Thursday, January 29, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Des Moines Buccaneers

The Lincoln Stars will begin a seven-game homestand this weekend with back-to-back games against the Des Moines Buccaneers.

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 Bucs enter these two games against Lincoln with a record of 17-13-6 (40 points), and are currently in fourth place in the USHL western conference.

The Stars are 11 points behind the Buccaneers with a record of record of 12-18-5 (29 points).  Lincoln has lost three in a row.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the fourth and fifth meetings between these two teams so far this season.  The Stars are 1-2-0 in the three prior matchups with the Bucs.  Lincoln will play Des Moines five times in the next 13 games.

The Bucs have lost two in a row coming into this weekend, and are 1-2-2 in their last five games played.  Des Moines is 6-8-3 in 17 road games so far this season.

This is a big weekend for both of these teams as the Stars and Bucs are each looking to snap a losing streak.  Des Moines is right in the hunt for the playoff spot, so they can't afford to take Lincoln for granted.  Postseason hockey might not be on the immediate horizon for the Stars, but they have a lot to play for also (i.e. pride).

Sorry for the abbreviated weekend preview.  Just ran out of time tonight to get it done.  Hope to see some good crowds at the IceBox this weekend.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 1, Tri-City 6

The Tri-City Storm scored six unanswered goals in route to a 6-1 thumping of the Lincoln Stars at the Viaero Event Center in Kearney, NE Tuesday night.  The Storm win was their seventh in a row.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, which was their third straight, the Stars dropped to 12-18-5 (29 points) and still occupy seventh place in the USHL western conference.

Click here to view the current league standings.

For obvious reasons, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this recap.  I wasted a Tuesday evening (and $$) watching this game, and I don't want to spend a lot of time reliving it.  It was that bad.

I actually thought Lincoln played pretty well for the first 8-10 minutes of the first period before the wheels came completely of.  Ludvig Hoff gave the Stars a 1-0 lead 8 minutes into the first period after collecting a rebound from a Michael Gillespie shot on goal.  For a little while there, I thought the Stars would be in this game and maybe even have an opportunity to pull out a road win.

The Storm responded with three goals in the first period to pretty much end this game before it ever got to the second period.  TC added one goal in the second, and two more in the third period to finish out the scoring.

Shots on goal were 50-21 in favor of the Storm.  Yup, you read that correct.  Cam Hackett was once again left out to dry as he stopped 44 of 50.  As I said on Twitter last night, Hackett saw more rubber in this game than a dead skunk on the highway.  He must feel like a human pin cushion most nights.  Without a number of big saves from Cam in this game, the Storm would have won 10-1.

Best thing to do after this game is forget about it and move on.  Unfortunately, we have seen too many of these "forget it and move on" types of games this season.

I'm not seeing a lot of improvement on either end of the ice.  I've never seen a Lincoln Stars team have so much trouble getting the puck out of their own zone.  It's something I noticed in the preseason and early in the regular season, but I chalked it up to a young team learning a new system from a new head coach.  Unfortunately, 30+ games later, I still see the same issues with not getting the puck out of their own zone, turning the puck over, which leads to goals against.

The Stars finished their four-game road trip with a record of 1-3-0.  Lincoln now begins a seven-game homestand with the first two contests this Friday-Saturday at the IceBox against the Des Moines Buccaneers.  The Stars will play the Bucs five times in their next 13 games.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Monday, January 26, 2015

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Tri-City Storm

The Lincoln Stars will travel to the Viaero Event Center in Kearney, NE this Tuesday evening for a midweek tilt against the Tri-City Storm who are riding a six-game winning streak.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you can't make it out to Kearney, 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 12-17-5 (29 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, two points ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks and eight points behind the sixth place Fargo Force.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the third of eights meetings between these two teams in the 2014-15 regular season.  The Stars are 0-2-0 in the previous two contests against the Storm this season.  Both of those games were decided by one goal.

In the last meeting, the Storm squeaked by the Stars in Kearney by the score of 2-1.

Tri-City comes into this mid-week matchup with a record of 20-10-5 (45 points) and are tied for second place in the USHL western conference standings with the Omaha Lancers.  The Storm have a very impressive home record of 12-3-2 and are riding a current four-game home winning streak.

The Storm sport the top powerplay unit in the entire USHL, clicking at 25.19%.  Their penalty kill unit is the 7th best in the USHL with a rating o 82.91%.  Very, very good special teams for Tri-City.

Tough task for the Stars this Tuesday evening in Kearney, but every game is going to be this tough from here on out.  Lincoln's four-game road swing started off well with a quality win in Madison against the Capitols, so let's hope it ends well with a victory against the Storm.  It would be nice for Lincoln to head into the upcoming seven-game homestand with a little momentum and a win under their belt.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 1/23 & 1/24

It was another 0-2-0 weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they lost two road games against divisional foes ahead of them in the USHL western conference standings.  On Friday, the Stampede beat Lincoln in Sioux Falls, SD by the score of 3-1.  Then on Saturday, the Lancers beat the Stars 6-3 in Ralston, NE.

Boxscores:
1/23:  Lincoln 1, Sioux Falls 3
1/24:  Lincoln 3, Omaha 6

With the two losses the Stars fell to 12-17-5 (29 points) on the season, good enough for seventh place in the USHL Western Conference.

The last place Waterloo Blackhawks, who have won three in a row, are now only two points behind the Stars.  Lincoln does have one game in hand over Waterloo.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln 1, Sioux Falls 3

A dominating first period effort was all that the Stampede needed to cruise to a 3-1 victory over the Lincoln Stars this past Friday night at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD.

All three goals that the Stampede scored in this game came in the first period.  Sioux Falls also outshot Lincoln 19-6 in the opening twenty minutes.  Not a great start at all.  I was watching on FASTHockey and the Stars looked asleep at the wheel.  We've seen some stinker opening periods from the Stars this season but this may have been the worst so far.

I'm not sure if they were suffering from bus legs from the long trip from Madison, WI to Sioux Falls, SD but the Stars didn't have their head in the game in the first period and it cost them.

Considering how bad they looked in the first period, I thought the Stars actually played much better defensively in the latter two periods of this game but the damage had been done.  Offensively, the Stars never really got going against the Stampede.  Give credit to Sioux Falls for that.  They play a smothering team defense and put a blanket on the Stars for most of the 60 minutes.

