Monday, March 30, 2009

Chris Kreider

Okay, so you're asking yourself right now, "Who the heck is Chris Kreider?"

Remember that name, Stars fans. Chris Kreider is a '91 forward who currently plays hockey for Andover Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachussetts. He is an '10 Boston College recruit. He is 6'2", 200 pounds and is a left-handed shooting winger. He is currently finishing up his junior year at Andover Phillips. His rated one of the top NHL prospects in North America, and will easily be a first round NHL draft pick this year. He is the top-ranked prep hockey player in the country, and is the 14th rated player in the upcoming NHL entry draft.

Oh yeah, he is a former draft pick of the Lincoln Stars. 7th round pick in 2008.

Is it a coincidence that Nick Fouts mentioned after the game this past Friday night that there was a recruit in town? I would think that the coaches at Boston College want Kreider to play USHL hockey for one season before heading to BC, rather than to continue to play prep hockey in MA. The articles I've read about Kreider point towards him and his family wanting to play college hockey, so I don't believe he will pursue any CHL options. He does have the option to return to Andover to play his senior year, or he could decide to play in Lincoln for the '09-'10 season

From what I can find online, Kreider had 33 goals and 56 points in 26 games for Andover as a junior.

Some quick quotes about Kreider:

"There's plenty of reason to believe Chris Kreider of Phillips Andover Academy will be the first high school player taken at the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal.

Scouts and coaches have been impressed with the 17-year-old's quick learning curve and his ability to hit top skating speed in a matter of seconds. A huge shot and the fact he's the top-rated high-school player in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings also doesn't hurt."

"I feel he could be the first high-school player taken," said Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, a Midwest-based scout. "He's got all the tools, the size and the skating. When he skates down the wing and spreads his legs wide to protect the puck and gain the zone, it's something to see. There's a flair about him and he definitely has a second gear. He has a little bit of Eric Staal in him; he's not as thick as Staal, but is really upright and has a little niftiness with the puck."

Just another name to keep tabs on. Let's hope he decides to play for the Stars next season.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday Night Fights - Lincoln @ SC 3/27

Just saw this on youtube. It's not much, but it's better than nothing. I assume the person who posted the video is a Sioux City fan.

Another view of the fights:

Current Poll Question - Team MVP?

I thought I'd give folks here an opportunity to state WHY you voted the way you did in the current poll question. I also extended the time period to vote an extra four days, to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to vote.

My pick? Defenseman Ross Henry, and I didn't think twice about the choice.

Honestly, I think any of the choices are good candidates...but for me, the easy choice was Ross. Easily one of the best shut-down defensmen in the USHL today, Ross is the heart and soul of the Stars defensive corps. He's the very definition of "steady." So steady in fact that if you don't pay attention and watch his shifts, you'd never notice him. He won't deke out an entire team and rush in for the game winning goal. He won't drop the mitts and beat his opponent down. But he will be the player a coach can rely on to play his position better than just about anyone in the league. He's not flashy, and he doesn't need to be.

I watch Ross a lot during home games. It's really amazing how much in control he is out on the ice. He is a man amongst boys. He's not 6'4" tall, and he doesn't weigh 225 pounds. He isn't the teams best skater. But damn if he isn't stronger than anyone he comes into contact with. For a guy who is under 6' tall and weighs less than 200 pounds, Ross is unbelievably strong. His best work is in the corners, where he EASILY pushes larger opposing forwards off the puck. His balance and footwork are incredible, as you rarely see Ross make a mistake or blunder while working man-on-man against an opponent. Very rarely do you see Ross put himself out of position. He's a pitbull, an anchor, an immovable force.

Currently, only the Cedar Rapids Roughriders have given up less goals this season than the Lincoln Stars. Obviously, Kevin Murdock and Anthony Borelli have a say in that, but I believe that a player like Ross Henry also has a huge say in that. I think if you asked Doc and Borelli why they have such good numbers, they'd tell you that Ross is a big reason why.

Anyway, that's why I believe Ross is this season's MVP. Just one fan's opinion. I would REALLY appreciate hearing from the readers out there as to who they voted for, and why. Please feel free to comment. Thanks.

The Race for Andy - Part Three

Current Standings as of 3/29:

Indiana Ice
- 80 points (2 games remaining)
Lincoln Stars - 78 points (2 games remaining)
Cedar Rapids Roughriders - 77 points (2 games remaining)
Green Bay Gamblers - 76 points (4 games remaining)

Team - current points - max points
Indy - 80 - 84
Lincoln - 78 - 82
CR - 77 - 81
GB - 76 - 84

Well, the new "leader" for the Anderson Cup is the Indiana Ice. Indy have won their last five games, and are playing some of their best hockey of the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Green Bay Gamblers. The Gamblers have lost four of their last five games, and seem to be struggling down the stretch. The Gamblers still have two more games in hand compared to the rest of the teams in competition for the Andy, so I still believe it's Green Bay's trophy to lose. I wouldn't be surprised if Indiana or another team can win the Andy, but I'm still betting that GB takes it.

Lincoln certainly has a chance to win the Andy, but they'll need a lot of help. Green Bay will have to continue to play poorly and lose at least three of their remaining four games. The Gamblers four final games include three against last place Des Moines, so if you are a Lincoln fan right're also a Bucs fan. Indiana has road games against Cedar Rapids and Chicago. Cedar Rapids finishes the season with a home game against Indiana, and a road game against Waterloo.

Lots of "ifs" and "buts," but the Stars CAN win the Andy with a lot of help. Obviously the Stars would need to win its last two games of the season, road games against Sioux Falls and Fargo. Personally, I won't be sad at all if the Stars don't win the Andy. I think it's a great accomplishment, but it's not the end all. I think it can be a distraction, and maybe even a playoff jinx...but those are just my opinions. Regardless, this last week of regular season USHL hockey should prove to be an exciting one. Stay tuned.

What say you? Can the Stars win the Andy? Will Indiana hold off the Gamblers? Which team ends up with the Andy?

Postgame Report - Lincoln at Sioux City 3/28

Final Score: Lincoln 4, Sioux City 3

Jake Newton scored the game winning goal with only 1:00 remaining in the third period to propel the Stars over the hometown Sioux City Musketeers, 4-3. The win was the 36th of the year for the Stars. It was the "Jake Newton and David Gerths Show" at the Tyson Events Center tonight, as both players scored two goals in the game. Forward Chris Forfar ended the night with two assists, and was +1 on the night. Goaltender Anthony Borelli stopped 13 of 15 shots on goal, before he was ejected for fighting in the third period (we'll get to that later). Kevin Murdok, in relief of Borelli, stopped 8 of 9 shots on goal and earned his 21st win of the regular season. With the win, the Stars finished the seven game regular season series against Sioux City, 6-1.

I didn't get to watch, or listen to this if anyone out there can let us know how the Stars looked, I would really appreciate it. Missing from the Stars lineup tonight was head coach Jimmy McGroarty, who was suspended one game due to his actions Friday night in Lincoln. In that game, Coach McGroarty was ejected in OT after arguing a call against Michael Sdao. I'm not sure what McGroarty said to referee Curtis Marouelli, but it must have been pretty bad. No worries, as assistant coaches Nick Fouts and Ryan Bencurik lead the Stars to their 15th road victory on the season.

At the 5:17 mark of the third period, the game REALLY got interesting. Forward Chris Volonnino dropped the mitts with Musketeers defenseman Danny Wurden, and goaltender Anthony Borelli decided to mix it up with goaltender Adam Janecyk. EVERYBODY loves a goalie fight. Again, I hope somebody out there who watched this game on B2 or in person can give us the details on this dustup. Janecyk had 4 inches and 25 pounds on the smaller Borelli, so I hope Borelli was able to hang on and survive. I'll keep my eyes open if the fight makes it to youtube.

Sioux City ended the night going 0-7 on the powerplay, while the Stars went 0-3 on the powerplay. The Stars continue to lead the USHL in the penalty kill department. The Stars are in first place with a penalty kill percentage of 89.16% on the season. The Stars have not given up a powerplay goal in the last three games (21 straight PP kills).

With the win, the Stars now have 78 points on the season, with only two regular season games remaining (@ Sioux Falls, and @ Fargo). I will post an updated "Race for the Anderson" article here in a bit.

1ST STAR: Newton, Jake (LIN)
2ND STAR: Gerths, David (LIN)
3RD STAR: Da Costa, Stephane (SC)

Note: I apologize for not posting a pregame report for this game. Real life got in the way of blogging life again. I hate when that happens.

