Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chris Kreider update

The saga of the talented youngster, and Stars draft pick, Chris Kreider continues. Read previous blog articles about Kreider here, and here.

My source is now saying that Kreider is considering enrolling at Boston College in '09, instead of '10. Kreider still has one year of high school to finish, but apparently Kreider and his family are asking the school board in Mass. if he can do some kind of accelerated program over the summer, finish high school by September, and immediately enroll at Boston College in the Fall.

Obviously, this would be a big letdown for the Stars. Kreider was telling NHL scouts that he was very interested in playing for the USHL (Lincoln owns his USHL rights), or the BCHL. Supposedly, the NHL scouts have expressed their opinion that Kreider jump to the next level (juniors) immediately, instead of wasting another year playing high school hockey against inferior talent. So the hockey coaches at Boston College thought if Kreider was wanting to leave his current high school early, why not enroll early at BC? If Kreider and his family wish to pursue this route, it would be up to his high school to decide if Kreider can participate in some kind of accelerated program over the Summer, and graduate early. It's also up to his family to decide if they can do it financially.

Kreider is ranked #14 overall on Central’s final ranking of North American skaters June’s NHL draft. He is also the top-ranked high school player in the U.S.

Stay tuned for more info.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stars Tryout Camp Dates Announced

The Lincoln Stars Try-out Camp will begin on Friday June 5th through Monday June 8th at Tranquility (Moylan) Iceplex in Omaha.

w00t! Nice to see the tryouts will be held in Omaha once again. I had a great time last year going up there to watch the scrimmages. Looking forward to that again.


Friday 6/5

game 1 7-8:30pm
game 2 8:30-10:00pm

Saturday 6/6
game 3 10-11:30am
game 4 11:30am-1pm
game 5 7-8:30pm
game 6 8:30-10pm

Sunday 6/7
game 7 10-11:30am
game 8 11:30-1pm
game 9 7-8:30pm
game 10 8:30-10pm

Monday 6/8
All-star game 10-11:30am

Link Here

Monday, April 27, 2009

Upcoming USHL Drafts

Just a reminder for those out there wondering about the dates of the upcoming USHL Futures and Entry Drafts.

2009 USHL Futures Draft: Tuesday, May 12th

2009 USHL Entry Draft: Wednesday, May 13

You can follow both of the drafts live, here:

Learn more about the USHL Futures Draft Here.

Learn more about the USHL Entry Draft Here.

If you have time, you can go to the site during the actual draft, and follow along as the results are posted live. Yes, it's not the most exciting thing to do, but when you're a hockey nerd like me, it's actually kinda fun. I immediately google the player the Stars drafted, and learn as much as I can about them. I'll be doing that for sure next month, and I will post a brief synopsis of the results of both drafts after their conclusion.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

List of Eligible Players to Return

Before I post an "End of Season Recap," I wanted to briefly list the players from this years squad who are eligible to return next season. It's never too early to start thinking about next season, right? This list is obviously very preliminary, as a lot can happen between now and next October. Most of the information I have gathered has come from Chris Heisenberg's 2009 Hockey Recruits website. If you have never checked it out, I would recommend doing so. Tons of great information on his site.

So here is the list. Player birth years follow their names on the list. If any of my readers have any insider information regarding players returning, or any other issues, please feel free to leave a comment, or email me at


Garrett Vermeersch - 1989 (Northeastern commit for 2010)
Corey Chakeen - 1989
Chris Volonnino - 1989
Jimmy Siers - 1989
David Gerths - 1990 (Notre Dame commit for 2010)
Brett Chartier - 1991
Garrett Peterson - 1991 (Notre Dame commit for 2010)
John McCarron - 1992

Cory Hibbeler - 1989
Taylor Kuypers - 1990
Matt Bruneteau - 1990

Anthony Borelli - 1989

Borelli had previously committed to Brown University for the Fall of 2009, but it appears that he does not have a commitment to any school right now. Getting Borelli to come back next season would be a huge lift to the team.