The lone Stars goal was scored by Ludvig Hoff on a powerplay early in the third period.  On the play, Stars forward Michael Gillespie collected the puck deep in the Sioux Falls zone before firing a no-look backhand pass into the slot where a streaking Ludvig Hoff fired it low, glove side past Stampede goaltender Art Brey to pull the Stars to within one goal.

Surprisingly, there was only one powerplay opportunity in this entire game, and the Stars scored on it.  Sioux Falls never got one man advantage opportunity.  That's good team discipline by the Stars.

Lincoln goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 30 shots on net in the loss.  Cam didn't get a lot of help from his teammates in the first period.  Sioux Falls goaltender Art Brey only faced 17 Lincoln shots and saved 16.  Easy night for Brey.

Lincoln 3, Omaha 6

The Lancers outscored the Stars 2-0 in the third period to pull away from Lincoln and get a 6-3 victory in front of a sellout crowd Saturday night at Ralston Arena, in Ralston, NE.

I was only able to catch bits and pieces of this game so this recap will be brief.

It was another slow start for the Stars in this game as the Lancers jumped out to a 1-0 lead less than five minutes gone, but Lincoln responded with a goal from an unlikely source three minutes later.

Down the one goal, the Stars had the puck in the Omaha zone.  Lincoln forward Patrick Polino passed the puck back to defenseman Connor Frantti at the point who unleashed a bomb from just inside the blueline.  Stars forward Joe Lappin did a great job screening Omaha goaltender Zach Driscoll as Frantti's shot got past everyone and found the back of the net.  It was Frantti's first career USHL goal in 83 games.  As you can imagine, Connor was very excited after the goal, as he should have been.

Omaha forward Shane Gersich scored his first of three goals on the night at the 13:51 mark of the first period to give his team a 2-1 lead.  Lancers took that 2-1 score into the locker room at the first intermission.  Omaha outshot the Stars 20-6 in the first period.

So just in the two games over the weekend, the Stars were outshot by a combined 39-12 in the two first periods.

It was kind of a wild and crazy second period as the two teams combined for four goals scored and rash of penalty minutes.

Gersich scored his second goal of the game at the 4:58 mark to give Omaha a 3-1 lead.  However, the Stars responded with a goal at the 8:56 mark.  Ludvig Hoff's powerplay goal pulled the Stars to within one goal at 3-2.  It was Hoff's second goal of the weekend.  Hoff has 8 points (4g, 4a) in his last five games played.

With less than a minute remaining in the second period, the Lancers scored what seemed like at the time a momentum killer for the Stars.  Anthony Angello's powerplay goal with only 19 seconds remaining gave Omaha a commanding 3-1 lead.  I think most people watching in person or at home figured the Lancers would take the two goal lead into the second intermission but that wasn't the case.

Stars defenseman Dylan Woolf's goal with only 2 seconds left in the second period brought Lincoln back to within one goal.  Woolf's goal, which was his first in a Lincoln Stars uniform, also gave his team a much needed momentum boost heading into the second intermission.

Unfortunately in the third period, it was all Omaha as the Lancers scored two goals, including Gersich's third of the night, to win this one by the score of 6-3.

Shots were 43-24 in favor of Omaha through the three periods.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 37 of 43 in the loss.  Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll stopped 21 of 24 in the win.

The Stars had plenty of powerplay opportunities to get back in this game but were only able to score one PP goal in eight chances.  Meanwhile, the Lancers went 2-for-6 with the man advantage.

With the loss the Stars fell to 1-3-1 in five games against the Omaha Lancers this season.  These two teams won't meet again until Tuesday, March 31st at the IceBox.

The Stars will wrap up their four-game road swing this Tuesday night in Kearney, NE against the Tri-City Storm.  The Storm are playing their best hockey of the season right now as they have won six straight.



I hate to say it, folks...but the Stars are not a playoff team this season.  I'll probably catch some flak for saying that, but that's just how I feel.  I haven't seen the type of improvement I'd expect over the course of 30+ games.  Consistency is still a big issue.  Some games, like against Madison this past week, the Stars look very good for 60 minutes.  Other games, they might play well in one period and look lost and lethargic in the other two.  Slow starts continue to be a problem as well.

Having said that, going into this season I didn't expect this to be a playoff team.  New owner, new GM, new head coach, new system, and a ton of young players trying all to work with one another.  It was a big task.  When friends asked me before the season started how I thought the Stars would do in 2014-15, I said that it was probably not going to be a playoff team, but I thought they could be a .500 hockey club.  As of right now, the Stars are 11 points out of a playoff spot in the western conference and have a winning percentage of .426 (third worst in the USHL).

If they don't make the playoffs, it will be the first time in franchise history that the Stars won't play postseason hockey in consecutive seasons.

Who knows, I could be all wrong.  Maybe the Stars go 7-0-0 in this upcoming seven-game homestand.  Maybe a couple of the teams ahead of them in the standings falter down the stretch.  If the Stars can pull it together and squeak into the playoffs, I'll be the first to eat crow.  I'll be happy to eat a big plate of it.

Win or lose, I'll still be at the IceBox supporting the Stars.  I'm not giving up on them and I hope the fans don't either.  It doesn't happen very often, but the Stars have missed the playoffs in the past and the fans have still packed the IceBox.  Even if they aren't going to play postseason hockey, there is still a lot of opportunity in these last 26 games to show improvement heading into next season.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Edit:  I wanted to highlight an article that Alex Lantz of the Lincoln Journal Star authored.  That link is below.  Really good stuff.  Alex is in his first year covering the Stars for the LJS and he's doing a fantastic job in my opinion.  Much different from what we've seen in the past from certain LJS journalists.  Unfortunately, Lincoln Stars hockey gets pushed to the side too often in this city because of the 1,000 pound gorilla that is Nebraska Huskers athletics.  Just glad to see Alex and the LJS commit to the Stars.

Click here to read the article
Click here to see some pictures taken on the road

Thursday, January 22, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux Falls and Omaha


Lincoln's four-game road trip continues this weekend with two crucial contests against western conference divisional foes who are above them in the standings.  On Friday, the Stars will be in Sioux Falls, SD to face the Stampede for the first time this season.  Then on Saturday, the Stars will take on the Omaha Lancers in Ralston, NE.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST on Friday, and at 7:35pm CST on Saturday.

