Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in the saddle

After a much needed break, I'm happy to announce I will be blogging again soon.  My batteries are recharged, and I have a lot of great things planned for the B³ going forward.

I have recruited my friend Jason to help me with some of the articles here on the blog so I don't burn myself out.  Jason is a great guy with a TON of writing experience so I'm very excited to have him on board at the B³.

As always, my good friend BellTolls, who has helped with the blog since the very beginning, will assist when he can as well.

This past season was a bit of a roller coaster ride for all of us.  First came the resignation of head coach Chad Johnson before the regular season began.  A sluggish start saw the Stars spend most of the first third of the season near the basement in the western conference standings.  When it seemed like it couldn't get any worse, Chad Johnson's sudden death in November shocked and saddened us all.

For the first time since the inaugural 1996 season, the Stars had an ownership change with Chicago businessman Ryan Schiff  purchasing the organization late last year.  Next came the addition of Jon Hull as President of Hockey Operations and General Manager.  Stars head coach Jimmy McGroarty was relieved of his duties and the Stars finished the regular season in fifth place in the western conference, 20 points out of a playoff spot.  It was the third time in franchise history that the Stars did not qualify for the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

However, the future is bright and these are exciting times to be a Lincoln Stars fan, in my opinion.  I've had the opportunity to talk personally with both Ryan Schiff and Jon Hull, and I have total faith they will right the ship.  They understand that there are big challenges ahead, but both have pledged their support and hard work to create a championship winning culture here in Lincoln.  These two men have invested fully in the Stars, and I know they will work diligently to make us proud.  Schiff and Hull will be starting from scratch with the Stars, so to speak, but the beauty of a blank canvas is that you can paint whatever picture you want to see.

The biggest decision Jon Hull will make will be the hiring of a new head coach, which hopefully happens soon.  The new face of the organization will be the fourth head coach in the history of the franchise.  Big, big hire coming up.

What's next for the blog?  Keep an eye out here in the next week or so for a look at some of the players that have been previously drafted by Lincoln who could be in a Stars uniform next season.  Also, I will post an Entry/Futures draft preview article.  I'm a draft junkie, so I'm super excited for the upcoming USHL Futures Draft (May 5th) and the USHL Entry Draft (May 6th).  We will cover those two drafts thoroughly, as always.

After that, my favorite offseason event, the tryout camp at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis which will be held from June 12th-15th.  For the seventh straight year, I will be at camp and will report back to the blog.

Also, if a head coach is announced in the meantime, we will of course blog about that as well.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with me during this extended break.  I'm glad to be back and I hope you are too.

-Tim (Yeti)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Taking a break from the blog

Quick article here to give all of my readers a heads up.  I'll make this brief.

I am going to be taking a vacation from the blog for the time being.  I'm not sure when I'll start blogging again.  It could be in a few weeks, or it could be next season.  I'm just not sure right now.  What I am sure of is that I need a break.

I will be taking a break from the blog's Facebook page also. That account will not be updated.  I will update the blog's Twitter account sparingly.

However, I will continue to attend all of the home games, and will root on the Stars as usual.

Thanks as always for making this blog a part of your daily internet rounds.  No matter what happens, I will always appreciate your patronage of the B³.

Happy Holidays.  Go Stars.


12/29 Edit:  I have decided to take the rest of this season off from the blog.  I didn't want to keep my readers guessing on when I'd start blogging again.  I will get back into it when the two drafts (Entry, Futures) roll around in early May.  Best of luck to the players the rest of this season.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Omaha 2, Lincoln 3 OT Shootout

Stars mob David Parrottino after his shootout game winner
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
David Parrottino scored the game-winner in the shootout to give the Lincoln Stars a gutsy 3-2 overtime victory over the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox on "Rivalry Night."

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The win and the two points improved Lincoln's record to 6-13-5 (17 points), and they are in seventh place in the USHL western conference.

Click here to view the current USHL standings.

First of all, if you missed this game, you missed one heck of a battle between two quality hockey teams.  It played out much like a playoff game.  The atmosphere tonight at the IceBox was incredible.

I thought the Stars played very, very well in the first twenty minutes and looked to be more hungry than the Lancers.  Omaha seemed to start a little slow, and it wasn't until the second period before they woke up.

Lincoln used their strong play in the first period to take a commanding 2-0 lead thanks to even-strength goals from Brandon Smith and John Simonson.  Smith's goal, which came at the 12:50 mark of the first, was a great effort to grab a rebound in the slot before shooting past Lancers goaltender Cole Bruns.  Simonson's goal, scored at the 17:25 mark, came on a beautiful 2-on-1 odd man rush with Magnus Hoff.

It was looking like the Stars would take the 2-0 lead into the first intermission, but Omaha native Gage Hough scored an even-strength goal with only 50 seconds remaining in the first period to pull the Lancers to within one goal.

After twenty minutes, the Stars led 2-1 over the Lancers.  Lincoln outshot Omaha 12-10 in the first period.