Postgame Report - Cedar Rapids at Lincoln 3/27

Roughriders forward Eric Anderson scored his tenth goal of the season 3:59 into the OT period to beat the Lincoln Stars, 2-1. Scoring the lone goal for the Stars was Chris Forfar, while netminder Kevin Murdock stopped 29 of 31 shots on goal in the loss.

This one was a tough one to stomach. From my perspective, the Stars outplayed CR most of the night, but credit Roughriders goaltender Mike Johnson for making the big saves to keep his team in the game. I'll mention this once, but Cedar Rapids should look into a new skate sharpener, as their players seemed to fall quite regularly in this game. wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The Stars had only two powerplay opportunities the entire game, while Cedar Rapids had six...including a 5-on-3 powerplay in the OT period.

According to an interview assistant coach Nick Fouts did after the game, one of the linesmen told the Stars bench to send one of their players on the ice back to the bench or get a penalty. At the time, there were 5 players a side on each team. After the 5-on-3 CR powerplay expired, it should have stayed 5-on-5 until the next whistle. The Lincoln bench did what the linesman instructed, and only had four players on the ice when Cedar Rapids scored the game winning OT goal. It's tough to say what would have happened if Lincoln did have all five players on the ice during that last 1:30.

1ST STAR: Murdock, Kevin (LIN)
2ND STAR: Forfar, Chris (LIN)
3RD STAR: Robinson, Eric (CR)

On a side note, I can't explain the idiot Lincoln "fans" who thought it was a great idea to throw cups of ice and beer onto the ice after the game was over. I don't understand that kind of behavior at all. I believe one of the cups of liquid actually hit a CR coach or two. Our own Lincoln players, obviously upset after a close loss, had to dodge the cups also. I love the Ice Box, I love the Stars, and I love the majority of our fans...BUT, there are some folks who only come to games to drink like fish, hope for fights, curse, and generally act like idiots. I wish we could screen these mouth-breathing neanderthals at the front entrance. They give the rest of us a bad name.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pregame Report - Cedar Rapids @ Lincoln 3/27

The Lincoln Stars will play their final regular season home game Friday night at the Ice Box, as the Cedar Rapids Roughriders will gallop trot ride into town. This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and Roughriders (R.R.'s) play each other this season, with Cedar Rapids holding a 2-1 advantage in those three games. The Lincoln Stars are in first place in the USHL West Division with 75 points, while the R.R.'s are in third place in the USHL East Division with 73 points. Cedar Rapids has only won one game in their last five, with that one win coming against last place Des Moines.

The last time these two teams played each other back on 3/15/09 in Cedar Rapids, the Stars beat the R.R.'s, 3-2. It was the Stars first win against Cedar Rapids this season, and it started their current four game winning streak. This was the game that got the Stars going in the right direction, basically. Starting with that game, the Stars have outscored their opponents 16-8, and are 4-0. Lincoln netminder Anthony Borelli is 1-0 against the R.R.'s this season, with a .943 save percentage and a 1.99 goals against average in that one game. Goaltender Kevin Murdock is 0-2 against the Green Weenie's this season, with a .907 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average in those two game. Doc is winless against the R.R.'s this season, but his stats aren't really that bad in those two game. However, Doc is currently playing some of the best hockey he has played this entire season. Only Coach McGroarty knows as to which one will get the nod in this game. If I'm guessing, I'll say Borelli.

Another home game at the Box, another quality opponent to battle the Stars. I've stated this in the past, but Cedar Rapids is an extremely disciplined team. There are some who say the R.R.'s tend to dive (draw penalties) more than other USHL teams in order to generate powerplays. I can't personally say that is true, but I do know that Cedar Rapids is one of the least physical teams in the league. Their own fans have been critical of their "softness." Despite that, the R.R.'s are a very talented team that relies more on their "technical" abilities than their brawn. Basically, Lincoln and Cedar Rapids are about as far apart fundamentally as you can get. Lincoln plays an "in your face," physical, up-tempo game, while the R.R.'s play a much more technical, "European-style" of hockey. This is yet another test to see how well the Stars match up with a quality hockey club from the East. Lincoln will have to really concentrate on keeping a lid on the retaliatory (stupid) penalties, and focus more on blanketing the talented group of Cedar Rapids players like Mike Seidel, Kyle Flanagan, and Matt Donovan.

Note: Tonight's game is "Fan Appreciation Night," so show up early to take advantage of the reduced concession prices from 6pm-7:05pm. Cheap beer and hot dogs! Whoo hoo! Also, stick around after the game and head down to the ice to get your favorite Stars autograph(s). What better way to end a glorious night at the Ice Box than to have Garrett Peterson sign your forehead!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Got Superstitions?

I think most of us know that hockey players can be a very suspicious lot. Left skate before right skate, last off the ice after warmups, wearing the same "supporter" during a winning streak, eating the same pre-game meal, favorite number, playoff beard....the list can be endless. Some players are more supersticious than others.

When I played hockey, my superstion was always left before right. Left skate on, then right skate. Left shin pad, then right...and so on. Not sure how that started, but I had to do it before every game, practice, etc. If I put my right skate on before my left by accident, I freaked out. I had to take my right skate off, then put my left skate on to try to right the "wrong." Even then, I had bad feelings that mojo wouldn't be on my side that day. I still do the left before right today, but with normal everyday stuff. Left sock, then right sock. I may be slowly going insane.

As a Stars fan, I don't have a lot of superstitions. I have a LIVEHOCKEY bracelet that I wear on my left wrist for every game. I have yet to forget to wear it to a game. I also am a little superstitious with the jerseys I wear. I've stated previously that I'm a bit of a jersey whore...I have a bunch. I wear all kinds of jerseys to Stars games. Lincoln Stars jerseys, NHL jerseys, and minor league jerseys. Certain jerseys have better mojo than others. For example, I have a Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals jersey that has bad mojo. The last three times I've worn it to a Stars home game, Lincoln has lost. On the opposite end, I have #37 David Reekie jersey that has very good mojo, as the Stars have won quite a bit when I have worn it. More evidence towards my insanity plea. :)

One of the more involved superstitions I ran across on the internet was from former NHL'er St├ęphane Lebeau. I guess this is more of a routine than a superstition, but it's interesting nonetheless:

"On the day of a game, I get up at 8:30am. I have my usual breakfast, orange juice, oatmeal, two slices of bread, and a glass of milk. Then I head off to team training. When I get back, I always eat a hamburger steak and watch a show on TV. I have a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. Four hours before the game, I eat a plate of spaghetti. I arrive at the locker room at around 5pm and I put on my underwear. In the two and a half hours before warm-up, I chew 20 to 25 sticks of gum and drink lots of water. I tape up my three or four sticks for the game and, before every game, I jump in the dressing room spa for three or four minutes. Then I put on the rest of my equipment."

Yikes. That's borderline OCD.

Okay, so what are your hockey superstitions? I'd really like to hear some good ones from fellow Stars fans out there. I'd like to think I'm not the only nutball out there.

Edit: I just remembered how I caught a ton of grief from some of my hockey friends when I showed them a picture of myself touching the Stanley Cup. Yes, I was aware that you don't touch the cup...ever...unless you WIN the cup. Seriously, when is my skinny ass going to ever win the Holy Grail of Hockey? At the time, I was happier than a hog in sh*t that I was even in the same room as the Stanley Cup. I felt like I was in the presence of something magical. For a hockey nut like myself, it was really surreal. So I touched it. Big freakin' deal.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Night Fights - Fargo at Lincoln 3/21

Michael Sdao vs. Grant Scott

Watch the Lincoln players in the background jump up after Scott goes down. I'm not sure if Sdao landed a huge punch, or if Scott just slipped and fell.

Jimmy Siers vs. Steve Spinell

Credit Spinell for lasting as long as he did with Siers. The first punch by Siers connected fully, and I was shocked that Spinell didn't fall to the ice. Both players landed some good shots.

Thanks to "Michelle D" for taping the fights. She does a great job taping a lot of fights that occur at the Ice Box.

The Race for Andy - Part Deux

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the USHL's race for the Anderson Cup. At that time, the Lincoln Stars sat in third place in the Anderson Cup standings..behind Cedar Rapids and Green Bay. After winning their last four games, all of a sudden the Stars are the new leader for the Andy.