If you you can't make it to either of the two road 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 come into this weekend with a record of 12-15-5 (29 points) and are in 7th place in the USHL western conference.  Lincoln is six points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and 8 points behind the sixth place Fargo Force.  The Stars are 11 points out of fourth place (playoff eligible) in the west.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln is coming off an impressive 3-2 overtime road victory this past Wednesday evening against the Madison Capitols.  The win snapped Lincoln's three-game losing streak.

Lincoln opponent this Friday evening will be the Sioux Falls Stampede, who sit in fifth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 17-13-4 (38 points).  Sioux Falls has a record of 11-6-3 in 20 home games this season .  The Stampede are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, which were all at home.  Their game against Lincoln on Friday will wrap up a nine-game homestand.

Surprisingly, this will be the first time in the 2014-15 regular the Stars and Stampede will play one another.  Lincoln and Sioux Falls will play a total of four times this season.  Friday's game in Sioux Falls, SD will be played at the brand new Denny Sanford Premier Center, which replaced the old (and horribly designed for hockey) Sioux Falls Arena.

At Ralston Arena on Saturday, the Stars will battle their rival the Omaha Lancers, who sit in second place in the USHL western conference with a record of 19-9-5 (43 points), two points out of first place.

This will be the fifth of eight meetings between the two rivals.  Lincoln is has a record (1-2-1) in their four prior games against Omaha this season.  In their last meeting against Omaha, the Stars won in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 OT victory at the IceBox on 1/9/15.

Since Lincoln's win against Omaha on 1/9/15, which snapped their nine-game winning streak, the Lancers are 3-1-0 in their last four games played.  So if you go back 14 games, the Lancers sport a very impressive record of 12-1-1.  Five of those twelve wins came in a shootout.

Big, big weekend to say the least for the Lincoln Stars.  They are a relatively healthy bunch right now, fighting like crazy to get back into the playoff hunt.  Getting three of four points this weekend has to be considered the starting point.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Madison 2 OT

The Lincoln Stars snapped their three-game losing streak Wednesday evening in Madison, WI with a gutsy 3-2 OT win over the Capitols.

The Lincoln victory also snapped Madison's three-game winning streak.

Click here to view the boxscore.

With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 12-15-5 (29 points) on the season.  Lincoln is in seventh place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Madison opened up the scoring with  a lucky bounce of the back of Stars goaltender Peyton Jones seven minutes into the first period.  Madison forward Hunter Luhman had the puck just behind the goaline to the side of Lincoln goal, and Luhman simply fired the puck off the back of Jones and the lucky deflection found the back of the net to give the Capitols a 1-0 lead.

The Stars responded with a goal from Patrick Polino with less than three minutes remaining in the first period to tie the game at 1-1.  On the play, Lincoln forward Dominick Sacco brought the puck into the Madison before passing over to the right wing where a streaking Polino accepted the puck and fired a rocket that beat Madison goaltender Garrett Metcalf high short side.

It was looking like the score would remain at 1-1 going into the first intermission, but a bad turnover by the Stars in their own zone led to a Capitols goal with only 20 seconds remaining in the first period.  Madison took momentum and a 2-1 lead into the locker room after the opening period.

Shots were 14-10 in favor of Madison in the first period.  Based on what I saw via FASTHockey, I highly doubt Madison had 14 shots on goal in the first.  As we'd see the rest of this game, I think the off ice officials in Madison were definitely cookin' the shots totals in favor of the home team in this game.

The lone goal scored in the second period came at the 6:46 mark from Stars forward Biagio Lerario after a wild goal-mouth scramble.  On the play, a few Stars had wide open chances but the puck was either saved by Metcalf or blocked in front.  Metcalf was still scrambling in net when Lerario gained possession of the puck and quickly fired it into the open net to tie the score at 2-2.

Shots were 17-9 in favor of Madison in the second period.  Again, more home cookin' shots totals.  No way did Madison have 17 shots on goal.

Neither team would score in the third period, so this game went to overtime tied at 2-2.  Shots were 7-5 in favor of Madison in the third.

In the overtime period, Lincoln defenseman Ryan Jones scored the game-winner just 26 seconds in to give the Stars a big 3-2 victory over the Madison Capitols.  Stars forwards Biagio Lerario and Miguel Fidler got the play started with some good work behind the Madison net.  After a Miguel Fidler shot on goal was saved by Metcalf, the rebound came back out to Fidler who, while on his knees, passed the puck back out to Ryan Jones who unleashed a bomb which beat Metcalf high glove side.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 36 of 38 shots on goal to record his third win of the season.  Nice to see Peyton rebound with a quality effort tonight.  He has struggled a bit as of late, but he came up big against Madison.  Hopefully this big road win give him the boost of confidence he needs heading into the second half of the regular season.

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the powerplay.

Great win to start this four-game road swing for Lincoln.  This should give them some much needed confidence heading into their two big road games this weekend.  On Friday, the Stars will be in Sioux Falls to face the Stampede for the first time this season.  Then on Saturday, the Stars will be in Ralston to take on the Omaha Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Madison Capitols

The Lincoln Stars will look to snap their three-game losing streak Wednesday night when they go on the road to face the expansion Madison Capitols.

Be advised that the puck drops at 8:05pm CST for this particular game.

This game will be played at LaBahn Arena, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  LaBahn Arena is the home ice of the Wisconsin Badgers women's ice hockey team.

Click here to see a picture of the inside of LaBahn Arena.  Normally, the Capitols play their home games at Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

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.

I'm running out of time tonight to get this article posted, so it will be a short one.

The Stars are 11-15-5 (27 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, four points ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks and ten points behind the sixth place Fargo Force.  Lincoln does have three games in hand over Fargo, and two games in hand over Waterloo.

This will be the second and final meeting between these two teams in the 2014-15 regular season.  In their only other meeting, the Stars beat the Capitols by the score of 3-2 at the IceBox on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015.  Cam Hackett stopped 29 of 31 shots he faced, and Patrick Polino scored the game-winning goal in that Lincoln win against Madison on 1/3/15.

Madison comes into this mid-week matchup with a record of 17-10-5 (39 points) and are tied for fourth place in the USHL eastern conference standings with the Younstown Phantoms.  The Capitols are 8-5-1 at home this season, but they have never played at LaBahn Arena, so this will be a new environment for them as well.

