmuth to the Steel for Lerario.  Helmuth never played for the Steel while Lerario has been a big part of the Stars last year, and this year.  He'll also be back in 2015-16 for Lincoln adding grit, points, and leadership to the lineup.

Biagio must have a good head on his shoulders as an ivy league school like Brown University isn't going to offer a scholarship to any schmuck off the street.  Brown University is located in Providence, RI and the Bears hockey club plays in ECAC.  Former Stars defenseman Kyle Quick was a senior on last season's Brown University Bears hockey team.

Congratulations again to Biagio!  Well deserved.  He's a kid who plays with a ton heart, and isn't afraid to back up his teammates when needed.  He's a goal scorer, but also isn't afraid to get his nose dirty in the rough areas on the ice.  He is definitely a fan favorite at the IceBox.  I'm excited to see what he brings to the team next season.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 0, Sioux Falls 7

Friday night at the brand new Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD, the Stampede scored four goals in the first period to help trample and shutout the Stars by a score of 7-0.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 17-36-5 (39 points) on the season with two more games to be played.  The 36 losses by the 2014-15 team is now tied for the most losses in one season with the 2009-10 Stars team that finished 16-36-8.  Click here to view the current league standings.

For obvious reasons this recap will be brief.  I listened to the radio broadcast, but I did not watch it on FASTHockey.

As I mentioned above, this game went south early for the Stars as the Stampede outscored Lincoln 4-0 in the opening period.  Uber-talented '98 forward Kieffer Bellows, who has feasted on the Stars this season, had 3 points (2g, 1a) in the first period alone in this game.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett got the start in this contest and played the first period before he was pulled.  Hackett stopped 13 of 17 shots on goal in the opening twenty minutes.  Lincoln netminder Peyton Jones played the last two periods and stopped 13 of 16 shots on goal.

Lincoln actually outshot Sioux Falls 17-16 in the final forty minutes, but the Stampede goaltending tandem of Stefanos Lekkas and Arthur Brey combined to pitch the shutout.  Maybe I missed something mentioned on the radio broadcast, but I'm not sure why both Stampede goaltenders played in this game.  I'm pretty sure Lekkas got the start, but maybe he was injured in the 2nd period?  I'm not sure.  Or maybe the Stampede knew this was an easy win and wanted to get both goaltenders some playing time.

Sioux Falls outscored Lincoln 3-0 in the second, and third periods to finish out the scoring.  Shots on goal were 33-21 in favor of the 'Pede.  Sioux Falls went 1-for-2 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-5.

Stampede forward Kieffer Bellows finished with a hat trick and one assist for a total of 4 points against the Stars.  In four games against Lincoln this season, Bellows racked up 11 points (7g, 4a).

I hate to sound apathetic, but I've never felt this "happy" the season is about to end.  For a fan, it's been rough.  I can't imagine what these kids are going through, especially since the head coach continues to throw them under the bus at every opportunity during the postgame radio show.  I normally don't listen to the postgame coach's comments, but I did last night.  I was quickly reminded why I don't listen.  As a fan, it's hard to feel excited for the future at this point.

The final two games of the season will be played this weekend against the Omaha Lancers.  Friday's game against Omaha will be played at the IceBox, and the final game of the season for the Stars will take place at the Ralston Arena in Ralston, NE on Saturday.  More on those two games later in the week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede

The Lincoln Stars will play only one game this weekend, and it will take place Saturday night in Sioux Falls, SD against the Stampede.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you can't make it to this 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.

The Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 17-35-5 (39 points).  Lincoln will likely finish the 2014-15 season with the worst record in the USHL, allowing them to pick first in the upcoming USHL entry and futures drafts in May.  Click here to view the current league standings.

The Stars are coming off a couple of midweek games in which they earned two of four points.  I wasn't able to attend the Tuesday game, nor follow the Wednesday contest, so I did not post a recap article.

On Tuesday, Lincoln got a very impressive 5-2 win over the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox.  Despite being outshot 41-25, Lincoln had goals from Grant Jozefek, Luke Jaycox (his first career USHL goal), Waltteri Hopponen, Chris Gambardella, and Biagio Lerario.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett once again saved the day as he stopped 39 of 41 for the win.

In Cedar Rapids, IA on Wednesday against the Roughriders, the Stars had a 3-1 lead after one period, but it fell apart after that.  The Riders outscored Lincoln 3-0 in the final two periods, while outshooting them 23-7, to complete the comeback and beat the Stars by the score of 4-3.  Biagio Lerario, Jack Badini, and Patrick Polino all scored in the first period for Lincoln.  Cam Hackett 33 of 37 in the loss.  You aren't going to win too many games with only 7 shots on goal through two periods.