Current Standings as of 3/22:

Lincoln Stars
- 75 points (4 games remaining)
Green Bay Gamblers - 74 points (7 games remaining)
Indiana Ice - 74 points (5 games remaining)
Cedar Rapids Roughriders - 73 points (5 games remaining)
Waterloo Blackhawks - 71 points (6 games remaining)

I still believe the Green Bay Gamblers will win the Andy, but it is nice to see Lincoln at the top of the list. They've worked VERY hard since that 7-1 blowout at the hands of Omaha to get back on track. The Gamblers have more games to play compared to the rest of the competing teams, and their schedule is very soft. The Gamblers play last place Des Moines three times in their last seven games. However, they do have games against Cedar Rapids (twice) and Indiana (once). Anything can happen, but I still think the Gamblers will take the Andy.

Believe me, I'd LOOOOVE to see the Stars win the rest of their games...and somehow win the Andy. I think it's a great accomplishment, and would be a huge confidence boost going into the playoffs. With that said, the ultimate goal should be the Clark Cup. Regular season championships are nice, but league championships are even better.

What say you? Do you still believe the Stars can win the Anderson Cup? Now that the Stars have clinched the West, should they rest up for the playoffs and not worry too much about the Andy?

Waterloo head coach loses it

I know this isn't related to the Stars, but it is USHL related. Also, who doesn't love to watch a coach act like a child, and fall on his butt!

Waterloo head coach P.K. "Anger Management is for suckers" O'Handley went beserk in the Chicago@Waterloo game last night. He hopped over the boards and went after referee Tim Mayer. Video is below.

Waterloo - PK OHandley - (Unsportsmanlike Conduct), 2 min, 9:11
Waterloo - PK OHandley - (Abuse of Officials Game Misconduct), 10 min, 9:11
Waterloo - PK OHandley - (Bench / Coach Gross Misconduct), 10 min, 9:11

Hilarious. You'd think a guy with that much practice walking around on the ice wouldn't have fallen so much. Maybe he was drunk. This is the SECOND time O'Handley has jumped over the boards to go after a ref during a game. I think a fine and a suspension is in order. We'll see if the USHL acts.

MDA Jersey Auction

Photo courtesy of RJ Meyer -

The Lincoln Stars held their annual Muscular Dystrophy Association auction tonight after the 5-1 victory over the Fargo Force. Stars Trainer Corey Courtney designed the throwback jerseys, which commemorated the 30th anniversary of the USHL. I have to say, I liked the look of those jerseys a LOT. As much as I would have loved to own one, I just couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on one. I guess I could have put it on plastic, but that would just earn me a weeks worth of sleeping on the couch. The wifey wouldn't have been happy. :)

Here are the results of the auction, courtesy of Brent Wagner of the LJS Blueline Blog. The Stars raised a total of $33,000 for the MDA.

Chris Forfar-$3,500
Kevin Murdock-$3,200
Mike Dalhuisen-$2,000
Kirt Hill-$1,850
Ryan Kretzer-$1,700
Jimmy Siers-$1,400
Garrett Peterson-$1,350
Chris Volonnino-$1,300
Eric Alexander-$1,300
Michael Sdao-$1,250
David Gerths-$1,200
Anthony Borelli-$1,200
Matt Bruneteau-$1,200
Corey Chakeen-$1,100
Garrett Vermeersch-$1,100
Ross Henry-$1,050
Jake Newton-$1,000
Eric Meland-$900
John McCarron-$900
Taylor Kuypers-$900
Cory Hibbeler-$900
Kory Kaunisto-$950
Brett Chartier-$800

The jersey signed by the entire team went for $1,000.

Your opinions on the throwback jerseys? Thumbs up or thumbs down? If they sold them at Faceoff Sports, would you buy one? Were you one of the lucky few that bought one of the MDA jerseys?

Postgame Report - Fargo at Lincoln 3/21

Final Score: Fargo 1, Lincoln 5

What a great weekend of hockey!

The Lincoln Stars won their fourth game in a row and clinched the West Division Title Saturday night, as the good guys beat the visiting Fargo Force, 5-1. By clinching the USHL West Division regular season title, the Stars are assured of home ice advantage thru the first two rounds of the playoffs (if they get that far). Scoring goals for the Stars was Michael Sdao, Garrett Vermeersch (GW), Ryan Kretzker (PP), Mike Dalhuisen, and Eric Alexander (EN, SH). Stars netminder Kevin Murdock stopped 33 of 34 Fargo shots on goal, and earned his 20th win of the season. Doc is now the #1 rated goaltender in the USHL in terms of save percentage (.921), and goals against average (2.19).

This one was another fun one to watch as a fan. The Stars came out blazing hot, and the Sdao goal at 2:35 of the first period really seemed to deflate the Force. The Stars played much more physical than the Force did, and used their forecheck to create numerous chances. The Stars penalty kill unit stopped all 8 PP opportunities for the Force, which included 1:36 worth of a 6-on-3 man advantage in the third period which saw Michael Sdao, Chris Forfar, and Jake Newton block shot after shot. What a treat it was to watch those three (and Doc) completly shutdown the Fargo PP.

I was very surprised to see Mike Lee not start in net for the Force. I don't think it really would have mattered tonight, as the Force offense really never clicked and Kevin Murdock was just that hot in net for the Stars. I was also surprised at how chippy the game got. Two back-to-back fights in the first period, and two game ejections in the third period. I don't know if the Force wanted to send a message, but the Stars were more than willing to trade punches. In the third period, Stars forward Jimmy Siers jumped a Forgo player, which could lead to a suspension. We'll have to wait and see if the USHL takes action against Siers. I think Siers just had enough chirping from the Fargo player, and started punching him. I would have liked to see Jimmy take a Force player with him to the bench in that case.

1ST STAR: Murdock, Kevin (LIN)
2ND STAR: Sdao, Michael (LIN)
3RD STAR: Alexander, Eric (LIN)

Very solid effort tonight against a good Force team. The Stars are now 5-1 against Fargo this season, which is a very good record considering how well the Force are playing this season. These two teams meet again in Fargo on 4/4, which will be the last regular season games for each squad. I'm sure the extracurricular activities that occurred in this game will carry on to that game in Fargo. That game might be one you'll want to watch on B2...even if you do think B2 sucks. :)

After 9 games in 15 days, the Stars have earned a five day break before their next game, which will be against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders on Friday, March 27. That game will also be the last home game of the regular season. If you don't have tickets to that game, you'd better buy them now. There's no doubt the game will be a sellout. Go Stars.

Your thoughts of the game? Would it have been a different game had Mike Lee started for Fargo? Is this the best the Stars have played this season?

Quick Note: I'm going to post a separate blog article regarding the MDA jersey auction from the game tonight. Stay tuned for that. Those throwback jerseys looked great.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pregame Report - Fargo at Lincoln 3/21

That Fargo mascot is plain creepy, don't you think?

The Ice Box in Lincoln, Nebraska will be the scene when the Lincoln Stars and the Fargo Force tangle with one another Saturday night. This will be the sixth time the Stars and Force have played each other this season, with the Stars leading the season series 4-1. The Force have won eight of their last ten games, and are currently in second place in the USHL West Division with 65 points. The Stars are in first place in the West Division with 73 points. With a win against the Force Saturday night, the Stars can clinch the West Division regular season championship...and more importantly, home ice advantage in the playoffs (against West teams).

The Force are led by goaltender, Mike Lee. Lee is a highly ranked prospect, and will most certainly be a NHL draft pick this Spring. Lee has accumulated 24 wins this season with the Force, and is the big reason why this expansion team has played so well this season. Lee is 1-2 against the Stars this season, while posting a .923 save percentage, and a 3.34 goals against average in those three games. The Force also have one of the hottest goal scorers in the USHL right now, forward Andy Taranto. The former Omaha Lancer has posted an incredible 13 goals in his last 11 games, and at one point had scored at least one goal in 10 straight games. Taranto is second in the USHL in goals scored with 28. Not too shabby for a guy who only scored a total of 7 goals in 47 games last season while playing for the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets. The move to Fargo has done wonders for Taranto.

In five games against the Force this season, Stars forward Kirt Hill has netted 5 goals and 4 assists for a total of 9 points in those five games. Netminders Anthony Borelli and Kevin Murdock both have two wins a piece against the Force this season, each with respectable numbers in those wins. Considering Kevin Murdock started in net against the Gamblers Friday night, I expect Anthony Borelli to start against the Force in this game.