In the second, the Lancers picked up the pace and outscored Lincoln 1-0 in the period.  Omaha forward Luca Frigo scored a powerplay goal at the 11:47 mark of the second period to complete the scoring in regulation.  Lincoln outshot Omaha 13-10 in the middle stanza.

Both teams really played it safe in the third period, and shots on goal were few and far between compared to the first two periods.  Both teams had key penalty kills in the third period to keep the game tied up at 2-2.  Shots were 9-3 in favor of Omaha in the third.

The Lancers and Stars put up two shots on goal a piece in the five-minute, four-on-four overtime period, but the puck stayed out of both nets.

In the shootout, after the first three shooters for each squad failed to capitalize, Luca Frigo scored for Omaha in the fourth round.  Frigo's goal forced the next Lincoln shooter to score, or it would be all over.  Stars forward Magnus Hoff calmly skated down and scored on Cole Bruns in the fourth round to force a fifth.  Without Hoff's clutch shootout goal, this is a 3-2 Omaha win.

And in the fifth and deciding round of the shootout, after a big Michael Bitzer save on Lancers defenseman Steven Johnson, Stars forward David Parrottino scored the game-winner to send the IceBox into hysterics.  From my seat, it looked like Parrottino went five-hole on Bruns, but he may have slipped the puck under his arm.  I will post a video at the end of this article which has the entire shootout.

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 29 of 31, including 4 of 5 Omaha shooters in the shootout.  He was named the #1 star of the game, deservedly so.

Omaha went 1-for-4 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-6.

Big, big win going into the holiday break for the Lincoln Stars.  This should provide a huge boost of confidence.  The season hasn't gone like they've wanted, but this win should give the team some much needed momentum heading into the two-week break.  There's still a lot of the season yet to be played.  Keep fighting.  Keep battling.  Keep grinding.

To all of the players on the Stars, safe travels home.  Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.

Go Stars.

Here's the video of the shootout, courtesy of my friend Mike B.

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 2, Sioux Falls 7

It wasn't a pretty sight at Sioux Falls Arena on Friday night as the hometown Stampede scored four powerplay goals in route to a 7-2 blowout win over the Lincoln Stars.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars to 5-13-5 (15 points), and with Tri-City's win last night, Lincoln is now in seventh place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

This recap will be brief for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I don't want to waste any time on trying to recap this sort of loss.  Secondly, I only caught part of the radio broadcast and did not watch it on FASTHockey.

In the first period, the Sioux Falls scored three goals (two were on the powerplay), and outshot the Stars 19-8.  Two of the three goals scored in the first period by the Stampede came from forward Griffen Molino.

In the second period, it was more of the same as the Stampede outscored the Stars 2-1 and outshot them 15-11.  Griffen Molino potted his third goal of the game in the second period on a powerplay.  The lone Stars goal in the middle stanza was scored by forward Dominick Sacco, his fourth of the season.

The Stampede outscored the Stars 2-1 in the third period as well, and outshot them 12-8.  Griffen Molino scored his fourth goal of the game in the final period, again on the powerplay.  So three of the four goals Molino scored against the Stars last night came on the powerplay.

In his past 24 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede, forward Griffen Molino had a total of 3 goals.  Last night he scored four goals in sixty minutes.  He probably wishes he could play the Stars every game.

The lone Stars goal in the third period was scored by Daniel Willett, on the powerplay.  It was Willett's first goal of the season.

Michael Bitzer, who was appearing in his 23rd straight game for the Stars, was pulled from this game after surrendering the third Stampede goal.  Lincoln backup goaltender Jacob Nehama, who had zero USHL experience coming into this game, relieved Bitzer for the rest of the contest.  What a way to make your USHL debut: down 0-3 on the road on the small ice surface of Sioux Falls arena.  Gotta feel for the kid on that one.

Bitzer stopped 12 of 15 before he was pulled, and Nehama stopped 27 of 31 for the remainder of the game.  Stampede goaltender Arthur Brey stopped 25 of 27 in the win.  Sioux Falls outshot Lincoln overall, 46-27.

The Stampede went 4-for-7 on the powerplay while the Stars finished 1-for-6.

I'm not sure where to start with this one.  I've mentioned it before, but we've seen these kind of losses all season long.  The Stars start out slow, get behind early, play undisciplined hockey, and lose the special teams war.  It's a broken record that needs fixed.  But how do you fix it?

Let's take a look at the Chicago Steel.  Much like the Stars, they began this season with only a few returning players from the 2012-13 season.  In their first ten games of the 2013-14 season, the Steel struggled mightily.  They lost each of those ten games to start the season 0-10-0.

I'm not sure what the Steel did after that tenth game, but since then they are 10-5-1.  They have climbed out of the eastern conference cellar and are beating teams above them in the standings.  They are 8 points out of a playoff spot in the east.  Meanwhile, the Stars are 18 points out of a playoff spot in the west.

The Steel are a great example of turning a season around and coming together as a team.  I'm not sure what's going on with the Stars, but it almost seems they are regressing, not improving.  