Lincoln's opponent on Saturday evening will be the Sioux Falls Stampede, who currently sit in fourth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 31-21-5 (67 points).  The Stampede are 4-1-0 in their last games played, and are 18-7-3 at home this season.

This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and 'Pede will meet in the 2014-15 season.  The Stars are 0-3-0 in the past three meetings and were outscored 13-5 in those three games.

The Stampede have clinched a playoff spot in the west, and will likely be the #4 seed in the west.  This is definitely a team that plays much better at home, as their road record of 13-14-2 is evidence of that.  If the Stampede can steal a road game in the first round of the playoffs, they have a small chance at upsetting the #1 seed in the west.

I'm hoping the Stars will call up '98 protected forwards Dominick Mersch and Ethen Frank in these last 2-3 games to get them some playing time.  Mersch and Frank, the top two '98's on Lincoln's affiliate roster, should be full-time players with the Stars next season.  These two kids should play a BIG role in Lincoln's rebuilding process next season.

Well, folks....only three games left in this season.  The last two games will be next weekend with a home-and-home series against the Omaha Lancers.  This season certainly hasn't gone as well as we hoped, but let's support the players as much as we can in these last three games.  Despite the record, it would be nice to see the boys finish the season strong.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Monday, March 30, 2015

B³ Midweek Preview: Omaha and Cedar Rapids

Old rivals will meet once again this Tuesday evening when the Lincoln Stars host the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox in Lincoln, NE

Then on Wednesday (April Fool's Day), the Stars will travel to Cedar Rapids, IA to take on the eastern conference Roughriders.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

If you're unable to attend either of the two games this week, 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 last place in the USHL western conference (and last place overall) with a record of 16-34-5 (37 points).  Lincoln is riding a five-game losing streak with five games remaining in the 2014-15 regular season.  Click here to view the league standings.

Tuesday's opponent, the Omaha Lancers, are in third place in the USHL western conference with a record of 31-16-8 (70 points).  Omaha is 2-2-1 in their last five games played.  The Lancers have the top-ranked penalty kill unit in the whole USHL at 86.6% (Stars are second to last at 74.4%).

The Tuesday evening contest will be the sixth time these two teams will have met this season.  In the five previous games, the Lancers went 4-0-1 against the Stars and outscored them 21-13.

The Lancers and Stars will become very familiar in these last five games of the regular season as they will meet three times.  The two teams will play a home-and-home Fri/Sat series on the last weekend of the regular season.

On Wednesday, the Stars will take on another very good team in the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, who sport a record of 37-18-0 (74 points) and are in second place in the USHL eastern conference.  The 'Riders are 3-2-0 in their last five games played.

This is definitely not unusual, but the Roughriders have the least penalized team in the USHL with 635 penalty minutes in 55 games played (11.5 PIM's per game.  Lincoln has racked up 1058 PIM's in 55 games (19.2 PIM's per game).

This has traditionally been a bad matchup for the Lincoln Stars, especially in their barn.  The Roughriders are disciplined, well coached, and play a euro game.  They do not play the body that much compared to most USHL teams, but instead use speed and skill to outperform their opponents.

Two very tough games for the Stars this Tuesday and Wednesday against teams who have already wrapped up a playoff spot.  It won't be easy, but it would be nice to get at least two points, preferably at home against those dastardly Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 3/27 & 3/28

Lincoln's woes continued as the Green Bay Gamblers swept the Stars in two games this weekend at the Resch Center in Green Bay, WI.  The Gamblers started the weekend series with a 5-3 win over the Stars on Friday.  On Saturday, the Gamblers finished it out with a 5-4 victory.

3/27:  Lincoln 3, Green Bay 5
3/28:  Lincoln 4, Green Bay 5

The Lincoln Stars are still in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of  16-34-5 (37 points)

The Stars have now lost five in a row with five games remaining in the 2014-15 season.  Lincoln has been outscored 32-11 in their current five-game losing streak.

I was able to listen to the radio broadcast for the Friday game, but I was not able to follow the Saturday contest.  If anyone out there watched these games online, please leave a comment below and let us know how the boys looked.