Lincoln has fared well against the Force this season, but a majority of those games came in the first half of the season when the Force were struggling to find out what kind of team they were. Now that they have leveled out and have been more consistent with their play, I expect the Force to give Lincoln all it can handle in this game. The Force are arguably one of the hottest teams in the USHL right now, and will be looking to get their first win at the Ice Box. As USHL expansion teams go, this Force squad is a very good one. Head Coach Dean Blais, like his counterpart in Green Bay, is doing a fantastic job as a rookie USHL head coach. The Force play smart, defensive hockey, and very rarely do they get blown out.

This should be yet another great game, folks. This Force team does NOT play like an expansion team. I expect the Force to fight tooth and nail in this game, despite their not so sucessful attempts in the past at the Ice Box. There is a lot riding on this game for the should be interesting to see how they respond, and if they can clinch the West.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm

Note: Don't forget, the Stars will hold their annual "Jerseys Off Our Backs" auction to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Stars players will be wearing "throwback" jerseys to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the USHL. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game, and all proceeds will go to MDA. Bring your checkbook. :)

Thoughts on this game? Can Lincoln continue their winning ways against the Force? Will you be bidding on a jersey?

Postgame Report - Green Bay at Lincoln 3/20

Final Score: Green Bay 2, Lincoln 3

What a great game to watch, eh?

In dramatic fashion, the Lincoln Stars scored two third period goals to come from behind to beat the visiting Green Bay Gamblers, 3-2. The win was the third in a row for the Stars, and the Lincoln victory snapped the Gamblers three game winning streak. Scoring goals for the Stars was Eric Meland, Ryan Krezter (PP), and Garrett Peterson (GW). Down 2-1 entering the third period, Ryan Kretzer tied the game at 2-2 with his tenth powerplay goal of the season, and then forward Garrett Peterson scored his seventh goal of the season with just 1:22 left in the third period to win the game.

What more can you say about this game? Just how I predicted it...low scoring, very physical, with great goaltending. This game played out very much like a playoff game would look like if these two teams met in the Clark Cup Finals. I have a lot of respect for the job Jon Cooper has done with his squad. They forecheck better than any team I've seen this season, and their team speed is incredible. Considering how bad the Gamblers were last season before Cooper became head coach, he has done a great job turning the franchise around and has his kids playing great hockey.

Despite having not having a lot of luck recently with scoring goals in the third period, it was really nice to see the Stars come out and dominate a home third period to win a game. Too often as of late we've seen the Stars start out strong at home, only to fade away in the second and third periods. The players kept battling and battling tonight, and never gave up. It was a treat to watch as a fan. One of the best games I've seen at the Ice Box in a long time, in terms of competitive hockey. Both teams played at such a high level, but the Stars showed that they really wanted it in the third period.

1ST STAR: Peterson, Garrett (LIN)
2ND STAR: Meland, Eric (LIN)
3RD STAR: Dalhuisen, Mike (LIN)

The Stars will attempt to extend their current three game winning streak Saturday night at the Ice Box as the Fargo Farce Force invade the capital city. The Force are winners of eight of their last ten games, and are peaking at the right time of the regular season. It should be another playoff type of atmosphere at the Ice Box Saturday night. I hope to post a pregame report sometime today. Stay tuned.

Your thoughts on the game? Are the Gamblers for real? How important was this win?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pregame Report - Green Bay at Lincoln 3/20

The Lincoln Stars will attempt to extend their current two game winning streak as the West Division leading Green Bay Gamblers visit the Ice Box Friday night. This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and Gamblers meet in the regular season. The Gamblers lead the season series, 2-1. The last time the two teams played each other at the Ice Box, the Gamblers blasted the Stars by a score of 8-3. In that 10/18/08 game, there were five separate fights and a total of 93 penalty minutes posted by both teams.

The Gamblers are winners of their last three games, one of which was a 8-4 blowout of the Indiana Ice on 3/17. Green Bay is one of the favorites to win the Anderson Cup this season, and if realized, would be an incredible achievement considering they were statistically the worst team in the USHL last season. New head coach Jon Cooper has the Gamblers playing a very physical, up-tempo style of hockey...which is very similar to the style of hockey the Stars play.

The Stars enter the game Friday night winners of two straight road wins over the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, and the Omaha Lancers. Anthony Borelli started against CR, and got the win...while Kevin Murdock started against the Lancers and got the win in that game. Anthony Borelli has the better numbers against Green Bay this season, but it could be either goaltender to start against the Gamblers tonight. You just never know who Coach McGroarty is going to go with.

This should be a VERY fun game to watch as a fan, as each club is at the top of their respective division. I don't think this game will turn into a brawl-fest, but you never know. At this point in the season, I think both teams are more concerned with playing the best hockey they can than they are with trying to settle any scores with their fists. Both of these teams are gearing up the playoffs, so I believe we'll see that kind of atmosphere tonight. Very physical, low scoring, and great goaltending. I'm really looking forward to this game, as it will be yet another test for the Stars to see if they can hang with the best the East Division can offer.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm

Your thoughts on this game? Can the Stars solve the GB defense? The Stars have only managed to score five goals in three games against the Gamblers this season. Which goaltender starts for Lincoln?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Postgame Report - Lincoln at Omaha 3/17

Final Score: Lincoln 5, Omaha 3

What's the expression....revenge is a dish best served cold?

The Lincoln Stars got a little revenge Tuesday night against the Omaha Lancers, as the Stars got out to a 4-1 lead and then held on for the 5-3 victory. With the win, the Stars won the regular season series against the Lancers, 4-2-1. In what could have been the final time the Stars played the Lancers at the Mid America Center, Lincoln scored two goals in each of the first two periods to escape Counciltucky with the road win. Scoring goals for the Stars was Kirt Hill, Ryan Kretzer (PP), Jake Newton, Eric Alexander, and Michael Sdao (EN).

This was yet another quality road win for the Stars. Lincoln ended its four game road trip with 5 points, which isn't bad at all considering how inconsistent the Stars had been playing before. Two straight road wins against Cedar Rapids and Omaha was just what the team needed to get back on track. It was also a great test in terms of playoff preparation. To go anywhere in the playoffs, you have to be able to perform well and win on the road in some hostile barns. Granted, the MAC is about as hostile as a Nunnery, but it's still a place the Stars have had trouble winning games in the past couple of years.

Despite being outshot 31-14 by the Lancers, the Stars were able to put four goals past Omaha goaltender Kris Lazaruk. Lazaruk was brought in from the WHL by head coach Bliss Littler halfway thru the season, but he has yet to be consistent in net for the Lancers. Last Tuesday night at the Ice Box, Lazaruk had a heck of a game stopping 31 of 32 shots on goal for the win. Before that game, on 2/20, Lazaruk started in net at the Ice Box but gave up four goals in a loss to the Stars. In that game he gave up a ton of rebounds, and never looked comfortable. Fast forward to last night, and Lazaruk was only able to stop 9 of 13 Lincoln shots. Shots on goal isn't the end all statistic, quality is always more important than quantity, but a .692 save percentage isn't going to win you ANY games. Zero. Zip. Nada. Doughnut.

Props to Kevin Murdock for standing on his head and stopping 28 of 31 Omaha shots. Doc gave up two goals in the third period to make the game interesting, but I think that had more to do with the team putting it in cruise control after it got up 4-1 in the game, and possibly playing with a little less aggression. You have to keep your foot on the throat of your opponent when you have them down, and the Stars almost let the Lancers get away in this game. Doc is now in second place in the USHL in goals against, and is tied for first place in save percentage.

If anyone was at the game, I'd appreciate any comments. The shot total is not very surprising to me at all. I wouldn't be shocked if the Stars had more shots on goal, but were missed by the Omaha scorekeeper. I've noticed that quite often whenever the Stars visit the MAC. I've been at games up there and have noticed shots on goal by Lincoln not getting noted by the scorekeeper. It is what it is. Like I said before, quantity is nice...but quality is always more important.

Onward and upward! Two big games this weekend at the comfy confines of the Ice Box. Green Bay, and Fargo come to town. Two very good teams looking to continue their winning ways. Stay tuned.

Note: I'm not even going to waste my time and post the 3 stars from this game. As usual, the dolts in Counciltucky gave them all to Omaha players, despite the loss.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

B2 Public Events in Lincoln??