Regardless, I'll continue to support the players and hope they can find a way to turn this around.  It starts tonight at the IceBox against the first-place Omaha Lancers.  The Lancers will be a salty bunch tonight after losing a rare home game Friday night against the Waterloo Blackhawks.

Go Stars.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux Falls and Omaha

The Lincoln Stars will play their last two games before the holiday break this weekend when they battle the Sioux Falls Stampede on Friday night, and the Omaha Lancers on Saturday.  Friday's game will take place in Sioux Falls, while the tilt against the Lancers on Saturday evening will occur at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

If you are unable to 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 Lincoln Stars currently have a record of 5-12-5 (15 points) and are in sixth place the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Friday's opponent, the Sioux Falls Stampede, have a record of 16-6-2 (34 points) and are currently in second place in the USHL western conference.  

Sioux Falls is 6-1-1 in their last 8 games at home.  They have outscored their competition 34-19 in those eight home games. This will be the third time the Stars and 'Pede will play one another.  Sioux Falls is 2-0-0 in the two prior games against Lincoln this season.

Saturday's opponent, the Omaha Lancers, have an impressive record of 20-3-2 (42 points) and are currently in first place in the USHL western conference.  

This is hard to say without wanting to punch the closest thing colored orange, but the Lancers have the best win-loss record in the USHL, and it's not even close.  Their winning percentage is .840, while the second best is .750 (Dubuque Fighting Saints).

Omaha is 6-1-1 in their last 8 games on the road. They have outscored their competition 33-21 in those eight road games.  This will be the third time the Stars and the Lancers will play one another.  Omaha is 2-0-0 in the two prior games against Lincoln this season.

Needless to say, the Stars have their hands full this weekend with the Stampede and the Lancers.  Both opponents are playing outstanding hockey right now, so the Stars will need to play their best in order to get some much needed points this weekend before they head home for the holiday break.  It would be nice to head into the break with some momentum after a big win or two this weekend.  Fingers crossed.

Some roster news was announced today as the Stars traded forward Jason Stephanik to the Sioux Falls Stampede.  In return for Stephanik (and a 6th round Phase I Futures pick), the Stars received a 3rd round Phase I Futures draft pick, a 6th round Phase II Entry draft pick, and "future considerations."  Click here and here to read the tweets announcing the trade by the USHL's Hockey Ops Twitter account.

Stephanik got out to a quick start for the Stars when he was initially acquired by the team after he left Quinnipiac University this past fall.  In his first 8 games in a Stars uniform, Stephanik scored 5 points (2g, 3a).  However, he only scored 1 point in his last 10 games for Lincoln.  Hopefully the change of venue gives him the jumpstart he needs to get back on track and obtain a college scholarship offer.  Best of luck to him (just not against the Stars).

The loss of Stephanik should open up a spot on the Stars' roster, which I would assume the team will want to fill with a forward.  It will be interesting to see who the coaches decide to call up or obtain to fill that open spot.

Be prepared for another parking mess this Saturday night for the Omaha Lancers game.  If the Huskers volleyball team wins their playoff game Friday night, they will play again Saturday night at "The Bob" starting at 8:00pm.  So it may not be too bad of a mess for Stars fans heading to the game, but if the volleyball game and the hockey game release at the same time, it might not be fun getting out of the fairgrounds area.

Go Stars.

Congrats to Zach Frye

Quick article to report some news that was tweeted this evening by Lincoln Stars defenseman Zach Frye.

Stars co-captain Zach Frye has committed to play his collegiate hockey at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.  Click here to read the tweet.

Although he didn't mention it in his tweet, I assume Zach will attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) starting the fall of 2014.  UAF is located in (bone chilling cold) Fairbanks, Alaska.  The UAF Nanooks play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Frye is currently in his fourth season with the Lincoln Stars, having played a total of 120 games so far for the black and blue going back to the 2010-11 season.  In those 120 games, Zach has accumulated 25 points (5g, 20a), 346 penalty minutes, and is +25.

Zach will join former Stars Matt Friese, Richard Coyne, and Justin Woods at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Congrats to Zach!  Very well deserved.  Zach is definitely one of those kids who leaves it all on the ice and never takes a shift off.  He will be missed next season for sure.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

B³ Postgame Report: Lincoln 5, Des Moines 4 OT SO

The Lincoln Stars picked up their fifth win of the season with a gutsy, come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory over the Buccaneers in Des Moines, IA on Saturday night.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The big win and the two points improved Lincoln's record to 5-12-5 (15 points) and they are still in sixth place in the USHL western conference, 3 points behind the fifth place Buccaneers.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

This will be short recap.  I listened to the radio broadcast, but I did not watch the FASTHockey video feed.

For the 16th time in Lincoln's 22 regular season games thus far, the opponent scored the first goal.  At the 5:28 mark of the first period, the Bucs scored an even-strength goal to take a 1-0 lead.

Lincoln responded about three minutes later when John Simonson scored a powerplay goal at the 8:30 mark to knot the score at 1-1.  The Pointstreak boxscore which I have linked above mistakenly has Magnus Hoff scoring Lincoln's first goal.  Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye was very adamant that Simonson scored the goal.