Lincoln 3, Green Bay 5

On Friday, the Gamblers scored two powerplay goals, and one shorthanded goal in route to a 5-3 win.  Green Bay's powerplay unit, which coming into this weekend was the worst PP unit in the entire USHL at 13/4%, went 3-for-6 against Lincoln's PK unit.

It was the "Marc Michaelis Show" as the Green Bay forward scored 4 goals, and added 1 assist, to lead the Gamblers.  The four goals scored by Michaelis was the first time a USHL players scored four goals in one game this season.  Stars seem to have been on the wrong end of records this season.

A common theme this weekend in Green Bay for the Stars would be to fall behind early, stage a comeback, but then eventually fall in the end.

In this particular game, the Gamblers got out to a 3-1 lead after two periods before consecutive Lincoln goals from Chris Dodero and Michael Gillespie early in the third period actually tied this game at 3-3.  Stars forward Grant Jozefek scored Lincoln's first goal of the game in the second period.

The Stars showed life getting the score tied at 3-3 at the halfway point of the third period, but the Gamblers responded with two unanswered goals in the latter half of the period to pull away from Lincoln and get the two points.

Lincoln went 0-for-2 on the powerplay while the Gamblers went 3-for-6.  Shots were even at 32-32.  Green Bay won the special teams war for sure.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 32 shots in the loss against his former team.  Green Bay goaltender Jason Pawloski stopped 29 of 32 for the win.

Lincoln 4, Green Bay 5

Five different Gamblers scored, and Green Bay held off another comeback attempt by the Stars to sweep the weekend series with a 5-4 win over Lincoln

The Gamblers got out to an early 3-0 lead, only to see the Stars score three unanswered of their own to tied it up at 3-3 in the second period.  Just like Friday's game, once the game was tied, the Gamblers scored two straight to regain the lead and hold on.

Down 3-0 after one period in Green Bay, things weren't looking good for the Stars.  However, towards the latter half of the second period Lincoln fought back with three unanswered goals scored in less than two minutes.

Stars forward Patrick Polino started the comeback with his 14th goal of the season at the 13:05 mark of the second period.  Biagio Lerario made it a one-goal game 53 seconds after the Polino goal with his 18th goal of the season.  Dominick Sacco completed the comeback at the 15:01 mark of the second period to knot the game at 3-3.  Suddenly, the Stars were right back in this gae.

The momentum killer for the Stars came with only 3:17 left in the second period when the Gamblers scored to take a 4-3 lead which they took into the second intermission.

In the third, the Gamblers scored at the 11:09 mark to take a commanding two-goal lead at 5-3.  Stars defenseman Cam Lee got the Stars back to within one goal at the 13:19, but it wasn't enough.  Green Bay held off Lincoln the final six minutes of the game to secure the weekend sweep.

Lincoln went 0-for-1 on the powerplay, while the Gamblers went 1-for-3.  The Stars only had 3 powerplay opportunities in the two games in Green Bay.  If you look Lincoln's special teams stats so far this season, you'll see that the Stars do not do a very good job drawing penalties.  Their 193 PP opportunities in 55 games this season is tied for second worst in the entire USHL.  That needs to change next season.

The Stars outshot the Gamblers 37-31 overall.  Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones got the start and stopped 9 of 12 shots before he was pulled at the end of the first period.  Cam Hackett finished the game and stopped 17 of 19 in the loss.  Gamblers goaltender Kevin Reich started the game and stopped 22 of 25 shots before he was pulled.  Jason Pawloski stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief to pick up the win.

Well, I was hoping for at least one win out of this weekend to beat the 16 win total the 2009-10 team finished with, but that wasn't the case.  The 2009-10 Lincoln Stars finished the season with a record of 16-36-8.  The current Stars have a record of 16-34-5.  I know all of us fans would rather not see this team finish with a worse record than that 2009-10 club.

The Stars now have five games remaining to beat that win total.  Five games against very good competition, however.  Three of the five remaining games are against Omaha, and one each against Sioux Falls and Cedar Rapids.

The Stars are back at the IceBox this upcoming Tuesday night against the Omaha Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Green Bay Gamblers

The Lincoln Stars will be in Green Bay, WI this weekend for their final long road trip of the season with back-to-back games against the Gamblers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each this weekend at the Green Bay Resch Center.

If you'd like to keep track of the Stars 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 Gamblers enter these two games against Lincoln with a record of 16-30-8 (40 points), and are currently in last place in the USHL eastern conference.  Green Bay is 2-5-3 in their last eight 10 games played and are 8-14-4 at home this season.  

The Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 16-32-5 (37 points).  Lincoln is coming off a very disappointing weekend in which they were beat in consecutive home games by the NTDP U-18 squad by a combined score of 19-3.  The Stars are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games played and are 7-13-3 on the road this season.

Click here to view the current league standings.  These teams have not met this season so these will be the only two times they will play one another in 2014-15.

As I mentioned above, these two games will match up the two worst teams in the USHL.  The final result of this weekend could determine which team picks first in the upcoming USHL entry and futures drafts.  The USHL team that finishes last overall will pick first in both the entry and the futures drafts which are held this May.

My FASTHockey subscription recently ran out, so I will not be able to watch these games online.  I'm not going to renew my subscription this late in the season just to watch a couple of road games.  I will try to listen to the radio broadcast and will post a weekend recap article sometime on Sunday.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Please help the Lahrs family if you can

Hi there, folks.  I've got a quick blog post today in hopes that we all can join together to help a fellow Lincoln Stars family member.

Some of you out there might know longtime Lincoln Stars fans and billets Roxie and Arlen "Fox" Lahrs. Sadly, Arlen passed away recently.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Roxie with time lost from work, medical expenses, and funeral arrangements.  Click here to view that GoFundMe page.

I didn't know Arlen personally, but I saw him and his wife very frequently at the IceBox over the last 9 years or so.  I know from talking to other fans who knew them that Roxie and Arlen opened their house for many, many years to Stars players as billets.

So if you can, please click on the link above and donate what you can to help Roxie through this trying time.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 3/20 & 3/21

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
It was an ugly home weekend for Lincoln as the NTDP U-18 team swept the Stars and outscored them 19-3 in the two games at the IceBox.

3/20:  Team USA 11, Lincoln 3
3/21:  Team USA 8, Lincoln 0

The Lincoln Stars are still in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of  16-32-5 (37 points).

I attended the Friday night game, but I was unable to attend Saturday's contest.  If you attended the game on Saturday, I'd appreciate if you would leave a comment below and let me know how the team looked.

Team USA 11, Lincoln 3

It was a dubious record the Stars didn't want to see broken but it happened anyway as the U-18's scored the most goals against Lincoln in one game in franchise history with a 11-3 drubbing Friday night at the IceBox.  The previous record for goals against at home was 8 goals, which last occurred during the 2009-10 season.

There wasn't much doubt that the U-18's were going to win this one after the puck was dropped.  They put on a clinic.  Most of the first period was played in Lincoln's end, and the U-18's outshot the Stars 15-5 and outscored them 2-0 in the opening twenty minutes.

The U-18's scored the first five goals of this game before Lincoln got on the scoreboard.  With only 1:42 remaining in the second period, Biagio Lerario scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season.  Lerario's goal gave the home fans something to cheer about heading into the second intermission.

In the third period, the U-18's scored first before the Stars went on a mini two-goal run.  Down 6-1, the Stars scored two goals in less than a minute just before the halfway point of the third period.  Ludvig Hoff's powerplay goal at the 8:53 mark started the mini run, and Chris Gambardella's even-strength goal at the 9:46 mark pulled the Stars to within three goals.

Unfortunately for the Stars and the home fans, it quickly went south after that.  The U-18's went on a five-goal unanswered streak for the remainder of the third period to finish out the scoring at 11-3.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 38 shots on goal in the loss.  U-18 goaltender Jake Oettinger, who normally plays on the U-17 team, didn't see much action as he stopped 14 of 17 shots on goal to get the win.

Team USA went 1-for-4 on the powerplay while the Stars went 1-for-3.

I mentioned this on Twitter this past Friday night, but I also want to mention it here.  I was really disappointed in how the coaches left Cam Hackett in net for this entire game.  I really thought at the end of the 2nd period, or maybe after the first goal or two scored in the third period, Cam should have been pulled.  That's not an indictment at all on Cam's play.  It was a shooting gallery out there for Team USA.  Cam wasn't getting any help at all.

You could tell that Hackett was getting pretty upset in the third period as the Team USA goals piled up.  I don't blame him at all.  I guess I don't understand the philosophy of keeping your goaltender in there to get shelled like that.  I doubt it helped his self esteem.  Why keep him in there for all 11 goals?  I'm just an idiot with a blog, but I would have liked to see it handled differently by the coaches.  I, along with any Stars fans on Twitter, were very disappointed with how that went down.