Next year, the Stars will only be able to keep four players born in the year 1989 on the roster. Every team in the USHL can only keep four "overagers." As of right now, Vermeersch, Chakeen, Volonnino, Siers, Hibbeler, and Borelli will be battling it out for those four overager roster spots. Something will have to give there. Should be interesting.

Also, I have heard rumors that the 2009 tryout camp WILL be held in Omaha again. The exact dates of the camp are unknown to me right now, but as soon as I hear something...I'll be sure to let you all know.

Ok, let's hear what you think about those eligible to return. Who makes the cut? Which of the six overagers makes the team?

Game 3 Postgame Report - Lincoln at Fargo

Final Score: Lincoln 0, Fargo 2

The Lincoln Stars 2008-09 season came to an end Saturday night in Fargo, as the Force shutout the Stars 2-0, and swept the Stars 3-0 in their second round UHL playoff series. The Force have now won six playoff games in a row, sweeping both Omaha and Lincoln teams in the process. The Force move on to the USHL Clark Cup Finals, where they will play the winner of the Green Bay-Indiana series. Goaltender Mike Lee earned his sixth straight playoff win, while posting a 1.81 goals against average, and a .948 save percentage in those six games. Anthony Borelli started between the pipes for the Stars, stopping 26 of 28 shots on goal in the loss.

Well, three straight losses for the Stars is not the way any of us wanted to end the season. Let us first give credit to a VERY good Fargo team. They outplayed the Stars in just about every facet of the game in this series. Without question, the MVP of this series would be goaltender Mike Lee. Without Lee in net, this series would have been completely different. That's not to disrespect the other players on the Fargo team, but Lee is playing at an unbelievable level right now, and is a huge reason why Fargo has a chance at winning the Clark Cup. There's a reason Lee will be a NHL draft pick this Spring.

After watching the last three games, I think it's easy to over analyze things, point fingers and play the blame game. No one is happy about being swept. Seems as if a lot of fans want to focus on the negative right now, and point fingers specifically at Coach McGroarty. Where were the critics when the team was winning? Where were the people currently slamming Coach McGroarty when the Stars were dominating teams in the regular season? Where were the critics when McGroarty was making timely trades or waiver pickups to build this team? Comparing this team to last season's squad, the Stars improved in almost every category. Instead of focusing on the negative, and playing the blame game, I'd rather remember the good times from this past season, and wish every player going on to college good luck, and thank them for providing all of us months of entertainment and fantastic hockey.

Yes, the Stars PP unit was anemic. Special teams on both ends were lacking. But when you really look at it, the Stars were beat by a very good team playing their best hockey of the season. Just that simple. Fargo used their team speed to generate more quality shots on net than the Stars. They capitalized when the Stars couldn't. You can't say that the Lincoln players didn't want it, or didn't try their hardest. They just ran into a hot team, with an even hotter goaltender.

1ST STAR: Lee, Mike (FGO)
2ND STAR: Condon, Nate (FGO)
3RD STAR: Franks, Chris (FGO)

It was really tough to listen to Coach McGroarty fall apart on the radio after the game. You could tell that the players mean the world to him, and ending the season this way was heartbreaking. The man is genuinely sincere. This season's ending stings a little bit more than last season's, but there is always next season to look forward to. That's what's great about the game of hockey. There's always next season.

I will post an "End of the Season Recap" hopefully sometime soon. Stay tuned for that.

Go Stars.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Game 2 Postgame Report - Fargo at Lincoln

Final Score: Fargo 7, Lincoln 3

The Fargo Force scored five powerplay goals, and blasted past the Lincoln Stars at the Ice Box by a score of 7-3. With the win, the Force are now up 2-0 in their best-of-five game series against the Stars. The Force have now won five straight playoff games, and have yet to lose in postseason action. The Force can wrap up the series Saturday night in Fargo with a win against the visiting Stars, which would earn them a spot in the USHL Finals. Scoring goals for the Stars in Game 2 was David Gerths, and Kirt Hill (2). The Stars outshot the Force for the second straight game, 34-29. Anthony Borelli started in net for the Stars, but was quickly yanked in the first period after giving up 3 goals on 6 shots on net. Kevin Murdock came on in relief, and stopped 19 of 23 shots on net in the loss.