Since losing to Lincoln on 1/3/15, the Capitols are 3-0-1 in their last four games played.  Madison is currently riding a three-game winning streak coming into their contest with the Stars on Wednesday evening.

Recently acquired Stars forward Ethan Price has been suspended one game by the USHL due to the head-butting major and game misconduct he picked up this past Saturday night in Lincoln 5-4 OT shootout loss to the Fargo Force.  Price will miss the game against Madison, but he will be available to play this weekend when Lincoln continues their road swing with a Friday night tilt against the Stampede in Sioux Falls, and a Saturday night matchup in Omaha against the Lancers.

It's put up or shut up time for the Lincoln Stars.  If this team is serious about contending for a playoff spot in the USHL western conference, it all starts with a 60 minutes effort against Madison.  Earning two points on the road against a good Capitols club would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 1/16 & 1/17

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
It was a disappointing home weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they were only able to pick up 1 of 4 possible points in two games at the IceBox against the Fargo Force.  Meanwhile, the fifth-place Force picked up 4 big points to increase their standings lead to 10 points over the sixth-place Stars.

Boxscores:
1/16:  Fargo 2, Lincoln 1
1/17:  Fargo 5, Lincoln 4 OT Shootout



After the 0-1-1 weekend, Lincoln fell to 11-15-5 (27 points) on the season.  The sixth-place Stars are four points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and now 10 points behind the fifth-place Fargo Force.  As of today, the Stars are 12 points out of a playoff spot in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Fargo 2, Lincoln 1

Denis Smirnov's third period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Force skated to a 2-1 victory Friday night at the IceBox.  The Fargo win spoiled the debut of Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price.

Of the two games against Fargo this weekend, I thought Fargo was the better team overall through 60 minutes on Friday night.  The Stars outshot Fargo 33-28 in the 2-1 loss, but many of Lincoln's shots were from the perimeter and Force goaltender Mathias Israelsson really didn't have to work very hard for the win.

After a scoreless first period, Miguel Fidler scored Lincoln's only goal of the night at the 10:17 mark of the second period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.  Miguel, who always seems to be his best in and around the opposing team's net, skated out from the corner and put a quick deke on Israelsson before tossing a backhand shot glove high into the open net.

A little over three minutes later, Fargo scored their first goal of the game to knot the score at 1-1.  The score would remain at 1-1 going into the second intermission.  Shots were 25-18 in favor of Lincoln through forty minutes.

In the third period, the lone goal by Smirnov at the 8:40 mark proved to be enough for the Force as Israelsson and company held the Stars off the scoreboard the remainder of the period.  Shots were 33-28 in favor of Lincoln in this game.

Ethan Price finished with three shots on goal and was -1 in his debut with the Stars.  He's definitely a player who skates hard and will hit anything that moves.  He had a few big hits Friday night that got the fans excited for sure.

Friday night's game was also the debut of Stars forward Jack Badini.  The talented '98 forward was selected by the Lincoln Stars in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  Badini finished with one shot on goal in his debut against Fargo.  Badini will be the youngest player on Lincoln's roster.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 26 of 28 shots on goal in the loss.  Once again, Hackett did all that he could be asked of in this game.  Cam made a number of big saves while the Stars were on the penalty kill.  Force goaltender Mathias Israelsson was just a little bit better, as he stopped 32 of 33 for the win.

The Stars went 0-for-2 on the powerplay while the Force were 0-for-4.

I thought Lincoln could have done a better job in this game in terms of their overall energy, which seemed to be flat at times, especially in the first period.  I also would have liked to see Lincoln put more bodies in front of Israelsson to make him really work hard to make those saves.  Seemed like the majority of saves Israelsson made were ones that he could see all the way in.

After the game, Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg stated that Saturday's game against Fargo was a "must win" for Lincoln.  I agreed with that statement, although I would argue that Friday's game was a must win as well.

Fargo 5, Lincoln 4 OT

The Stars blew a two-goal lead in the third period and eventually fell in the overtime shootout Saturday night at the IceBox by the score of 5-4.  Lincoln did earn the one point, but this was definitely a big opportunity wasted.

Fargo opened the scoring with a powerplay goal with only 1:17 remaining in the first period to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.  Shots were 9-8 through the first period in favor of Fargo.  Lincoln had three powerplay opportunities in the first period and were unable to find the back of the net.  At lease in that first twenty minutes, Lincoln's powerplay unit did not look very good at all.

In the second period, Dominick Sacco got the crowd back into the game early with his first of two goals on the night, this one scored just 29 seconds in.  Ethan Price picked up an assist, and his first USHL point, on Sacco's first goal of the game.

Fargo responded at the 8:43 mark of the second period with an even-strength goal to take a 2-1 lead.  However, the Stars would score the next three consecutive goal to take what seemed like at the time, a commanding 4-2 lead.

Sacco's second goal of the game, which came on a powerplay, was scored at the 13:14 mark of the second period to knot the score at 2-2.  The Lincoln Stars got video of this goal, which you can click here to see.  Good stuff by the Stars' Greg McCubbins getting that Sacco goal.  You can see Israelsson cheating a bit away from the near post, and Sacco found his spot and roofed it into the top corner.  Not a lot of room there to put the puck, and Sacco did a great job finding the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season.

It was looking like the score would remain at 2-2, but Patrick Polino's shorthanded goal with only 39 seconds remaining in the second period gave Lincoln a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission and all momentum on their side.  On the play, Stars defenseman James Ladouce cleared the puck out of the zone and Polino found it at full speed in the neutral zone.  Polino came in on Israelsson and fired a snap shot that rocketed glove-high past the Fargo goaltender.  It was a quick bang-bang play and Polino made it happen.  It was Polino's 10th goal of the season, and his second shorthanded goal.

After two period, the Stars had a 3-2 lead.  Shots were 13-11 in favor of Fargo in the second period.

Early in the third period, Lincoln extended their lead to 4-2 when Joe Lappin scored at the 1:10 mark.  Lappin collected a loose puck in the slot and quickly wristed the puck past Israelsson before he could get set up.  At the time, I really thought this was the nail in the coffin for the Force.  The crowd was loud, and the Stars definitely had all of the momentum on their side.  Unfortunately, as we've seen too often this season, Lincoln was unable to keep that third period lead.

Denis Smirnov's goal at the 12:37 mark of the third period gave Fargo life as now the Force were only down one goal with less than 8 minutes to play.