Over on the LJS Blueline Blog, Travis brought an interesting topic that I'd like to blog about. Hope you don't mind me singling you out, Travis. It's something I've thought for a long time now. It's a topic related to the poll question also. Anyway, here is the quote from Travis:

"I occasionally purchase road games on B2 and watch them from my computer. It would be nice to be able to watch the road games with other Stars fans as opposed to sitting on my couch with my lap top in my lap. Since Heidelberg's is the "bar of the Stars" is there anything preventing them (or us)from purchasing the game on B2 and putting it on a screen for the whole bar to enjoy? I think that could be a lot of fun. Just a thought.?"

I brought the same topic up over on the Lincoln Stargazing Message Board last year.

I know quite a few other USHL teams have B2 parties at designated bars in town for away games. I don't understand at all why it hasn't been done here in awhile. Supposedly it was done once or twice at the bar "Slapshotz," but that bar is no more. Heidelberg's is now the "official" bar of the Stars, but I haven't heard of any kind of a B2 promotion there for away games. From what I can gather, it costs a bar $250 per game to broadcast a B2 game. Considering the rabid fan support the Stars have, I don't see how this couldn't be a hit at Heidelbergs, or any other bar. With the money they'd make on drinks and food, they'd earn back that $250 and much more. It just seems like a no-lose situation, and I'm surprised we haven't seen it in Lincoln.

Your thoughts? Anyone out there with more insider info? Would this work in Lincoln? If not, why?

Pregame Report - Lincoln at Omaha 3/17

St. Patrick's Day Edition!

The Lincoln Stars will finish up their four game road swing tonight in Council Bluffs, as they take on the hometown Omaha Lancers. This will be the seventh and final time the Stars and Lancers meet in the regular season. The Stars lead the season series, 3-2-1. The last time these two teams met, it was a 7-1 drubbing by the hands of the Lancers at the Ice Box. The Stars will look to get a little revenge on their rival to the north.

Lincoln netminder Kevin Murdock is 2-0-1 against the Lancers this season, with a .933 save percentage and a 1.95 goals against average in those three games. Doc has much better numbers against the Lancers this season, so I would guess he'll be in net tonight. However, Anthony Borelli is coming off a fantastic effort Sunday night against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, so you never know.

Apart from the recent 7-1 nightmare, the Stars have done a fantastic job all season against the Lancers group of talented forwards, specifically Danny Kristo and Louis Leblanc. In 11 games played against the Stars, Kristo and Leblanc have only accounted for 3 goals, and 3 assists. Those two can score points at will, but the Stars have been able to shut them down most of the season.

Considering how bad the Stars played the last time these two teams played, I would expect an entirely different game than the 7-1 beatdown we witnessed last week. I'm sure that loss is fresh in their minds, so I would bet the Stars come out and play one of their best games of the season tonight. Go Stars.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm

Predictions? Anyone going to the game?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Postgame Report - Lincoln at Cedar Rapids 3/15

Final Score: Lincoln 3, Cedar Rapids 2

The Lincoln Stars scored a goal in each period in Cedar Rapids to beat the Roughriders, 3-2. The win broke a three game winless streak for the Stars. Scoring for the Stars was Eric Alexander, Chris Forfar (PP), and Kirt Hill (GW). Kirt Hill was the only Stars player with multiple points (1 goal, 1 assist). Lincoln goaltender Anthony Borelli saved 28 of 30 shots on goal in the win. The Stars outshot the Roughriders, 34-30 (yeah!).

Quality, quality road win against a very good hockey team. I didn't get to watch or listen to this game, so I'm just going off of what I've heard from other fans and the stats available on Poinstreak. I'm very happy to see the Stars powerplay clicking, and I was shocked to see Cedar Rapids only had four powerplay opportunities. The big three of Kretzer-Hill-Alexander had a terrific game, and Coach McGroarty said afterwards that it was probably Alexander's best game as a Lincoln Star. With Hill healthy again, it's important those three keep producing scoring opportunities.

Looks like the hockey monkey mojo worked for this game. Very happy for that. I'll have to break him out in the future when the Stars have a critical game coming up.

1ST STAR: Hill, Kirt (LIN)
2ND STAR: Rickord, Jared (CR)
3RD STAR: Lynch, Ben (CR)

No rest for the wicked as the Stars travel to Counciltucky on Tuesday night to battle the Omaha Lancers. I had to stop by the Ice Box this afternoon, and was surprised to see the team practicing. Talk about a brutal stretch of hockey. Road games in Indiana, Chicago, and Cedar Rapids three straight nights...and practice Monday afternoon. I'm sure the team got in early Monday morning, and practiced that same afternoon. Wow. Big game coming up Tuesday night against the Lancers, so I'm sure the coaches wanted to go over some things on the ice before the game. I'll get a pregame report up during the day tomorrow sometime.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pregame Report - Lincoln at Cedar Rapids 3/15

Lincoln will look to snap their three game losing streak as the Stars invade the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena to play the Roughriders. This will be the third time the Stars and Roughriders have played each this season. The Roughriders lead the season series, 2-0.

Lincoln goaltender Kevin Murdock is 0-2 against the Greeny Weenies Roughriders this season, while sporting a respectable .907 save percentage, and a 2.56 goals against average in those two games.

Lincoln and Cedar Rapids are polar opposites in terms of penalties called against each team. The Stars lead the USHL in penalty minutes with 1,412 in 52 games. The Roughriders are last in the USHL in penalty minutes with only 573 in 52 games. That's an incredible discrepancy, in my opinion. Almost 1,000 penalty minutes separate the two teams. Cedar Rapids always seems to put out extremely disciplined teams year in and year out in the USHL (they were last in PIM's last season as well). Some fans of other teams like to suggest that CR has an unfair advantage in terms of the calls (or lack thereof) against them. Well coached, disciplined team? Or a favorite of the refs? I really don't have an opinion either way. Personally, I think they play boring hockey, but it wins games. That's the ultimate goal, correct?

The last time these two teams faced off against each other, it turned into a gongshow in the third period. In Cedar Rapids, the Stars were losing 2-0 at the second intermission. At the 1:41 second mark of the third period, it all went nuts with a line brawl. Five Stars players received fighting majors, while only three Roughriders players received fighting majors. I always thought you had to have two players fight each other to get a fighting major, but I digress. There was talk after the game that the CR players were talking a lot of smack during the game, but not really backing it up physically. Whatever the case was, the Stars lost a very close game. I don't know if the fireworks will carry over to this game, but it could very well happen. Cedar Rapids is coming off an uncharacteristic home loss Saturday night by the hands of the Sioux City Musketeers, so they will be playing their best.

The stupid penalties have to be eliminated in this game. I know that the Stars seem to get the short end of the stick in terms of calls against them when playing East teams, but they're going to have to learn to get past that. The Stars will not win this game if they spend the entire game shorthanded. Stay out of the box, hit 'em hard, and work like crazy to get those dirty goals.

Faceoff is at 5:05pm

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I'm going to post a picture of "Jack," the monkey from the film "MVP" (Most Valuable Primate), the worlds most famous (and only) hockey monkey, in hopes his hockey monkey mojo can break this losing streak. Go Stars.

Postgame Report - Lincoln at Chicago 3/14

Final Score: Lincoln 3, Chicago 4 OT

Lincoln continued its downward spiral Saturday night, as the Stars lost in a overtime shootout to the Chicago Steel, 4-3. It was the third straight loss for the Stars. The Stars managed to get one point from the OT loss, so the Stars currently have 67 points, and are still in first place in the West Division. The Fargo Force and the Omaha Lancers are tied for second place with 61 points.

Lincoln had goals from Ryan Krezter (PP), Eric Alexander, and Brett Chartier (PP). Alexander and Chartier both finished the night with two points. Chicago had goals from Greg "Stars Killer" Wolfe, John Moore (PP), and Dean Chelios. I don't know a lot about Wolfe, but the kid plays unreal against the Stars. While I was listening to the game on the radio, it seeme like Mike Melbye said his name a hundred times. I don't know if this kid is going to college in the fall, but if he isn't...I'd sure like to see the Stars try to trade for him. If for only to stop him from scoring on the Stars next season. :)

In the overtime shootout, Corey Chakeen, Garrett Vermeersch, Ryan Kretzer, and Eric Alexander all failed to convert their shootout attempts. For Chicago, Greg Wolfe missed his attempt, but Dean Chelios and Andrew Miller both scored to clinch the victory for the Steel. Lincoln netminder Kevin Murdock stopped 33 of 36 shots on goal in the loss. Another quality effort by Doc, but the kid just can't seem to get the "shootout monkey" off his back. Not his fault though, as the Stars were outshot again. That's five straight games in which the Stars have been outshot by their opponent.