This one was another tough one to watch. Lincoln's penalty kill unit was #1 statistically during the entire USHL regular season. It was something the Stars always did well, and were very proud of it. Somehow, it all fell apart in this game as the Force went 5-for-7 on the PP. The anemic Stars PP didn't help matter either, as Lincoln went 0-for-3 with the man advantage. Lincoln is now 1-for-25 on the PP in the playoffs. After missing Game 1, Fargo forward Josh Birkholz exploded against the Stars, scoring two goals (including the game winner) and adding one assist. Andy Taranto continued his hot streak, adding two assists. The Stars simply could not solve the Fargo PP in this game, and had not answer for the team speed of the Force. I have been really surprised at how fast a team the Force are. Countless times I've seen Fargo forwards skate thru, or around Lincoln defensemen.

The one game the Stars make Mike Lee look human, their defense and special teams completely fall apart. I thought Lincoln did a much better job at crashing the net, and making Lee work to make saves, but it didn't last the entire game. In the third period, the Stars only managed five shots on goal, and seemed content to ride out the loss.

1ST STAR: Birkholz, Josh (FGO)
2ND STAR: Taranto, Andy (FGO)
3RD STAR: Lee, Mike (FGO)

The Stars have not lost three games in a row all season long. We won't have to wait long to see if the Stars have it within themselves to prolong this series, as Game 3 in Fargo is Saturday night. The Stars have proven that they can win on the road, both in the regular season and the playoffs, and have won three games in Fargo already this season. Winning two straight games in Fargo sounds daunting, but it can be done. It's another overused sports cliche, but Lincoln has to play one game at a time at this point in the season. Don't worry about a possible Game 4 or 5, just win today. I still have faith. Go Stars.

Game 3 faceoff at 7:05pm Saturday night in Fargo

I haven't really had to do this in awhile, but I'm calling up the Hockey Monkey in hopes his hockey monkey mojo can help the Stars win Game 3 and get back on track in this series. It worked before...I sure as hell hope it works again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Game 1 Postgame Report - Fargo at Lincoln

Final Score: Fargo 4, Lincoln 1

After trailing the Lincoln Stars 1-0 at the end of the first period, the Fargo Force scored four unanswered goals to beat the Stars on their home ice, 4-1. It was the fourth straight playoff win for Fargo. With the win, the Force now lead the Stars in their best-of-five playoff series, 1-0. Scoring the lone goal for the Stars was Eric Meland. Despite outshooting the Force 38-24, the Stars could not solve Fargo goaltender Mike Lee. Lee performed very well througout the game, especially in the first period, and showed why he will be a NHL draft pick this Spring. The Stars anemic powerplay was 0-3 on the night. In the last five playoff games, the Stars powerplay are 1-for-22. One goal in twenty two PP opportunities. Not good.

This one was hard to watch as a fan. The Stars came out in the first period on point and on a mission. They were skating well, playing the body, making crisp tape-to-tape passes, and peppered Mike Lee with 16 shots on net. As I was watching the first period I was thinking that if the Stars could continue playing like this, they would win the game easily. They looked that good, in my opinion. Credit Mike Lee for making some huge saves to keep his team in the game early on. It could have easily been 4-0 at the end of the first period. About halfway thru the second period, you could sense the momentum turning in favor of Fargo. It just felt like Lee's performance was deflating the Stars, and building confidence in the Fargo players. It took the Force forwards half the game to finally warm up, but they outplayed the Stars for most of the second half of the game. Andy Taranto, who is just as good or even better as advertised, scored the game winning goal in the second period, added one assist, had four shots on goal, and was +3. He was the recipient of one of the hardest open ice checks I've seen at the Ice Box, when Mike Sdao caught Taranto with his head down coming over the Stars blueline in the second period. Taranto stayed on the ice for a long time, but recovered and went on to score the GWG.