Fargo's game-tying goal was a weird one.  With only 2:13 remaining, Mitch Slattery of the Force skated the puck up the ice and simply dumped the puck into the Lincoln zone.  Slattery was probably 10 feet outside of the Stars' blueline when he dumped the puck in on Hackett.  Somehow the puck got past Hackett and just about everyone on the ice and in the stands were stunned.  I'm not sure if the puck took a crazy hop, but Hackett put his glove out to save it and it got past him.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but Cam should have put his whole body in front of the puck instead of reaching out with his glove.

Regardless, momentum had now fully switched over to the Fargo bench as they fought back to send this game into overtime with the score tied at 4-4.

Neither team scored in the five-minute OT period, so the game would be decided by a skills competition.  Israelsson blanked the Stars on all five of their attempts, and Fargo forward Kyle Sylvester scored the only shootout goal for either team to give the Force a 5-4 victory.

This was a tough one to swallow.  I really thought the Stars deserved the two points in this game, but them's the breaks.  Sometimes the puck bounces your way, other times it doesn't.

Shots were 40-29 in favor of Lincoln through regulation.  Surprisingly, the Stars outshot Fargo in both games this weekend yet were only able to get the one point.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 24 of 28 in the loss, while Mathias Israelsson stopped 36 of 40 for his second win of the weekend.

Lincoln went 1-for-7 on the powerplay, while the Force went 1-for-4.

In my weekend preview article, I said the Force relied on good goaltending, team discipline, and a very good PK unit to get wins when maybe they shouldn't.  That's pretty much what happened this weekend.  Israelsson was the better goaltender both nights, and the Force held the Stars to one powerplay goal in nine attempts.  They weren't pretty wins for Fargo, but all that matters is the four points they took home.

Stars forward Ethan Price picked up a five-minute major and a game misconduct for head-butting early in the third period of this game.  I didn't see the play live, but I watched the replay on FASTHockey this morning, and you can definitely see Ethan attempt to head-butt a Fargo player after a whistle.  I don't think the head-butt connected, but it wasn't a smart play especially with all of the officials standing right there to witness it.  I would guess Price gets a one game suspension from it.

As I stated above, considering what was at stake, this was a disappointing weekend for the Stars who were looking to creep up closer to Fargo in the standings, and possibly get in contention for a playoff spot.  There are still 29 games left in the season, but the teams ahead of the Stars in the standings aren't slowing down.

These next four games for Lincoln, which are all on the road, will be crucial in determining their postseason chances.  The opponents in those four road games are no slouches either.

Wednesday, January 21st:  at Madison Capitols (.609 winning %)
Friday, January 23rd:  at Sioux Falls Stampede (.559 winning %)
Saturday, January 24th:  at Omaha Lancers (.652 winning %)
Tuesday, January 27th:  at Tri-City (.609 winning %)

If Lincoln is serious about fighting for a playoff spot, they'll need to win 3 of those 4 games.  The three games against western conference foes are especially big considering Lincoln is in the same conference.  If the Stars struggle in those four games, I believe you have to seriously think about playing for next season and trade away assets that aren't returning next season for draft picks or younger players.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Edit:  Someone told me today to take a closer look at Fargo's fourth goal.  It's crappy quality, but I recorded a Vine below of the play.  You can see a Fargo forward enter Lincoln's zone on the left wing.  The puck comes into the zone, but then comes out to Slattery.  Slattery shoots the puck into the zone at Hackett while the Fargo forward is still coming out of the zone.  That's offside, and the goal never should have counted.  Tough break.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo Force

The Lincoln Stars are back at the IceBox this Friday and Saturday evening for a crucial weekend series against the Fargo Force, the team directly ahead of them in the western conference standings.

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 Force enter these two games against Lincoln with a record of 14-13-5 (33 points), and are currently in sixth place in the USHL western conference, seven points ahead of the seventh place Lincoln Stars who have three games in hand over Fargo.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the third and fourth meetings between these two teams so far this season.  The Stars are 1-0-1 in the two prior matchups with the Force.  These two games in Lincoln this weekend will be the last time the two teams meet in the 2014-15 USHL regular season.  Kind of surprising that Lincoln and Fargo will only meet four times this season.

The Force are a bit of enigma after you dig a little deeper statistically.  Their win-loss record of 14-13-5 is actually pretty decent considering they are -19 in goals for (76) and goals against (95).  

Offensively, the Force are not very good at all.  Their 76 total goals in 32 games is dead last in the USHL.  As a team, their shooting percentage of .085 is second worst in the entire USHL, only behind the Waterloo Blackhawks (.082).  Lincoln's shooting percentage of .102% is actually very good, surprisingly so considering their lackluster offense at times this season.  The problem with the Stars has been more with getting shots on goal and not shooting percentage.  However, you could argue that Lincoln's shooting percentage with go down with more shots on goal.  

Getting back to Fargo....

This is also a team that feasts at home, but starves on the road.  The Force are 10-4-2 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, but they are only 4-9-3 on the road.  Two of those four road wins came against the worst team in the USHL, the Waterloo Blackhawks, a team that only has 3 home wins.

Fargo averages 2.75 goals scored per game at home, but only 2.00 goals scored per game on the road.  Fargo averages 32.5 shots on goal per game at home, but only 23.6 shots on goal per game on the road.

So considering the ugly statistics above, especially those on the road, how are the Force only four points out of a playoff spot in the USHL western conference?  From what I can tell it's two things: team discipline and goaltending.

With only 460 penalty minutes accrued in 32 games played (14.4 PIM's per game), the Force are the second least penalized team in the USHL.  So the Force don't give teams very many opportunities to score powerplay goals.  Going along with that, Fargo's penalty kill unit is rated in the top third of the league at 83.74%.

The goaltending duo of Mathias Israelsson and Robbie Beydoun have combined to put up some stingy numbers so far this season (14-13-5, 2.97 goals against average, .916 save percentage).  That combined .916 save percentage is actually second best in the USHL, only behind Cedar Rapids (.923%).

Israelsson is the #1 starter for Fargo, but Beydoun has put up some good numbers as a USHL rookie.  Beydoun's road statistics (2-3-1, 2.64 gaa, .932 save %) are actually better than Israelsson's (2-6-2, 3.39 gaa, .909 save %).  