1ST STAR: Miller, Andrew (CHI)
2ND STAR: Moore, John (CHI)
3RD STAR: Chelios, Dean (CHI)

What is troubling to me (there's a lot, unfortunately), is the trend of Lincoln not being able to score in the third period as of late. In the last 10 games, the Stars have scored a TOTAL of two goals in the third period. That's just plain pathetic. I don't what it is lately, but it just seems like the Stars fade away in these games. Is it fatigue? Is it disinterest? Is there something going on in the locker room we don't know about? I wish I could put my finger on it, but I just don't know.

The Stars travel to Cedar Rapids on Sunday to play the Roughriders. Cedar Rapids is coming off a tough home loss Saturday night to the Sioux City Musketeers. The Stars have not beat the Roughriders in Cedar Rapids since November of 2006.

Chin up, Stars fans. We have to believe the guys can get it turned around. We've seen them dominate the best teams in the USHL. They have the talent. It's time to put it in gear.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pregame Report - Lincoln at Chicago 3/14

The Stars will look to break out of their two game losing streak as the Stars travel to the "Windy City" to face-off against the Chicago Steel. This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and Steel play each other this regular season. The Stars lead the season series, two games to one.

The Steel are coming off a 6-3 home loss to the Omaha Lancers on Friday night. Steel netminder Nick Pissilini started for Chicago against the Lancers, so I expect Hudson Stremmel to start between the pipes against the Stars. Stremmel has done very well against the Stars this season, compiling a 2-0 record, .929 save percentage, and a 2.88 goals against average in those two games. Chicago forward Greg "Stars Killer" Wolfe has scored four times in three games against the Stars this season.

Lincoln forwards Kirt Hill, Garrett Peterson, and Garrett Vermeersch have each accumulated five points in three games against the Steel this season. Goaltender Anthony Borelli has had better luck against the Steel this season compared to his teammate Kevin Murdock, but it's anyone's guess as to which goaltender will get the nod in this game.

Chicago can certainly score goals in bunches, but they've also shown they can give up goals in bunches as well. Only the Tri-City Storm and the Des Moines Buccaneers have given up more goals this season than the Steel. This might be the game where the Stars can finally start putting some biscuits in the back of the net. I'm sure the merry-go-round of healthy scratches will find its way to four new Lincoln players tonight. How will the team respond? Will the Stars PP get back on track?

Faceoff is at 7:30pm

Postgame Report - Lincoln at Indiana 3/13

Final Score: Lincoln 0, Indiana 1

Friday the 13th certainly wasn't nice to the Stars, as Lincoln was shutout for the first time all season by the hometown Indiana Ice, 1-0. It was the second straight loss for the Stars who currently are still in first place in the USHL West Division with 66 points. Indiana forward Stanislav Galiev scored the only goal of the game on the powerplay in the second period. Ice netminder Brett Bennett stopped all 26 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.

Intersting statistic I heard Melbye mention on the radio after this game: Lincoln has been outshot in four straight games. In those four games, the Stars have only scored a total of eight goals. It's obvious the Stars are in a bit of a slump, but the offense really needs to start picking it up. The Stars have done very well all season in the shots on goal category...very rarely do they get outshot in a game. There's room for improvement on both sides, offense and defense, but it's imperative it start very, very soon. Teams who end the the regular season on a down note, very rarely do anything in the playoffs. Conversely, teams who are playing well and are hot to end the regular season, often keep that hot streak going into the playoffs.

Credit Kevin Murdock for playing a very good game tonight. He just didn't get any help out there. Michael Sdao, Eric Meland, and Eric Alexander were three of the four scratches tonight, so you know Coach McGroarty was sending a message to those guys. It's impossible to point fingers at this point in the season, but sitting guys who normally play is a good wake up for those who sit, and those who are playing. Nobody is safe from the dreaded "healthy scratch." Positives tonight were the Stars holding a very good Indiana team to one goal on their home ice. However, the Stars powerplay is still as anemic as before. The Stars have only scored one goal in their last eighteen powerplays.

1ST STAR: Bennett, Brett (IND)
2ND STAR: Murdock, Kevin (LIN)
3RD STAR: Galiev, Stanislav (IND)

Not to sound like a broken record, but things don't get any easier Saturday night in Chicago. The Steel were blasted by the Omaha Lancers 6-3 on their home ice Friday night, and will look to get revenge as the struggling Stars pay a visit. I'm sure Chicago will also remember the last time the Stars came to town back on 2/28, when Lincoln beat the Steel 5-2. It's hard not to be gloom and doom, but things have to turn around fast.

I noticed that Coach McGroarty missed the postgame interview with Mike Melbye again. He missed the postgame interview after the home Omaha loss as well. I don't know what to think about that. He has his plate full right now, and I'm sure he wants to devote as much time as he can to righting the ship.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pregame Report - Lincoln at Indiana 3/13

Just when you thought it doesn't get any easier for the Stars, they begin their four games in five nights road trip on Friday the 13th. Skeeeery.

This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and Ice meet this season. Lincoln leads the season series, two games to one. Lincoln won home games against the Ice on 11/14/08 and 1/3/09, and have lost the one road game they played in Indiana on 12/13/08. Lincoln forward Ryan Kretzer has an impressive 6 goals and 2 assists in three games against the Ice this season. Lincoln goaltender Kevin Murdock is 2-0 against the Ice, while sporting a .950 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average. Considering the play of Doc against the Ice this season, and Anthony Borelli's recent struggles against the Omaha Lancers, I expect Doc to start in this game. However, with my recent track record of predictions...anything is possible.

The Stars have played quite well against the Ice this season, so there is hope that the players will put together a complete game. With how bad the team played this past Tuesday against Omaha, I really expect the Stars to come out guns blazing in this game. I'm sure Coach McGroarty hammered on them in practice during this short week, so I would think the players are VERY eager to get back on the ice and show that they are better than what they have recently shown.

Indiana will be a little different team to face this time around, as the Ice stole acquired forward Mike Cichy from the Tri-City Storm back in January. Cichy is the real deal, folks. The Ice were a very good offensive team before, and now they're even better. Cichy has accumulated 33 points in 20 games with the Ice since the trade. Forwards Stanislav Galiev and Brandon Richardson are two other Indiana forwards that the Stars will have to keep tabs on throughout this game.

I really hope we see the Stars put together a whole 60 minutes, even if they come up short and lose the game. Obviously a win would be nice, but a consistent, physical, "in your face" effort for the entire 60 minutes is more important right now, in my opinion. Go Stars.

An important reminder...this game will start at 6:30pm Central time.

Faceoff is at 6:30pm

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On The Road Again...

I can't get that song out of my head now.

Anyway, the Stars being a hellish road trip this weekend as they play four games in five days. Friday night against Indiana, Saturday night against Chicago, Sunday night against Cedar Rapids, and next Tuesday night against Omaha. Wow. That's the very definition of "brutal." It will be a great test to see how the players react to the embarrassing loss to the Lancers this past Tuesday.

Neither of the teams are cupcakes either. Coach McGroarty has mentioned in the past that certain road games in the past have brought the team closer, and have propelled them into a winning streak. I really hope that happens here. I can't see how the Stars can play any worse than they did Tuesday night, so I'm excited to see how they respond.

I really hope this past game against Omaha will be the game the Stars look back weeks from now and say, "That's what turned it around." I have confidence that McGroarty and the coaches will have the players ready for this long stretch of road games. This will be great experience in terms of playoff type atmospheres. In order to win the Clark Cup, the Stars will have to travel to some hostile barns and dig down deep to win games.

Four games in five nights. A possible 8 points are up for grabs. I'd be happy if the Stars can come home with four or five points. More importantly, I want to see the Stars turn it around and just play better. Points are nice, but right now I'd rather see the Stars put together 60 quality minutes in a game...even if the game ends up as a loss.

Your thoughts? Do the Stars rebound? How many points would you be happy with?