1ST STAR: Lee, Mike (FGO)
2ND STAR: Taranto, Andy (FGO)
3RD STAR: Grant, Chase (FGO)

I think it goes without saying that Game 2 is a "must win" game for the Stars. Losing the first two games at home, and having to travel up to Fargo the next day to play the Force would be brutal. Ask the Omaha Lancers about that. I might get slammed for this, but Mike Lee is the main reason why Fargo is up 1-0 in this series. Without Lee between the pipes, the Force don't win Game 1. If the Stars can somehow get in his head, and score some early goals in Game 2, I think the Stars could get back on track. Again, it's imperative the Stars win Game 2 to win back momentum in this series, and use it Saturday night in Fargo.

Hopefully Garrett Peterson is healthy and back in the lineup for Game 2. I thought the Stars really missed his energy and enthusiasm in Game 1, especially in the second half of the game. I didn't think Murdock played that bad, but I would not be surprised to see Anthony Borelli start Game 2. Score early and often on Lee, and shut down Andy Taranto. Win Game 2. Go Stars.

Game 2 faceoff is at 7:05pm.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lincoln - Fargo Playoff Preview

The Stars and Fargo will begin their USHL second round best-of-five playoff series Wednesday night at the Ice Box in Lincoln, NE. The Stars won their first round playoff series against Sioux Falls in four games, 3-1. Fargo swept the Omaha Lancers in their first round series, 3-0. In four games against Sioux Falls, the Stars scored 17 goals, and gave up 9 goals. In three games against Omaha, the Force scored 14 goals and gave up 7 goals. Two of the top goal scorers in the playoffs will be playing in this series, as Lincoln forward Garrett Vermeersch has scored 6 goals in four playoff games, while Fargo forward Andy Taranto has scored 5 goals in three playoff games.

During the regular season, the Force and the Stars played a total of seven times, with Lincoln winning six times. It's a cliche often used in the world of hockey, but you really do have to throw those regular season games out the window. It's a new season, and both teams are playing at a very high level. What happened back in October of last year, or even April of this year, really doesn't mean a lot right now. The Stars aren't going to work less in practice because they won 6 out of 7 from the Force this season. I'm sure they understand that they will have to play their best game to move on to the USHL finals.

Head Coach Dean Blais has his team playing a "lunch pail" sort of game. They might not be flashy, but his players are dependable, consistent, and in and game out. Shift-to-shift, they work extremely hard. I've heard some folks in the media compare this years Fargo squad to the 1996-97 expansion Lincoln Stars team that won the Clark Cup. Fargo is still a long way from winning the Clark Cup, but they have certainly turned heads this season. Sweeping the defending champion Omaha Lancers was unexpected, but at the same time, not surprising.

Fargo has one of the best young goaltenders in junior hockey, and his name is Mike Lee. Lee is also one of the top rated NHL draft eligible goaltender prospects, and could be a first or second round pick this spring. He has the ability to steal games the Force would have otherwise lost. In the playoffs, nothing is more important than a "hot" goaltender, and Lee appears to be warming up. In three games against Omaha, Lee was 3-0, and posted a 2.27 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. Those are extremely good numbers considering the offensive firepower the Lancers had this season.