The score would remain at 1-1 going into the first intermission.  Lincoln doubled up the Bucs in shots, leading 16-8 after one period.

In the second period, it was pretty much all Des Moines as they outshot Lincoln 18-6 and outscored them 2-1.  The Bucs scored the first two goals of the second period to take a commanding 3-1 lead, but a Stars scored late in the period gave Lincoln new life.

Jonathan Desbiens scored a powerplay goal with only 8 seconds remaining in the middle period to pull the Stars to within one goal.  The tally also gave Stars some momentum going into the third period where they outscored the Bucs 2-1 to force overtime.

Lincoln's Luke Voltin opened the scoring in the third period with an even-strength goal against his former team at the 6:00 mark to even the score at 3-3.  However, two and a half minutes later the Buccaneers responded with a powerplay goal to retake the lead at 4-3.

With roughly seven minutes remaining in regulation, John Simonson scored his second goal of the game for the Stars to knot the game up at 4-4.  Simonson's ninth goal of the season also came on the powerplay, giving him two PP goals on the night.  Five of Simonson's nine goals this season have been scored on the PP.

Shots were 10-7 in favor of Lincoln in the third period, however the Bucs lead 33-32 in that department through sixty minutes.

In the overtime period, the Bucs outshot Lincoln 9-0, but Michael Bitzer and company stood tall and forced the shootout.

Dan Willett scored the only goal in the shootout, while Michael Bitzer stopped all three Bucs shooters he faced to give Lincoln the 5-4 OT victory.

Speaking of Bitzer, he stopped 38 of 42 for the win.  Bitzer has played in EVERY game for the Stars this season.  That's 22 games.  Poor guy deserves a break but I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon.  Bitzer's backup, Jacob Nehama, has zero USHL experience so I'm guessing the Lincoln coaches will continue to ride Bitzer going forward.  Hard to imagine where this team would be without Bitzer between the pipes.

Lincoln won the special teams war as they went 3-for-6 on the powerplay while the Bucs went 1-for-6.  Nice to see the Stars on the winning side of that battle.  Too often this season that hasn't been the case.

Really proud of the Stars after this win.  This season isn't going as well as they had hoped, yet they battle every game and will not quit.  Against the Bucs, they faced a 3-1 deficit in the second period but kept their composure and continued to fight back.  They should be very proud of their effort.

Looking ahead to next weekend, the Stars will be in Sioux Falls, SD on Friday to take on the Stampede, and then back home on Saturday evening for a huge tilt against the Omaha Lancers.  Lincoln will be taking on the top two teams in the west next weekend, so it will be a big test for them.  More on those two games later in the week.

Go Stars.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

B³ Postgame Report: Sioux City 3, Lincoln 2

The fur flies after John Simonson's second period goal
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
It was another heartbreaker Friday evening at the IceBox as the Sioux City Musketeers squeaked out a 3-2 victory over the Lincoln Stars.

The loss was the twelfth in the last thirteen games for the Stars.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars' record to 4-12-5 (13 points), which is good enough for sixth place in the USHL western conference.

 Click here to view the current USHL standings.

It didn't take long for the Muskies to get on the scoreboard in this game as Jared Thomas scored on a partial breakaway at the 2:52 mark to give Sioux City an early 1-0 lead.

The Stars outshot Sioux City 8-6 in the first period, but the Muskies took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.  I thought the Stars played very timid in the first twenty minutes, while the Muskies played a little more aggressive.

In the second period, the fur flew at the 4:55 mark when Stars forward John Simonson scored a powerplay goal at the 4:55 mark to tie the score at 1-1.  Fans at the IceBox flooded the rink with tons of stuffed animals after Simonson's 7th goal of the season, which leads the Stars.

Less than two minutes after Simonson's tally, Muskies forward Jared Thomas scored his second goal of the game, this time on the powerplay, at the 6:47 mark of the middle period.  Thomas' shot, which Stars Michael Bitzer appeared not to see because of a screen, found a hold glove high.

The turning point in this game, in my opinion, came towards the end of the second period.  With the Muskies leading 2-1, the Stars were awarded a four-minute powerplay with 4:07 remaining in the period.  Lincoln had a perfect opportunity here to grab control of the game with a PP goal, along with momentum heading into the third period.  But the Muskies killed the entire four-minute PP, and maintained their 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.

In the third, Sioux City used the momentum coming off of that big penalty kill to score a goal only 33 seconds into the period to take a 3-1 lead.

Lincooln's David Parrottino scored at the 4:00 mark to pull the Stars to within one goal, but that's as close as the Stars would get.

Once again, the Stars outshoot their opponent, this time 29-22, but lose.  Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 19 of 22 in the loss while Muskies netminder Kyle Hayton stopped 27 of 29 for the win.

Lincoln went 1-for-3 on the powerplay while Sioux City went 1-for-2.  A big positive in this game is that the Stars were able to play disciplined hockey and stayed out of the penalty box.