Post Game Report - Omaha at Lincoln 3/10

Final Score: Omaha 7, Lincoln 1

Wow. I'm not sure where to even start. The Stars and Lancers played a very exciting first period before it all went downhill for the Stars. Lincoln killed two different five-on-three powerplays in the first period, and seemed to be playing well. Lancers outshot the Stars 11-10 in the first. After that, it was all Omaha. The Lancers scored three goals in the second period, and four goals in the third. Omaha scored two shorthanded goals (one was an empty net goal), and one power play goal in the game. The Stars were an anemic 0-7 on the powerplay.

The effort by the Stars in this game was that bad in the second and third periods. Credit the Lancers for taking it to the Stars all night long. Not to discredit the Lancers efforts, but the Stars played one of their worst games of the season. Just pathetic. As a fan, it was difficult to watch.

The Stars earned three points out of a possible six from their recent three game homestand. In my opinion, considering how inconsistent they played, they were lucky to get those three points. This is not the time of the year to be playing inconsistent, lazy hockey. The playoffs are less than a month away, and a first round exit is likely if things don't get turned around soon.

One confusing thing to me was the Stars again only dressing five defensemen. I swear I saw Kory Kaunisto play some of the game as a defenseman also. Cory Hibbeler and Taylor Kuypers were healthy scratches...again. What's up with that? I just don't understand it.

Honestly folks, I really don't want to waste any more time talking about this game. Road games against Indiana, Chicago, and Cedar Rapids loom this weekend. After that, it's on the road to Counciltucky to play the Lancers next Tuesday. The schedule only gets tougher from here on out. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to this embarrassing loss.

Thoughts? Was it as bad as it seemed?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pregame Report - Omaha at Lincoln 3/10

The Lincoln Stars will host the Lancers on Tuesday night as the Stars look to distance themselves further from their arch rival from Omaha in the standings. This will be the sixth time the Stars and Lancers have faced each other. Lincoln leads the season series, three games to two. The Lancers have yet to beat the Stars at the Ice Box in Lincoln this season. The Lancers are winless on the road in their last four games.

Lincoln netminder Kevin Murdock is 2-0-1 in three games against the Lancers with a .933 save percentage and a 1.95 goal against average. Defenseman Jake Newton has 7 assists in five games against Omaha this season. Lincoln is coming off a dramatic OT win against the Sioux City Musketeers this past Saturday, in which Kevin Murdock stopped 33 of 36 shots on goal. Considering his record against the Lancer this season, and the fact that he had such a good game this past Saturday, I'd guess that Doc will be between the pipes Tuesday night.

The Lancers sport one of the hottest players in the USHL right now, forward Louis Leblanc. Leblanc has scored six goals in his last three games. He had a hat trick in two straight games against the Green Bay Gamblers and the Sioux Falls Stampede. The Lancers have a number of forwards on their team that are very good, and if left unchecked, can single-handedly beat hockey teams. The problem with this years Omaha squad as been lack of consistency, which some say comes from their new head coach, Bliss Littler. Goaltender Jeff Teglia started the season playing a majority of the games, but has played less as of late since the arrival of goaltender Kris Lazaruk. Lazaruk was brought in from the WHL to bolster the Omaha goaltending position, but has not done well at all. I don't expect Lazaruk to start in this game, as his last game in Lincoln was not impressive. Lazaruk gave up a ton of rebounds in that game and never looked comfortable.

This is a weird game to predict. Which Lincoln team will show up? Will it be the first place team that has easily beaten some of the top USHL teams this season? Or will it be the team that struggled in the third period against Sioux City this past Saturday? Same thing with Omaha. Will it be the team that dominated league-leading Green Bay this past Friday? Or will it be the team that looked like crap against the Sioux Falls Stampede on the very next night (Saturday)? Both teams have shown that they can play better than any team in the league. Fortunately for the Stars, Omaha has played much more inconsistent than Lincoln has this season, and it shows in the standings.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm. BE LOUD, STARS FANS!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Poll Update

Just wanted to mention that the current poll only has a few hours left before it closes. Looks like it will come down to the wire. Kirt Hill currently has the lead, but Jimmy Siers and Garrett Vermeersch are close behind.

I voted for Vermeersch, but all of the Stars listed are good candidates. Kirt Hill came to the team at the beginning of the season after getting released by the WHL's Regina Pats and has become the Stars top point getter. He's as a consistent scorer as you are going to find this season in the USHL. He does it all very quietly too. He's a powerplay wizard, and chirps like no other on the ice. Love those kids from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Jimmy Siers has earned the reputation as a guy you just don't want to mess with. After KO'ing Max Grover of the Sioux Fall Stampede early in the season, it's been a string of wins and KO's for the rugged forward from Mount Prospect, IL. What I like the most about Siers is his work ethic on the ice. Next time you are at the Ice Box watching a Stars game, take a minute or two and watch Siers. Watch his entire shift when he's on the ice. Few on the team skate as hard as Siers. He's much more than an enforcer.

Garrett Vermeersch is a kid who I really didn't notice at all during the tryouts in Omaha this past Fall. I knew that he played for Cedar Rapids last season, but his stats there were not impressive at all. Vermeersch accounted for 10 points in 42 games last season for the Roughriders. Honestly, I never gave the kid a chance after the tryouts. He certainly proved me wrong with his play this season, thus he received my vote in the poll. I'm not sure I've seen anyone so good with the puck on his stick. His puckhandling abilities are unreal. I frequently comment while watching him that it looks like he has a magnet on the end of his blade, and the puck just sticks to it.

The two-head monster of Kevin Murdock and Anthony Borelli are a big reason why the Stars are in first place. Doc was another player who I really didn't expect so much from this season. I had my doubts about his skills before the beginning of the season, but he has proved me wrong one hundred times over. During the beginning part of the season when the Stars forwards were struggling with finding the back of the net, it was Murdock who kept the Stars in games they didn't deserve to be in. Without Doc, those games could have been losses instead of wins. Borelli came to the Stars from the BCHL, and has done a remarkable job. He currently is tops in the USHL with a .922 save percentage. He's not the biggest player on the team, but he's huge between the pipes.

Mike Dalhuisen is a guy who has improved his game a lot since last season. Like Siers, Dalzy is more than a guy who just can drop the mitts and trade punches. His physical presence on the Lincoln blue line has been key to the Stars success. His +20 rating is tied for first on the team. He has battled through some tough injuries this season also, but continues to play his physical style regardless. His four goals this season is already four more than he had all of last season. Dalzy even gets time on the Stars powerplay, whereas last season you never saw him on the PP. Coach McGroarty has mentioned that if Dalzy continues to improve his play, he can make it in the NHL someday. I certainly hope that happens.

Who did you vote for and why?

Stars Clinch Playoff Spot

I forgot to mention this when I posted the Waterloo postgame report, but with the one point the Stars earned in the OT loss against the Blackhawks, the Stars clinched a spot in the USHL playoffs. The Stars were the first team in the USHL to earn a playoff spot.

Lincoln is in first place in the West Division with a record of 31-14-4 (66 points). The '07-'08 Lincoln Stars team ended the regular season with 31 wins, so the next win for the Stars will put them with more wins than last year's squad.

Congrats to the team on making the playoffs. There is still a lot of hockey yet to be played, but I think it's important to recognize these types of achievements. Congrats also to Coach Jimmy McGroarty for making the USHL playoffs in each of his first two seasons in the league as a head coach. For me personally, I am very thankful to have such a terrific coach leading the team I follow. You look around the league at teams who are struggling right now, or just not clicking...and you see fans upset at how their coaches are dealing with the adversity. I think we are very lucky to have such a talent at head coach in Lincoln. Let's hope he stays around for a long, long time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Race for Andy

I thought I'd give a quick rundown on where the Stars are in the race for the Anderson Cup. The "Andy" is given to the USHL team with the most points at the end of the regular season. The team that wins the Anderson Cup is considered the regular season champion. The Stars have not won the "Andy" since the 2002-2003 season.

Current Standings as of 3/8:

Green Bay Gamblers - 68 points (12 games remaining)
Cedar Rapids Roughriders - 67 points (11 games remaining)
Lincoln Stars - 66 points (11 games remaining)
Indiana Ice - 66 points (11 games remaining)

The front runner to win the Anderson Cup at this point in the season would have to be the Green Bay Gamblers, in my opinion. Their remaining regular season games are much favorable than the rest of the contenders. The Gamblers have four more games against last place (East) Des Moines (yes, I know they lost to the Bucs last night), and one game against last place (West) Tri-City. They do have some tough games though: two games against Cedar Rapids and Indiana, and one game against Lincoln. Seven of their final twelve games are at home. I think GB would really have to fall apart to not win the Anderson Cup.