I've mentioned him previously, but the main offensive weapon of the Force is forward Andy Taranto. His hockey story is really interesting. He started his USHL career with the Omaha Lancers back in 2006, and after 22 games with the Lancers, he was traded to the now defunct Ohio Junior Blue Jackets. In a total of 31 games in 2006-'07, Taranto scored one goal. Last season with the Jr. Blue Jackets, Taranto scored just seven goals in 47 games, and was -11 for the season. After the Jr. Blue Jackets folded, and Fargo acquired some of the Ohio players (which included Taranto), Taranto started this season with the Force. The move to Fargo did absolute wonders for Taranto, as he scored 34 goals and 25 assists for a total of 59 points in 60 games with the Force. His 34 goals was good enough to tie for first place overall in the USHL regular season. He was an incredible +33 on the season, and was first overall with 6 shorthanded goals scored. Amazing numbers for a guy who had previously scored just 8 goals in 78 USHL games before this season. This is why Taranto SHOULD be a marked man anytime he is on the ice. In three playoff games, Taranto has put 22 shots on goal. The next closest player in terms of shots on goal in three games has only 8 shots on goal. Fargo isn't a one man team, but it's obvious that Taranto is a HUGE part of the Force offense, and his presence on the ice has to be respected at all times. I would not be surprised to see Head Coach Jimmy McGroarty specifically put a defensive specialist like Garrett Peterson or Chris Forfar on Taranto whenever he is on the ice (especially at the Ice Box where the home team gets the last opportunity to make line changes after a whistle).

Fargo scored more shorthanded goals (17) than any other team in the USHL this past season, while Lincoln gave up more shorthanded goals (15) than any other USHL team. Taranto is a big reason why Fargo was tops in SH goals scored, and considering the problems the Stars have had this season (and playoffs) with giving up the random shorty, the Stars will have to be very cognizant of Taranto and the Force PK unit.

Some playoff numbers to chew on:

Fargo = 4.67 goals per game (3 games played)
Lincoln = 4.25 goals per game (4 games played)

Fargo = 30.33 shots on goal per game
Lincoln = 37.75 shots on goal per game

Fargo = 35.67 shots against per game
Lincoln = 31.00 shots against per game

Fargo = 5-20 on the powerplay (25%)
Lincoln = 1-19 on the powerplay (5.3%)

Fargo = 17.33 penalty minutes per game
Lincoln = 20.75 penalty minutes per game

This is going to be a fantastic series to watch. Both teams are playing some the best hockey they've played this season. There is some bad blood between these two teams, but at this point in the playoffs...every team hates one another. This ain't intramural chess. This is USHL playoff hockey. You better bring it every game, or you're gonna get beat down and embarrassed. I can't wait to watch it in person. Hope to see you all at the Ice Box. Bring as many friends and family as you can. Be supportive of the black and blue, and more importantly....BE LOUD! Go Stars.

Faceoff is at 7:05pm

Your thoughts on this series? Can the Stars shut down Taranto? With the long layoff, do you expect the Force to come out slow tonight? Who starts in net for the Stars in Game 1?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stars Draft Pick Chris Kreider cont...

If you recall last month, I blogged briefly about Chris Kreider. Kreider is a '08 draft pick of the Lincoln Stars. Chris is considered to be the highest rated prep hockey player going into this years NHL draft, and is projected to be a mid-to-late first round NHL draft pick. 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/center.

Basically, Kreider has one year of hockey left to play before he starts at Boston College in 2010. There has been some talk of Kreider possibly staying at Andover to finish up his senior year of high school. The Stars own his USHL rights, so if he wanted to play in the USHL next season, it would be for Lincoln.

I have a friend (he runs an east coach hockey prep journal) who told me over the weekend that Kreider is seriously considering playing in the USHL next season. He is also considering playing in the BCHL (British Columbia Hockey League) next season also. Both leagues allow players to retain their college eligibility. This friend of mine was talking to an official who works for an Eastern Conference NHL Team, and this official said that during a pre-draft interview, Kreider said he is seriously considering playing in the USHL or BCHL next season.

Getting this kid to play for the Stars next season would be HUGE! I was hearing rumors that he and his family were leaning on returning to Andover in the Fall, but it appears that he is leaning the other way now. The competition level in the USHL is so much higher than what he would play against in high school, so I'm sure that fact has a lot to do with him looking to further his hockey skill with the USHL or BCHL.

Stay tuned.