Despite the loss, I thought the Stars played relatively well in this game and for the most part outplayed the Muskies for the majority of the contest.  However, how Lincoln lost this game plays out like a broken record.  It seems as if we've witnessed a ton of these kinds of games at the IceBox this season.  The Stars fall behind early, outshoot their competition, score a goal or two to get close, but in the end fall just short.  Also, they lose the special teams war.  It's a broken record that just continues to skip and skip.

The Stars will be back in action tonight in Des Moines where they will knock heads with the Buccaneers, who are coming off a 3-2 home win over Tri-City on Friday night in which they were outshot 55-29 by the Storm.  I'll be listening to the radio broadcast of the Stars-Bucs game and will provide live updates on Twitter later this evening.

Go Stars.

Edit:  A big middle finger to the UNL parking idiots for forcing fans entering in the east lot to park a mile away despite their being tons of open spots just east of the IceBox.  That long walk back to the car after the game in the bitter cold was not fun at all.  Also, it was nice of the UNL parking idiots to turn off all of the lot lights after the Husker volleyball ended so that Stars fans could walk back to their vehicles in the dark.  As a Stars fan I guess I should be used to it by now, but it is still frustrating to be treated like crap by the UNL parking idiots even though they are quick to take our money.  /rant

Thursday, December 5, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Des Moines

The Lincoln Stars will be back in action this weekend with two games against western conference divisional foes ahead of them in the standings.  On Friday night at the IceBox, the Stars will host the Sioux City Musketeers.  On Saturday evening, the Stars will be back in Des Moines (again) to face the Buccaneers.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each contest.

If you are unable to 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.

Unfortunately this will be a very short weekend preview article.  I've been traveling for work this week and haven't had much time to devote to the blog.

The Lincoln Stars currently have a record of 4-11-5 (13 points) and are in sixth place the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

First up for the good guys will be the Sioux City Musketeers who sport a record of 13-7-1 (27 points) and are in fourth place in the western conference.  In their only prior meeting this season, the Muskies held off a late Lincoln push to beat the Stars in Sioux City by a score of 6-5.  These two teams will meet a total of four times this season.

The top four teams in each conference make the playoffs, and Omaha, Sioux Falls, Waterloo, and Sioux City are running away from the bottom four teams in the west (Des Moines, Lincoln, Tri-City, Fargo).  It's odd to see such a division between the top four and bottom four this soon into the season.  With Sioux City holding a 14 point lead over them in the standings for that last playoff spot, the Stars really need to get on a big winning streak to get back into the playoff hunt.

On Saturday, the Stars will once again take on the Buccaneers in Des Moines, IA.  The Bucs enter this weekend with a 7-12-1 (15 points) record, good enough for fifth place in the western conference, two points ahead of the Stars.

In an odd scheduling quirk, the Stars' last three road games have been against the Bucs in Des Moines.  The fourth straight road game will also be in Des Moines this Saturday night.  I'm sure by the end of this game, these two teams will be sick of one another.

Earlier this week the Stars were dealt some bad news as the USHL handed down a very lengthy suspension to defenseman Zach Frye.  With one of the longest suspensions I've ever seen the league give out to a Stars player, Frye was suspended a total of 7 games.  According to the league, the suspension was due to a head contact hit during a game against Waterloo at the IceBox on 11/23/13.  What's interesting is that Frye was not whistled for a penalty on the play.  So I'm assuming the Waterloo coaches asked the league to look at the game tape.

Losing Frye, who eats up a tons of minutes and is a co-captain, really hurts the team.  Much like Mike McKee last season, the Stars need Frye on the ice not sitting in the stands.  Because he had a prior suspension for head contact, I think the league really wanted to make an example of Frye.  Right or wrong, they really dropped the hammer on him.  The next game Frye will be allowed to play in is a December 31st tilt against....guess who....the Waterloo Blackhawks.

Friday night at the IceBox will be the annual teddy bear toss game.  Fans are encouraged to bring new stuffed animals to the game and throw them onto the ice after the first Lincoln goal.  All stuffed animals will be collected for 104.1 The Blaze's Kampout For Kids to benefit the Community Action Partnership.  This is always a very fun game, so if you don't have your tickets already, get them Friday asap.

Also, the 2013-14 Lincoln Stars trading cards will be available for the first time tomorrow (Friday) night at the IceBox.  You can get trading cards in the BlueLine Booster Club booth located just inside the south entrance of the IceBox.  I will include a quick preview picture below of some of the cards.  Click the photo below to enlarge it.

Go Stars.

Congrats to Jared Kolquist

Quick article to report some news that was first reported by Mike McMahon of College Hockey News late last night.

Lincoln Stars defenseman Jared Kolquist has committed to play his collegiate hockey at Merrimack College.  Click here to read more from Mike McMahon.

Jared is an overager (born in 1993) this season, so he will attend Merrimack starting the fall of 2014.  Merrimack College is located in a suburb north of Boston, MA.  The Merrimack Warriors play in the Hockey East conference.