Cedar Rapids has a much tougher road to a regular season championship with challenging games against Indiana (3), Green Bay (2), Lincoln (2). Six of their final eleven games are at home.

Lincoln also has the decked stack against them, with the Stars only playing four games of their remaining eleven games at the Ice Box in Lincoln. The boys in blue play tough opponents like Cedar Rapids (2), Indiana (2), Fargo (2), and Omaha (2).

Indiana plays five of their remaining eleven games at home, with tough games against Green Bay (2), Indiana (3), and Lincoln (2).

Winning the "Andy" is nice, but the REAL trophy is the Clark Cup. Some folks think winning the "Andy" is a playoff curse or jinx...meaning the team that wins the Anderson Cup is destined to not win the Clark Cup the same season. Last year's Omaha Lancers team would argue against that. Of course, they had a lucky troll on their side. (I kid, I kid). :)

My pick for the "Andy" is Green Bay. Green Bay has an extra game in hand, and are playing consistent hockey. I love their style of puck. They play a lot like the Stars do. Up-tempo, smash mouth hockey. As much as I'd like to see the Stars put together a big winning streak and win it, I think GB has a much easier road than any of the other teams in contention.

Your picks? Can GB hang on? Will Cedar Rapids overtake the Gamblers? Can Lincoln do it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Postgame Report - Sioux City at Lincoln 3/7

Final Score: Sioux City 3, Lincoln 4 OT

In what was a game the Stars could have easily lost, forward Chris Forfar scored the game winning goal with 24 seconds left in overtime to beat the Sioux City Musketeers, 4-3. Lincoln had goals from Jake Newton (SH), Garrett Vermeersch, Eric Meland, and Chris Forfar (GW). Kevin Murdock stopped 33 of 36 shots on goal for the win. The Stars were out shot by the Musketeers 36-26.

The Stars marched out to a 3-0 lead, only to watch as it blew up in their faces evaporated in the third period. Sioux City scored all of their three goals in the third period to force an overtime period. Despite the win, this game was really hard to watch. Lincoln all but rolled over and died in the third period, allowing the Muskies to storm back and tie the game. Without Kevin Murdock's heroics in the OT period (his save on Stephane De Costa was godly), the Stars could have lost this game just as easily.

Lincoln started the game playing very well, scoring one goal and out shooting Sioux City 11-9 in the first period. After that, it was pretty much all SC. The Muskies out shot Lincoln 26-13 during the last two periods. The power play for Lincoln looked average at best in only three attempts. I mentioned it last night, the passing on the Stars power play is really lacking. There were a ton of shots from the point, but many never found the net. However, the Stars penalty kill did a fantastic job against the top-rated SC power play units. The Muskies were 0-4 with the man advantage.

I am very concerned about the lack of killer instinct the Stars have been showing lately, especially at home. Sioux City is a team the Stars should easily beat when they have a three goal lead. The Stars just can't seem to keep the boot on the neck of their opponents when they are down, so to speak. To be fair though, the Stars played most of the game with only four true defensemen. Lincoln only suited five defensemen, but Mike Dalhuisen was ejected from the game in the first period after he received a "third man in" penalty. After that, the Stars played with only four true defensemen. The coaches put Kory Kaunisto in as a defenseman to help the other four d-men, but you could tell the rest of the d-corps were very winded with all the work they were doing.

For those who weren't at the game, Garrett Peterson played an incredible game. You might notice he was the first star of the game, yet he had no points and was -1 on the night. Despite the lacking numbers, "Petey" was all over the ice...hitting anything wearing a SC jersey (those colors are disgusting, btw. something out of a cheesy mardi gras parade). "Petey" absolutely destroyed a SC player with a clean open ice check, which started the first period line brawl. Donnie Hallmark of the Muskies took offense to the clean hit, and went after Peterson. That ignited the mess. David Gerths dropped the mitts with Austin Mattson, and Hallmark was ejected after mugging Peterson. Dalzy stepped up to aid his teammate, but was kicked out of the game. Peterson showed continuous energy all night, and was deservedly awarded the first star of the game. Without a doubt, he's my favorite player on the team to watch. He has a heart that won't quit, and a work ethic second to none.

1ST STAR: Peterson, Garrett (LIN)
2ND STAR: Da Costa, Stephane (SC)
3RD STAR: Forfar, Chris (LIN)

With the win tonight, and Omaha's loss at home to Sioux Falls, the Stars now have a NINE point advantage (66-57) over the Lancers for first place in the West Division. All of a sudden, the Fargo Force also have 57 points and are tied with the Lancers for second place. The Stars are two points behind Green Bay (68-66) in the race for the Anderson Cup. I am going to post a quick article about the race for the Anderson Cup tomorrow.

The Omaha Lancers and their mannequin of a head coach will travel to the Ice Box on Tuesday, March 10th to battle the Lincoln Stars. I believe the game is a sellout, or very close to a sellout.

Quick Note: After going 24 straight games without a goal, Chris Forfar has scored a goal in each of the last three games. In those three games, Chris has a total of four points, and was +4.

Forward Kirt Hill was scratched for the game due to an injury. He should be healthy enough to return on 3/10 for the game against the Omaha Lancers.

Pregame Report - Sioux City at Lincoln 3/7

Sioux City and Lincoln will play each other for the sixth and final time this regular season when the Muskies invade the Ice Box Saturday night. Lincoln leads the season series four games to one. Goaltender Anthony Borelli is 3-1 against the Muskies this season, with a 1.51 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.

Obviously, this is a game the Stars will be expected to win. Sioux City is more than capable of an upset, so the Stars will have to play a complete game. Despite their poor record this season, the Musketeers have the USHL's top power play unit. Leading the way for the Muskies on the PP are fowards Stephane De Costa, and Stephan Vigier. De Costa and Vigier have accounted for a total of 19 PP goals this season, and a total of 42 points on the PP. Those two will have to be watched very closely by the Stars defense if Lincoln wants to win this game. De Costa is a very skilled player, and is very dangerous. Coach McGroarty has said in the past that De Costa is one of the best forwards in the USHL.

No predictions this time. I just hope for a complete game from the Stars. No dumb penalties. Better passing on the PP. Old time hockey. 'nuff said. Let's win this one.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Postgame Report - Waterloo at Lincoln 3/6

Final Score: Waterloo 3, Lincoln 2 OT

Waterloo defenseman Lee Moffie scored his second goal of the game at 1:09 of the OT period, as the Blackhawks beat the Lincoln Stars 3-2. Waterloo wins the season series against the Stars, 3-1. The win was the first for the Blackhawks at the Ice Box in their last ten attempts.

Gotta give Waterloo credit for winning this game. I thought they played better overall than the Stars. It just didn't seem like Lincoln could get in any kind of a groove. Two things stood out to me: the play of 'Loo goaltender Parker Milner, and the Waterloo powerplay. Milner is now 3-0 against the Stars this season, while sporting a .948 save percentage and 2.5 goals against average in those three games. The kid had a heck of a game tonight, and kept Waterloo in the game...especially in the first period when the Stars put 14 shots on goal. I was very impressed with the 'Loo powerplay. They entered the game having the second best PP in the USHL (Sioux City has the top-rated PP), and it showed. I thought they did a fantastic job cycling the puck on the PP, and they created numerous chances. The Blackhawks ended the night 2-for-6 with the man advantage, with Lee Moffie scoring both of those PP goals.

The Stars had goals from Eric Meland and Chris Forfar. Defenseman Ross Henry had two assists on the night, and was named the #1 star. Goaltender Anthony Borelli stopped 36 of 39 shots on goal in the loss. 39 shots on goal against at home is a number the Stars would like to see much lower. Again, credit Waterloo for playing a solid, puck-moving game.

I was dead wrong with my pre-game predictions. The game was relatively clean, and saw no fisticuffs. Kevin Murdock sat on the bench. I should just stop with predictions. :)

1ST STAR: Henry, Ross (LIN)
2ND STAR: Milner, Parker (WAT)
3RD STAR: Moffie, Lee (WAT)

Lincoln forward Kirt Hill left the game with an undisclosed injury, and it is unknown at this time if he will play Saturday night against Sioux City.

Lincoln will be back at the Ice Box Saturday night against the Sioux City Musketeers. The game is already a sell-out.