Team USA 8, Lincoln 0

For the second time this season, the Stars were shutout at home as the U-18's skated to a 8-0 blowout victory on Saturday evening.

I don't have much to post about this game since I wasn't there.  Based on the boxscore, and the amount of goals against, it appears that the Stars may have played better in this game compared to Friday night.  The Stars actually outshot the U-18's 23-22 in the final two periods, but unfortunately there were outscored 6-0 in those forty minutes.

Peyton Jones got the start for Lincoln and stopped 28 of 36 in the loss.  U-18 goaltender Luke Opilka stopped all 32 shots he faced to record the shutout.

The U-18's definitely won the special teams war in this particular game as Team USA went 3-for-4 on the powerplay while the Stars were 0-for-6.

The Stars wore special jerseys designed by trainer Corey Courtney in this game, and those jerseys were auctioned off afterwards with the proceeds going to the American Cancer society.  They Stars haven't posted the individual jersey totals, but the grand total raised was $20,850.  Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price's jersey was the priciest jersey auctioned off, going for $3500.

In the past six seasons, the Lincoln Stars have raised a total of $224,125 for the American Cancer Society with their annual end of the season jersey auction.  That's an incredible number.  The Stars have just about raised a quarter of a million dollars for the ACS in just the past six years.  Amazing.  I'll post the totals from the past six seasons below.

2010:  $28,750
2011:  $34,000
2012:  $47,150
2013:  $44,650
2014:  $48,725
2015:  $20,850

I think most fans knew that these two games against the U-18's were really going to be tough for the Stars.  In my opinion, if these two games were played back in October or November, the scores wouldn't have been so bad.  The Stars were playing better hockey back then, and the NTDP hadn't really had much time to gel.  Playing the U-18's this late in the season is a killer.  By now, the U-18's have played against a ton of USHL, college, and international teams and are very seasoned.

Unfortunately, the Stars have seemed to regress as this season went along, and the U-18's are on top of their game.  That's not a good combination.  The two scores from this past weekend are evident of that.  Team USA U-18's best player, forward Auston Matthews, finished with 6 points (3g, 3a) and was +6 in the two games against Lincoln.  He is definitely for real.  A lot of hockey scouts think he could be the #1 overal pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

The Stars will go on the road this upcoming weekend with two games in Green Bay, WI against the Gamblers.  These two games will likely determine which team finishes last in the USHL overall standings.  Currently, the Stars have 37 points with 7 games remaining, while the Gamblers have 39 points with 7 games remaining.  More on that series later this week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Team USA U-18's

It will be Lincoln's last full weekend of home games at the IceBox this Friday-Saturday when the Stars host the NTDP U-18 squad in back-to-back contests.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

If you're unable to attend either of the two games this weekend at the IceBox, 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 enter this weekend with a record of 16-30-5 (37 points) and are in last place in the USHL western conference.  Lincoln is 3-9-0 in their last 12 games played.  The Stars' current winning percentage of .363% is last in the USHL.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's only opponent this weekend, the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), are in eighth place in the nine-team USHL eastern conference with a record of 21-25-2 (44 points).  This will be only two times the Stars and the NTDP will face one another in the 2014-15 regular season.  

Way back in early September at the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge preseason tournament in East Meadow, NY, the NTDP U-18 team beat the Stars by a score of 4-1.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore from that game.  The U-18's outshot Lincoln 55-25 in route to the 4-1 exhibition win.

The casual USHL/Stars fan might not know this, but the NTDP, which competes in the USHL, consists of two teams (U-17's and U-18's).  The Stars will play the U-18 team on Friday and Saturday evening.

This is not to say that the U-17 squad isn't talented, because they are, but the U-18 team is the cream of the crop of the NTDP.  This particular team plays both USHL and collegiate teams throughout the season.  In fact, in 21 games against USHL foes this regular season, the U-18's are 16-4-1.

A few of the collegiate teams the U-18's have beaten this season have been Miami (OH) University, the University of Wisconsin, University of Alabama-Huntsville (twice), and the University of Minnesota.

The U-18's are 7-1-1 in their last nine games against USHL foes, and in those nine contests they outscored the competition 50-23.  

Two players on the current U-18 squad have ties to the Lincoln Stars.  USA forward Michael Floodstrand was selected by the Stars in the 2013 Futures draft, however he is no longer protected by the team.  USA forward Troy Terry was selected by Lincoln in the Indiana Ice dispersal draft this past May, and if he were to play in the USHL next season, it would be in Lincoln.  However, everything I've heard is that Terry will attend Denver University this fall.  Tough break for the Stars.  Click here to read more about Troy Terry and how the NTDP was allowed to poach him from the Stars last summer.