The Stars acquired Kolquist this past offseason in a trade with the Sioux City Musketeers.  In 20 games for Lincoln this season, Kolquist has accumulated 7 points (1g, 6a), 32 SOG, and 22 penalty minutes.  Kolquist was named an alternate captain at the beginning of the season.

Congrats to Jared!  Very well deserved.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Des Moines 5 OT SO

Down 0-3 to the Buccaneers, the Lincoln Stars scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead late in the third period, but Des Moines responded with a game-tying goal with 2:16 remaining before winning the game 5-4 in a shootout.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The overtime shootout loss gave the Stars one point, and their record now is 4-11-5 (13 points).  The Tri-City Storm and the Fargo Force both lost last night, so the Stars actually jumped up to sixth place in the USHL western conference with the one point earned against Des Moines.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

I listened to the radio broadcast of this game, so this will recap will be brief.  I don't feel comfortable writing about how good or bad the team played unless I've watched them in person or on FASTHockey.

As I stated above, the Stars fell behind quickly in this game and trailed 3-0 at the first intermission.  The Bucs scored one powerplay goal, and two even-strength goals in the first twenty minutes of the game.  Des Moines outshot Lincoln 17-9 in the first period as well.

Whatever switch the Stars forgot to turn on in the first period, it was definitely flipped on in the second.  The first of four unanswered Lincoln goals was scored shorthanded by Brandon Smith at the 5:53 mark.  Jonathan Desbiens followed that up with an even-strength goal at the 9:12 mark.  The game tying tally, which was also scored at even-strength, came from Magnus Hoff at the 12:51 mark.

So in a 6:58 span in the middle period, the Stars scored three goals and clearly had momentum on their side.  Lincoln put an incredible 23 shots on goal in the second period, as opposed to 15 for Des Moines.

In the third period, Stars defenseman Luke Shiplo, who played for the Bucs last season, picked a great time to score his first goal as a member of the Lincoln Stars as he put his team up 4-3 with an even-strength tally at the 8:55 mark.  The improbable comeback was now a one-goal lead for the Stars, which they held until late in the period.

The Bucs stopped the bleeding with a huge, game-tying goal, which came shorthanded, with only 2:16 remaining in the third period.  Just like that, momentum switched back over the Bucs.

After playing to a 4-4 regulation tie, this game would go to overtime.  Neither teams scored in the 4-on-5 OT period, despite both club having a PP opportunity.

In the shootout, three Bucs scored while only two scored for Lincoln giving Des Moines the win and the two points.  The Stars are now 2-3 in the five shootouts they've participated in this season.

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer and Bucs netminder Ryan Ruck both put up the same exact numbers last night with 45 saves on 47 shots on goal.  Considering the amount of shots on goal, it doesn't sound like either team played particularly well defensively.  It was definitely a shooting gallery.

Des Moines went 1-for-5 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-7.  Lincoln is now 0-for-14 on the powerplay in their last three games combined.

Tough loss for sure, but credit the Stars for not giving up when they were down 0-3.  With how this season is going, it would have been easy for them to just quit playing after the first period and let the Bucs roll over them.  But they battled back and showed a lot of heart.  You have to focus on the positives and try to build on them, and I hope that's what the Stars do with this game.

Based on some tweets I read from players, the Stars had a 3:00am bag skate early this morning when the team returned to Lincoln.  Ouch.  If you don't know what a bag skate is, what the movie "Miracle," or click here.

The Stars will be back in action this week with a Friday night home game at the IceBox against the Sioux City Musketeers.  On Saturday, the Stars will travel to Des Moines (again) for a tilt against the Bucs.  I'm sure by now those two teams are sick of one another.  Looking ahead, Lincoln's schedule coming up is very, very tough. The combined record of all of the teams the Stars play in the next 10 games is 81-37-7.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Video highlights of this game are embedded below, courtesy of Scott Thompson.

Friday, November 29, 2013

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Des Moines Buccaneers

Saturday evening in Des Moines, IA, the Lincoln Stars will look to break out of their current scoring slump when they take on the hometown Buccaneers.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

You can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreaklisten to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game on FASTHockey for a fee.

With a record of 4-11-4 (12 points), the Stars are in a three-way tie with Tri-City and Fargo for sixth place in the USHL western conference.  

With Chicago's 4-1 win over Des Moines last night, the Stars are tied with the Tri-City Storm for the lowest winning percentage (.316) in the USHL.  The highest (Omaha with .810) and lowest winning percentages in the USHL belong within the borders of Nebraska.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Des Moines comes into this game with a 6-12-1 (13 points) record which is good enough for fifth place in the USHL western conference.  The Bucs are 1-4-0 in their last five games, with that one win coming against Lincoln.

Surprisingly, this will be the fourth time already this season that the Stars and Bucs will meet.  Des Moines has a 2-1-0 record in those three previous contests.  These same two teams will meet for the fifth time next Saturday night in Des Moines once again..