As for the Stars, they are coming off an up and couple of games this past weekend which included a dramatic come-from-behind OT win against Omaha, and then a disappointing blowout road loss in Dubuque.  As good and gutsy as the Stars looked last Friday night versus Omaha, they looked just as lethargic and lost against the Fighting Saints.  Consistent play is still a big issue with this Lincoln team.

Friday evening's game should be the debut of Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price who was recently acquired by the Stars earlier this week.  Click here to read more about that acquisition.  I assume Ethan will be in the starting lineup on Friday, and possibly Saturday as well.  I mean, considering the circumstances, how could he not start?  It will be fun to hear IceBox PA announcer Craig Estudillo for the first time say "From Lincoln, Nebraska...." during the opening lineups.

Looking forward to it!  In my opinion, if the Stars are serious about fighting for a playoff spot in the west this season, they need to win both games this weekend in regulation.  No extra points for the Force.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roster movement recap

I've had more than a few people reach out to me the in last couple of days asking if I could recap all of the player movement that has occurred for the Lincoln Stars the past month or so.

I'll split the article up into two categories:  departures and additions.

As a reminder, the USHL trade deadline is Tuesday, March 2nd.  As we get closer to that deadline we'll see even more player movement between league teams.

Traditionally between now and the trade deadline, you'll see teams who have thrown in the towel and aren't competing for a playoff spot trade veteran players for draft picks or younger players.  Conversely, teams fighting for a playoff spot or those established as a playoff team will trade draft picks or younger players for established vets who can provide instant depth.

Departures:
(F) Chris Klack:  now playing for Ancaster Avalanche(OJHL); should play for Lincoln in 2015-15
(F) August Von Ungern-Sternberg: now playing for Wenatchee (NAHL)
(F) Max Humitz:  traded to Muskegon for a 7th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft
(F) Blake Christensen:  traded to Waterloo for unknown compensation
(F) Chris Dodero:  traded to Des Moines for unknown compensation

Additions:
(F) Jack Badini: called up from Lincoln's affiliate list; should be with the Stars the rest of this season
(F) Chris Gambardella:  acquired from New Jersey Rockets (EHL)
(F) Waltteri Hopponen:  acquired from Sioux City for a conditional 5th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft
(F) Ethan Price:  acquired from Portland (WHL)

Hopefully that helps!  You can click here to see the current Stars roster which is posted on the Pointstreak website.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stars acquire Lincoln native Ethan Price

Some big news was released by Lincoln Stars GM Jon Hull last night as he tweeted that the team had acquired Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price.

Price ('97) is a forward who played this season and last for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL).  Click here to view his stats.

Price tips the scales at 5'10, 183 pounds.  In 104 games for the Portland Winterhawks the past 1.5 seasons, Price accumulated 17 points (8g, 9a) and 46 penalty minutes.

In Portland, Price was a young, third-line player on a team loaded with NHL draft picks.  So his offensive numbers may have suffered because of the limited ice time with the Winterhawks.

For those unaware, the WHL is considered major junior hockey, and the players are ineligible to play college hockey in the USA.  So that means if he stays in Lincoln, there's the possibility he could play 3.5 seasons for the Stars before his junior hockey eligibility ends.

The only time I have seen Ethan play live was at the 2012 Lincoln Stars tryout camp in Minneapolis, MN.  Price was one of the youngest players at that particular camp, and looked pretty good considering.

I've been told that Price is a two-way winger who loves to play physical.  I'll post a video of him in action at the end of this article.  I think #StarsNation is going to love watching this kid fly all over the ice at the IceBox, a rink he basically grew up in.  Although he wasn't a top six forward in Portland, he was a very popular player among Winterhawks fans based on the fan reactions I read on Twitter and Facebook last night.

Before Ethan committed to play for Portland in 2013, he played for the Omaha AAA U16 program that current Stars affiliate forward Ethen Frank currently plays for.  Price was selected by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 2013 USHL Futures Draft, but chose to take his talents to Portland of the WHL instead.

I mentioned above that Ethan is a Lincoln, NE native.  He was born here and raised here.  He may end up being the first Lincoln, NE native to ever wear a Stars uniform, but he is not the first Lincoln born player to suit up for the Stars.  That distinction goes to former Stars forward Will Suter, who was born in Lincoln, NE but raised in Omaha.  Will told me last night on Twitter that he considers himself an Omaha native every day other than those days that the Stars are playing the Lancers.  Atta boy, Will.

Ethan's grandfather Tom Price is a guy who is well known in Lincoln ice hockey circles.  He used to be a Lincoln Ice Hockey Association (LIHA) board member and was responsible for introducing Ethan to the sport of hockey.  I used to chat occasionally with Tom at the IceBox since we had seats in adjoining sections.  If I recall correctly, Tom and his family had glass seats in section K, very close to section J (my section).  In fact, I remember a very, very young Ethan Price playing with his friends on the landing between sections J and K.  Now he'll be playing for the Stars.  Pretty cool.

I suppose the big question to be asked is, how long will Ethan stay with the Lincoln Stars?  I read some tweets last night after this story broke that indicate he could go back to Portland after this season.  Is this only a temporary move for Price?  I guess we'll have to wait and find out.

I'll include more reading material about Ethan below for those who are interested.
Welcome to #StarsNation, Ethan!  Very happy to have you on board.  Hopefully we'll see him in action this weekend at the IceBox.



B³ Weekend Recap: 1/9 & 1/10

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
The weekend started with a bang for the Lincoln Stars, but unfortunately it ended with a whimper.  The Stars beat the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox on Friday night in an overtime thriller by the score of 5-4, but then were embarrassed in Dubuque by the Fighting Saints on Saturday evening by a score of 7-1.

Boxscores:
1/9:  Omaha 4, Lincoln 5 OT
1/10:  Lincoln 1, Dubuque 7

After the split weekend, the Stars have a record of 11-14-4 (26 points) and are still in seventh place in the USHL western conference.



Lincoln is 5 points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and 6 points behind the sixth place Fargo Force.  The Force will come to Lincoln this next weekend for back-to-back games.  More on that important weekend series later in this article.

Click here to view the current league standings.

Omaha 4, Lincoln 5 OT

Ludvig Hoff's overtime goal with only 36 seconds remaining in overtime powered the Lincoln Stars to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox on Friday night.  The win snapped Omaha's nine-game winning streak.

The Lancers got out to a quick 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the first period, and it wasn't looking good for the Stars.  However, Michael Gillespie's powerplay goal at the 12:04 mark of the opening stanza gave the Stars some life and got the raucous IceBox crowd back into the game.