Learn more about Chris Kreider here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Round Two Playoff Schedule Announced

Wed. (4/22) - Fargo at Lincoln

Fri. (4/24) - Fargo at Lincoln

Sat. (4/25) - Lincoln at Fargo

Mon. (4/27) - Lincoln at Fargo (if needed)

Wed. (4/29) - Fargo at Lincoln (if needed)

A "Playoff Preview" will be coming shortly. Should be a hell of a series. Both teams have quality goaltending, and players who can really put the biscuit in the basket. Lincoln beat Fargo 6 out of 7 times in the regular season, but those stats don't mean much in the playoffs. It's a new "season."

Thoughts on the schedule?

Game 4 Postgame Report - Lincoln at Sioux Falls

Final Score: Lincoln 6, Sioux Falls 1

Garrett Vermeersch - 1

Sioux Falls Stampede - 0

Stars forward Garrett Vermeersch scored the first three goals of the game, and Kirt Hill added two goals and one assist, as the Lincoln Stars stomped all over the hometown Sioux Falls Stampede, 6-1. With the victory, the Stars won the playoff series against the 'Pede, 3-1, and advanced to the second round of the USHL playoffs where they will face the Fargo Force. Scoring goals for Lincoln tonight was Garrett Vermeersch (3), Kirt Hill (2), and Corey Chakeen. Anthony Borelli was brilliant between the pipes for the Stars, as A-Bo stopped 34 of 35 shots on goal to record his second straight USHL playoff win against the 'Pede.

'Pede Head Coach Kevin Hartzell decided to start his son, Eric, in net tonight and will probably hear about it for a long time by the 'Pede fans. Despite putting up better numbers against the Stars, goaltender Clay Witt sat on the bench and watched "Baby" Hartzell give up 6 goals on only 26 shots on net. Eric Hartzell finished the playoffs with an 0-2 record, a 8.22 GAA, and a .767 save percentage. Yikes. That's bad. In his defense, I don't know if the 'Pede would have won tonight with Witt in net, as Borelli was on his game. Not too many USHL teams can win games when they only score one goal. Thankfully for 'Pede fans, Eric is off to play college at Quinnipiac in the Fall, so the accusations of nepotism will grow silent.

Fantastic effort on the road tonight. I mentioned this earlier, and it's certainly not an earth-shattering statement, but the OT game winner by Eric Alexander in Game 3 really was the turning point in this series. With just that one shot, all the momentum in the series swung to the Stars. If the Stars would have lost that game, the 'Pede would have been up 2-1 in the series, with a chance to win it all on Friday night. Luckily, that didn't happen. The cream rises to the top, and it certainly showed in this series. The Stars are simply a better, more physical team that just wanted it more.

Nice to see Kirt Hill finally blow up on the scoring sheet. He was due for a breakout game. Vermy continues to be the hottest goal scorer in the USHL playoffs. He now has six goals in four games. Goaltenders Kevin Murdock and Anthony Borelli both played outstanding in this series. Doc finished with a 1-1 record, 2.03 GAA, and a .931 save percentage. A-Bo finished with a 2-0 record, 1.93 GAA, and a .938 save percentage. You can't ask for better stats than that in the playoffs. Both goaltenders will have to continue to play well if the Stars want to beat a very streaky Fargo team in the second round.

Onward and upward! Great to see the guys playing some of their best hockey of the season. The PP needs some work, but overall I think the team is clicking on all cylinders. A VERY good Fargo team looms on the horizon. I plan on putting together a "playoff preview" of the Lincoln-Fargo series sometime very soon. Stay tuned for that. Go Stars.

Your thoughts on Game 4? Should the Stars be worried about Fargo, despite beating them 6 out of 7 times in the regular season?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making The Stars Shine

Great article on the website about the success of the Lincoln Stars. Stars President Jim Pflug is interviewed and gives some great insight on the organization, its fans, and the Ice Box in general. Very interesting stuff.