As I mentioned briefly above, the Buccaneers played Friday night in Chicago where they lost 4-1 to the Steel.  I would assume the Bucs will be a little tired Saturday evening after making the 5 hour trip back to Des Moines late Friday night/early Saturday morning.  Hopefully a well rested Stars team can take advantage of that.

Per the USHL.com transactions page, Stars defenseman Zach Frye has been suspended by the league, with the length of the suspension "to be determined."  That's never a good sign when the league posts a "TBD" next to a suspension.  I would assume a big one is coming up for Lincoln's co-captain.  Frye missed the Wednesday home game against Sioux Falls.  According to the page linked above, the suspension was due to an offense committed in the Waterloo game on 11/23.

I will not be watching this one on FASTHockey, but I will be listening to the radio broadcast.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Sioux Falls 3, Lincoln 0

Michael Bitzer and Jonathan Desbiens touch gloves
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars suffered their second straight shutout loss tonight at the IceBox as the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede blanked the good guys by a score of 3-0.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars' record to 4-11-4 (10 points), which is good enough for a three-way tie for sixth place in the USHL western conference.

Click here to view the current USHL standings.

I thought the Stars played one of their better periods of the season to start this game, but they did not have any puck luck.  That seemed to be a common theme for the night.  Lincoln outshot the Stampede 12-8 through the first twenty minutes, but neither team would score.  Lincoln did a good job staying out of the penalty box, and were the better team by far in the opening period.

Early in the second period, with two Lincoln players in the penalty box, the Stampede got their first goal of the game to take a 1-0 lead.  The PP goal came on a 5-on-3 opportunity and was scored by Zeb Knutson.  It was a fantastic shot by Knutson, who put it high and on the short side just past Michael Bitzer.  I thought Bitzer played the shot well and was in position, but the shot by Knutson was a rocket and extremely well placed.

Both teams put up 10 shots on goal a piece in the middle period, but the Stampede would take that 1-0 lead into the second intermission.  Lincoln put a ton of offensive pressure on Stampede goaltender David Jacobson in the last couple of minutes of the second period, but he stood tall and preserved the shutout.

Early in the third, the Stampede once again took advantage of a powerplay opportunity to take a 2-0 lead.  Six minutes later, Sioux Falls scored an even-strength goal to complete the scoring.

Give credit to the Stampede for making the most of their powerplay opportunities.  That was the key to the game.  Sioux Falls was able to score those two powerplay goals, and the Stars were not able to convert any of their 5 PP chances.  Sioux Falls went 2-for-4 on the PP.

David Jacobson stopped all 35 shots he faced tonight to pitch the shutout.  Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 22 of 25 in the loss.

Honestly, I thought the Stars played pretty damn well in this game.  This seems like a broken record, but the Stars were the better team 5-on-5 for the majority of this game.  However, Lincoln could not win the special teams war.  There have been plenty of games this season that I thought Lincoln played well at even-strength, but the opposing team would always win the special teams war.  That happened again tonight.

It's not for lack of hard work, that's for sure.  The Stars busted their butts tonight, but puck luck was just not on their side.  Lincoln outshot a very good Sioux Falls team, 35-25.  The effort was there this evening, but the final score just doesn't show it.

After a two-day break, the Stars will be back in action this Saturday night in Des Moines, IA against the Buccaneers.

Wishing everyone out there a Happy Thanksgiving!  Hoping that you all get to spend some quality time tomorrow with friends and family.  I'm extremely thankful for all of the readers of this blog.  Your patronage is always appreciated.

Go Stars.

B³ Pregame Report: Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Lincoln Stars

The Lincoln Stars will play their traditional Thanksgiving eve game Wednesday night at the IceBox against the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you don't have your tickets already, make sure you get them because this game normally sells out.

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

The Stars have a record of 4-10-4 (12 points) and are tied with the Tri-City Storm for sixth place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

With an impressive record of 13-5-2 (28 points), the Sioux Falls Stampede occupy second place in the USHL western conference, only two points behind the first-place Omaha Lancers (30 points).  Sioux Falls is 4-0-1 in their last five games played, and are 8-3-1 on the road this season.

This will be the second time the Stars and Stampede will play one another this season.  In their only other meeting, Sioux Falls beat the Stars in overtime by a score of 4-3 at the IceBox on 10/12/13.  

Most pundits, including yours truly, thought the Stampede would run away with the western conference title this season.  And that still may happen, but the Stampede have struggled a bit defensively, and with their goaltending so far this season.

The 'Pede are an offensive-heavy squad, with top forwards like C.J. Franklin, Zeb Knutson, and Dennis Kravchenko.  They've scored 63 goals through twenty games, but they've also given up 57 goals against.  The Stampede will need to shore up their defensive numbers if they want to overtake the Omaha Lancers for first place in the west.  

The key for the Stars is to shut down the line of Franklin-Knutson-Kravchenko.  That's easier said than done. In their last meeting on 10/12/13, the three Stampede forwards I just mentioned combined for 3 goals (including the OT game-winner), and 3 assists.