Leading the way on offense for the U-18's is forward Auston Matthews.  The Scottsdale, AZ native has racked up 38 points (15g, 23a) in 20 games this season against USHL competition for the U-18's.  Many hockey pundits and scouts think that Matthews could be the #1 pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft.  Matthews is undecided on a college.  He could decide to go the major junior route after this season with the NTDP.  One thing the NTDP is good at is grooming players for major junior hockey (heavy dose of sarcasm there).

Needless to say, these upcoming games will be very, very tough test for the Lincoln Stars.  They'll have to play some of their best hockey of the season to keep up with the U-18's.  Quite a few kids on the U-18 roster will be first round NHL draft picks this spring or in 2016.

Having said that, the U-18's put on their skates the same way the Stars do.  They aren't supernatural, and they can be beat.  Last season, the Stars went up to Ann Arbor, MI and beat the U-18's in their own rink by a score of 2-1 in OT.  

Win or lose, Stars fans should see the some incredible skill on display this weekend at the IceBox.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quick look at Lincoln's affiliate roster

There are still 9 games remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, but I thought I'd post a quick article reviewing what Lincoln's affiliate roster looks like right now.  

The vast majority of the players listed below were prior draft picks of the Stars.  The two exceptions:  Dylan Malmquist was acquired by Lincoln in the Tom Marchin trade.  Justin Richards was acquired by Lincoln as a "free agent" after the Stars lost 2014 Futures Draft pick (F) Sam Field to the OHL.

Quite a few players noted here will be in a Lincoln Stars uniform next season, and some have already donned the black and blue.

(D) Luke Jaycox and (F) Jack Badini are both in town finishing the season with the Stars.  (F) Ethen Frank was called up for one game back in December.  (F) Chris Klack started the season with Lincoln and played in 22 games before he went back to Canada.  All four of those players should play a big part on next year's team, in my opinion.

For those unaware, each USHL team's affiliate roster consists of two players born in 1996, six players born in 1997, and ten players born in 1998.  Lincoln only has five players born in 1997 on their affiliate roster.

You can click on the player names below to be taken directly to their Twitter account.  The only player I could not find a Twitter account for was (D) Anthony Wyse.

Ok, here we go.  


Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln along with defenseman Cam Lee for forward Tom Marchin.  Finalist for the 2015 Minnesota "Mr. Hockey."  Committed to Notre Dame.

(D) Anthony Wyse
Click here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 1st round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Injured his hip last summer and did not play organized hockey this past season .


Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 9th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft. Looked very good at Lincoln's tryout camp last year.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 9th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Finished his junior season at Edina High School (MN) this past season. 

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 14th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Played 22 games for the Stars this season.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 12th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Prospect for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.  Called up by the Stars earlier this month and has played in 7 games.

Click here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 4th round of the 2013 USHL Futures Draft.  Big, rangy d-man.  Tyler is the son of current UNO assistant coach Troy Jutting


Click here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 4th round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Called up by the Stars in January and has played in 20 games.

Click here and here to view stats (not complete stats).  Per Omaha AAA U-16 head coach David Wilkie, DiCesare scored 21 points (5g, 16a) and was +47 in 68 games this season.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 16th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  A.J's father Anthony DiCesare owns the Omaha Lancers.  We won't hold that against A.J.

Click here and here to view stats (not complete season stats).  Per Omaha AAA U-16 head coach David Wilkie, Frank racked up 136 points (86g, 50a) in 75 games this season.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 2nd round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Omaha, NE native.  Western Michigan commit.  This kid is the real deal.  

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 8th round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada native. 

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 1st round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Committed to the University of Wisconsin.  Ready to play and contribute next season for the Stars.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 7th round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Tommy is the only goaltender on Lincoln's affiliate roster.  Big, rangy kid who definitely has a future in the USHL.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln as a "free agent" in August of 2014.  Justin's father is Todd Richards who is head coach of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

Click here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 3rd round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Did not participate in Lincoln's tryout camp in 2014, but I've been told Liam is a big, punishing defenseman.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 13th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Big kid for a '98 who plays a power forward type of game.

Click here and here to view stats.  Acquired by Lincoln in the 17th round of the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  Did not participate in Lincoln's 2014 tryout camp due to injury.

If I've missed anything, please leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.