The score would remain 2-1 in favor of Lincoln at the first intermission.  Shots were 9-6 in favor of Omaha through the first twenty minutes.

Michael Gillespie made it two goals on the night at the 1:39 mark of the second period to even the score at 2-2.  Coming into this game, Gillespie had not scored a goal in 12 straight games, but his two goals Friday night snapped that streak in a big way.

Lincoln and Omaha were all tied up at 2-2 heading into a crucial third period.  The Stars outshot the Lancers 11-9 in the second period.

Just like in the first period, the Lancers got out to a quick start with two timely goals within the first 8 minutes to take a 4-2 lead.  Some time may have rolled over and played dead at that point, but the Stars played their best hockey of the game during the remainder of regulation and overtime.  Watching from the stands, it was as if the Stars turned a switch at once and completely took over the game.  It was impressive to watch.

The rally was started first from a powerplay goal from Ryan Jones at the 12:21 mark of the third period to bring the Stars to within one goal.   Then, very late in the period with the Stars scrambling to score the tying goal, newly acquired forward Waltteri Hopponen proved to be the hero with his first goal in a Stars uniform with only 1:44 remaining in regulation to knot the match at 4-4.  The crowd went absolutely nuts.

After an undisciplined double minor penalty in overtime by Omaha defenseman Michael Bigelbach, Stars forward Ludvig Hoff fired a bad angle shot from the bottom of one of the faceoff circles past Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll to send the home crowd into hysterics.  As loud as it was after Hopponen's goal, it was even louder after Hoff's game-winner.  What.  A.  Game.

I made a couple of Vines for the Hopponen goal, and the Hoff goal which I'll link below.  The quality of the video stinks, so be warned.  It's better than nothing I guess.
Hopponen's game-tying goal
Hoff's game-winning goal

Speaking of Vines, here's one of Stars goaltender Cam Hackett making a game-saving stop in the third period.  Greg McCubbins of the Stars posted this one.  Hackett's game-saving stop

Lincoln outshot Omaha 35-31 in this game.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 31 shot on goal to record his 9th win of the season, and his fifth straight.  The Stars won the special teams war by going 3-for-5 on the powerplay while limiting the Lancers to just 1 powerplay goal in four opportunities.

Stars forwards Ludvig Hoff (1g, 3a) and Michael Gillespie (2g, 2a) each finished with four points a piece.  The Hoff-Jozefek-Gillespie line was fantastic in this game.

Those of you who are reading this who were at the game will agree that this was one of the best Omaha-Lincoln games at the IceBox in a long, long time.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric.  There's no doubt in my mind that the Omaha-Lincoln rivalry is the best in the USHL, and maybe in all of junior hockey.  As a Stars fan, there are no better highs than beating the Omaha Lancers at home in front of a rowdy IceBox crowd.

Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg finally got the monkey off his back and got his first win against the team he played junior hockey for back in the day.  I'm sure he was pretty happy about that.

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
Lincoln 1, Dubuque 7

The Stars had nothing left in their tank after the big win on Friday night, so the Fighting Saints took full advantage of that with a 7-1 drubbing of Lincoln in Dubuque, iA

I'm not going to devote a lot of time to this recap for obvious reasons.  As well as Lincoln played on Friday night, they played just as badly against Dubuque.

Lincoln's only goal in this game was scored by Ludvig Hoff, which came on a powerplay with 2:02 remaining in the second period.



Hoff would later be on the receiving end of a big hit in the waning moments of the second period and would not return for the third period.  I'm really, really hoping Ludvig is ok.  He's playing the best hockey of his Stars career the past couple of weeks.  The Stars definitely need him on the ice.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones got the start in this game but was pulled after giving up the fourth Dubuque goal in favor of Cam Hackett.  Jones finished with 14 saves on 18 shots on goal, while Hackett stopped 14 of 17 in relief.  Neither goaltender played particularly well, but it certainly wasn't all on them.  The Stars didn't play well at all in front of Jones or Hackett, leaving them out to dry on more than a few occasions.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night while I was watching this game on FASTHockey, but the Saints were playing chess while the Stars were playing checkers.  That's the best way I can describe how this game evolved.  I'm just happy that's the last time Lincoln plays Dubuque this season.  The Saints are one of the most fundamentally sound teams I've seen so far this season.

The Stars have to put this loss away and start preparing for two big home games this weekend against the Fargo Force.  If the Stars want to move up further in the western conference standings and be a legitimate playoff threat, they'll need to win both games against a Fargo club that is only six points ahead of them.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Omaha and Dubuque


The Lincoln Stars will take on two of the hottest teams in the USHL this weekend when they face the Omaha Lancers (winners of 9 in a row) at the IceBox on Friday, and then a road tilt on Saturday against the Dubuque Fighting Saints (winners of 5 in a row).

Pucks drops at 7:05pm CST for each contest.

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 come into this weekend with a record of 10-13-4 (24 points) and are in 7th place in the USHL western conference.  They are now 9 points out of fourth place (playoff eligible) in the west.  Lincoln is coming off a weekend sweep of the two new USHL expansion teams (Bloomington, Madison) last Friday and Saturday.

Lincoln opponent this Friday evening at the IceBox will be the red-out Omaha Lancers, who sit in second place in the USHL western conference with a record of 16-8-4 (36 points).

As I mentioned above, the Lancers have won their last 9 games, and are only three points out of first place in the west.

This will be the fourth of eight meetings between the two rivals.  Lincoln is winless (0-2-1) in their three prior games against Omaha this season.

The last time these two teams met at that IceBox, the Lancers bullied the Stars in route to a 4-1 victory on 11/21/14.

Just a few months ago, this Lancers squad was in dead last in the western conference.  At the time, they weren't scoring goals, and they definitely weren't playing good team defense.  They even lost their starting goaltender, reigning USHL goaltender of the year Hayden Hawkey, to a season-ending injury.  At the time, things weren't looking well for Lincoln's rival to the north, but they have really turned it around as of late.  It's remarkable what they have been able to do in such a short amount of time.