This should be a very good game.  The Stars have proven already this season they can hang with the Stampede at the IceBox, so I'm hoping that will happen again Thursday night.  Michael Bitzer will once again need to be Lincoln's best player for the Stars to win this game.  Winning the special teams war would help, also.

Go Stars.

Note:  Some surprising roster news Wednesday evening as the team dropped goaltender Shane Starrett, and picked up Jacob Nehama ('95) from the Lone Star Brahmas of the NAHL.  Click here to view the tweet from the USHL Hockey Ops account.

Just a few weeks ago, the Stars traded a conditional fifth round entry pick to the Sioux Falls Stampede for Starrett.  After getting only one start, and a total of 16 minutes of playing time in a Stars uniform, Starrett has been dropped for a goaltender (Nehama) who was at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June.

This morning, the USHL Hockey Ops account stated that since the pick was conditional and Starrett was released by a certain date, the Stars don't have to give up that 5th round pick.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Waterloo 3, Lincoln 0

An early missed call prevented the Stars from gaining momentum of the game, and the Waterloo Blackhawks responded with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Lincoln Stars at the IceBox on Saturday evening.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars and are tied for sixth place in the USHL western conference with the Tri-City Storm.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Before I begin this rant, I just want to say that I'm not one to normally rail on the officials.  I know they have a very difficult job.  I also understand that the USHL is a developmental league for the officials as well.  Some of the officials are still learning their trade, and at times their inexperience in big game atmospheres can negatively influence a game.

Last night's contest was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen at the IceBox.  I'm not giving excuses because the Waterloo Blackhawks deserved to win the game.  However, Referee Anthony Falette and his crew (linesmen Ryan Madsen, Richard Lembo) did a very poor job and I hope their supervisors at the USHL take a good hard look at the game tape.

A few minutes into this game, I believe it was Stars forward Jonathan Desbiens who skated the puck into the Waterloo zone and snapped a shot on goal.  Blackhawks goaltender Mathias Israelsson got a piece of shot, but the puck trickled behind him and into the open net.  Unfortunately, Anthony Falette, who was out of position and nowhere near the goalline, blew his whistle way too early because he didn't see the puck.  It was clear to everyone inside the IceBox (save for Falette and his crew) that Israelsson never had possession of the puck before it found the back of the net.

After Falette conferred with his linesmen, an announcement was made that the goal was waved off.  The fans were not happy at all and rained down boos onto the ice.  Because Falette was out of position on the play and blew his whistle entirely too early,  the Stars were denied an early 1-0 lead in this game.  I've seen some bad calls in my time at the IceBox, but that may have been the worst.

Regardless, the two teams played to a scoreless tie after one period.  Shots were 14-8 in favor of Waterloo after twenty minutes.

Just 1:36 into the second period, the Blackhawks took advantage of a Stars turnover to score their first goal of the game, on a breakaway, to take a 1-0 lead.

Later in the second, another bad call against the Stars gave the Blackhawks their second goal of the game.  At the 10:59 mark, Zach Sanford of the 'Hawks skated into the Lincoln zone on a partial breakaway and got a shot on goal that Michael Bitzer saved.  However, Sanford's momentum knocked the right goalpost peg off its moorning.  Referee Anthony Falette did not see that, so the trailing Blackhawks player (Blake Winiecki) was able to score on the rebound.  The play should have been dead immediately after the goalpost was knocked off.

Even after the goal, Falette and his crew were clueless that the goalpost was off its mooring until Michael Bitzer, who was obviously upset at the call, pushed the goalpost further off the goalline to get the officials attention.  It was a circus, and Falette and his crew had the spotlight all to themselves.

Waterloo took the 2-0 lead into the second intermission.  The Blackhawks doubled up the Stars in shots on goal through two periods, 24-12.

In the third, the Stars were able to put 13 shots on goal, but Mathias Israelsson shut the door to preserve the shootout.  With 1:30 remaining in the game, the Blackhawks scored a meaningless empty-net goal to complete the scoring.

Lincoln's PK unit was stellar last night, as the Blackhawks went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.  The Stars went 0-for-2 on the powerplay.  Waterloo's seven powerplays to Lincoln's two.

Michael Bitzer has another solid game for the Stars has he stopped 38 of 40 in the loss.  Waterloo's Israelsson stopped 25 of 25 to record his first shutout of the game (assist to Falette).

Despite the loss, I really think the Stars played pretty well against a very good team.  5-on-5, I thought Lincoln was just as good as Waterloo.  I thought the Stars did a great job of playing the body, which seemed to slow down the Blackhawks at times and force turnovers.  But you can only ask Bitzer to do so much.  This team really needs to figure out how to start scoring goals.

The Stars will have a few days off before they will be back at the IceBox this Wednesday evening to take on the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Lincoln head coach Jimmy McGroarty said on the radio after last night's game that the entire team will hop on a bus and drive up to Grand Forks, ND to attend Chad Johnson's funeral, which is Monday morning.  I think it's great that the organization is giving the team an opportunity to pay their respects in person.

Go Stars.