On Saturday, the Stars will travel east 6 hours to the east to battle the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  The Saints sport a record of 19-7-2 (40 points) are in second place in the USHL eastern conference, four points behind the first-place Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

This will be the second and final meeting between the two clubs.  In their only other contest this season, the Saints shutout the Stars at the IceBox on 12/12/14 by the score of 1-0.  Former Stars goaltender Jacob Nehama, now with Dubuque, stopped all 34 shots he faced in that particular game.  I can only assume that Nehama will get the start again against his former team this Saturday in Dubuque.

As for the Stars, they made some roster moves this weekend to shake up the roster a bit.  Forward Max Humitz was traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks for a 7th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft.  Click here to read more about that trade.

The after the Stars moved Humitz to Muskegon, the team acquired forward Waltteri Hopponen from the Sioux City Musketeers for a conditional 5th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft.  Click here to read more about that trade.  I assume Walt will play right away this Friday against the Omaha Lancers.  Talk about being thrown right into the fire after arriving in Lincoln.  Hopponen will wear #12 for the Stars.

Prior to the two roster moves above, the Stars made a couple of moves that I neglected to mention last weekend.  First, the team acquired forward Chris Gambardella ('96) from the EHL's New Jersey Rockets.  Click here to view his stats with the Rockets.  The native of Staten Island, NY played his first two games with the Stars this past weekend.  In his debut with the Stars on 1/2/15 against Bloomington, Gambardella led all Lincoln players with 5 shots on goal.  Gambardella wears #23 for the Stars.

Lincoln also has called up affiliate forward Jack Badini ('98) .  Badini was originally selected by the Lincoln Stars in 2014 USHL Phase I draft.  Before coming to Lincoln, Jack played for the North Jersey Avalanche U18 team of the AYHL.  Click here to view his stats.  Badini is very young, but very skilled.  He was a player I definitely noticed in a good way at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June in Minneapolis.  Click here to read a quick scouting report on Badini from the "Over The Boards" website.  I assume Jack will play the remainder of the regular season with the team.  Badini will wear #21 for the Stars.

A couple of HUGE tests coming up for the Stars this weekend.  I know the team wants to finally get over the hump against the Lancers, and what better time than this Friday.  They have a great opportunity to snap Omaha's nine-game winning streak in front of a packed, rabid ceBox crowd.  As always, it should be a fantastic environment at the IceBox.  Hope to see you there.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Edit:  This afternoon, Stars forward Joe Lappin announced on Twitter (I'll embed the tweet below) that he will be attending the Arizona State University to play college hockey starting the fall of 2015.  Lappin is an overager (born in 1994), so this is his last season of junior hockey.  ASU was just granted Division 1 status by the NCAA and will play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) starting the 2015-16 season.

I know there will be some people reading this thinking to themselves, "I never knew Arizona State had a hockey program."  Click here to read a great article from the New York Times about ASU's "elevation" to Division 1 status.

Joe will get the opportunity this next season to help build something special at Arizona State.  Not too many players get the chance to be a part of history with a fledgling Division 1 hockey program.  So congrats to Joe!  Best of luck to him next season in Tempe, AZ.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stars acquire forward Waltteri Hopponen from Sioux City

More roster movement today as the Lincoln Stars announced the acquisition of '96 forward Waltteri Hopponen from the Sioux City Musketeers.  Hopponen is a native of Espoo, Finland and will count as an import on Lincoln's roster.

Click here to read the official announcement from the Lincoln Stars.  Per this link, the Stars sent a conditional 5th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft to Sioux City for Hopponen.

In 82 games for the Sioux City Musketeers over the past 1.5 seasons, "Walt" scored 41 points (19g, 22a) and racked up 95 penalty minutes.  Additionally, Hopponen has participated for the Finnish national team in a variety of international tournaments.

Hopponen came to the USA after he was selected by the Everett Silvertips in the first round of the 2014 WHL Import Draft.  Walt played one game for the 'Tips before he was released because of the WHL's import rule.  Click here to read more about that.

Sioux City head coach Jay Varady used to be a former assistant coach in Everett, so when Hopponen was forced to look for another league to play in after Everett released him, Walt made the decision to come the the USHL and play for the Muskies.  Because he played that one WHL game, Hopponen is not eligible to play college hockey in the USA.

Knowing that, there the potential for Walt to play in the USHL and for Lincoln for the remainder of this season, and two more seasons.  It's impossible to predict the future, but having him in Lincoln for the next 2.5 seasons would be great.

On paper, I'm a big fan of this trade.  He has good size, and isn't afraid to throw his body around or drop the gloves if needed.  He also has good hands and can put up some points.

A few years ago, a played named Christian Lampasso played for Sioux City.  Whenever the Muskies came to the IceBox I thought to myself, "Man, I wish we had that Lampasso kid on our roster."  The next season, Lincoln acquired him.  In my prior viewings of Hopponen, I've thought the same.  Glad that he's on our side now.

Yes, his scoring this season through 28 games has taken a hit.  Last season for the Muskies, when he scored 31 points in 54 games, Walt averaged a point in every .57 games.  This season, Walt averaged a point in every .36 games.  Hopefully the change of scenery will jump-start his offensive numbers.

I'm going to post a video below of an interview Hopponen did at the 2014 Junior Club World Cup in Russia in which the Sioux City Musketeers competed in.  In six games at that particular preseason tournament, Walt scored 7 points (5g, 2a).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Max Humitz traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks

Some sad news to report tonight, as Stars forward Max Humitz has tweeted that he has been traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Over the course of three seasons and 103 regular season games, Max accumulated 40 points (13g, 27a) and 46 penalty minutes for the Stars.  He was originally selected by the Lincoln Stars in the 2009 USHL Futures Draft.

I'm not yet sure what the Stars received for Humitz, but I assume it was a draft pick or picks.  That's just my guess.  Once the return is announced, I'll update this article.  Edit:  Per this link, the Stars acquired a 7th round pick in the 2015 USHL Entry draft for Humitz.

As I said above, this is sad news in my opinion.  Although he wasn't a guy who would frequently light up the scoreboard, Max was a tireless worker on the ice for the Stars and played with a huge heart.  A lot of what he did for Lincoln occurred away from the puck and wasn't something you'd see by just looking at a boxscore.  He never took a shift off, did whatever was asked of him, and led by example.

It's disappointing to see good kids traded away, but that's life in the USHL I guess.

Best of luck to Max.  He will be missed.  The good news is that he'll be going to a very good team, one that will make the playoffs.  Also, he'll be closer to home which I'm sure his family will be happy about.