Check out the article here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Game 3 Postgame Report - Lincoln at Sioux Falls

Final Score: Lincoln 4, Sioux Falls 3 OT

Eric Alexander scored the game winning, overtime goal, as the Lincoln Stars held off the Stampede in Sioux Falls Tuesday night, 4-3. With four minutes remaining in the third period, the Stars held a commanding 3-1 lead over the Stampede. However, Sioux Falls stormed back as 'Pede forward Terry Broadhurst scored two goals late in the third period; his second goal came with only 21 seconds remaining on the clock to tie the game at 3-3, and force an overtime period. After the Stars had killed a penalty early in the first OT period, Eric Alexander out muscled a Sioux Falls defender behind the 'pede net, wheeled around and buried a top shelf wrister past 'Pede goaltender Clay Witt at the 4:33 mark of OT. With the win, the Stars now lead the playoff series against Sioux Falls, 2 games to 1. Game 4 is in Sioux Falls on Friday night, and if the Starts can win that game, they will advance to the second round of the USHL playoffs against the Fargo Force.

Scoring goals for Lincoln in Game 3 was Ross Henry, Chris Forfar (SH), Ryan Kretzer, and Eric Alexander (OT-GWG). Kory Kaunisto had 2 assists and was +2 on the night. Goaltender Anthony Borelli stopped 27 of 30 shots on net to record his first ever USHL playoff win. The Stars went 0-2 on the powerplay, while the 'Pede went 1-5 on the powerplay. The Stars outshot the Stampede 38-30 in the game.

Wow, this could have EASILY been a disastrous game. Up 3-1 late in the third period, the Stars seemed to be in control and ready to cruise to an easy road victory. You have to give credit to Sioux Falls for fighting like hell to tie the game up and force overtime. I think a lot of folks are surprised at how tough the 'Pede are playing in this series, considering how inept they looked at times in the regular season. Giving up those late two goals, and then giving up an OT game winning goal would have been catastrophic for the Stars, and would have likely haunted them in the next game. That's the kind of loss that a lot of teams don't recover from. Luckily for the Stars and their fans, Eric Alexander made a great individual effort to clinch Game 3, and put all of the momentum back on Lincoln's side.

I really hope the guys can get it done in Sioux Falls in Game 4. As much as I'd like to see them clinch the series on home ice at the Ice Box, I'd much rather get this playoff series over with as soon as possible. Fargo is rested and ready for whomever makes it out of this series. Use the momentum that's on your side, and get it done on the road this Friday night. Keep throwing a ton of shots on Clay Witt, crash the net, and good things will happen. I can't wait for Game 4! Go Stars.

Your thoughts on Game 3? Will the Stars clinch the series in Game 4?

Edit: Just ran across some very interesting postgame comments made by Max Grover of the 'Pede, and head coach Kevin Hartzell.

A little bulletin board material for the Stars already. Seems as if SF's defenseman Max Grover is predicting a win for Game 4.

"It hurts a little more because we worked so hard to come back," said defenseman Max Grover, who scored the Stampede's first goal early in the third period when they were trailing 2-0. "But all year long we've been at our best when we're faced with a little desperation. Right now it's win or die, and that's what playoff hockey is all about. We're a tough team to beat, and I know we're going to win this next game. Lincoln better be ready."

You have to wonder if getting KO'd by Jimmy Siers made Grover a little kooky in the head. I guess when you're the team captain, you have to do something to get your team fired up. I'm not sure if doing it publicly is that smart though.

Also, it looks like Coach Daddy Hartzell is going to start his son in Game 4. That should send the 'Pede fans in full revolt. Hey, I'm not complaining.

"Clay played really well and I'm really proud of him," Kevin Hartzell said. "He feels bad right now, but he shouldn't. He's got a tremendously bright future, and he got a big win for us (in Game 2). We'll turn it back over to Eric, and now he's going to have to do the same thing."

Link Here

Monday, April 13, 2009

Game 2 Postgame Report - Sioux Falls at Lincoln

Final Score: Sioux Falls 4, Lincoln 1

The Sioux Falls Stampede scored two goals in the first period at the Ice Box Saturday night, and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the hometown Lincoln Stars. The 'Pede also scored TWO shortanded goals on the night, one of which was the game winning goal. Scoring the lone Lincoln goal was forward Garrett Vermeersch. It was the third goal in two games for Vermeersch. The Stars outshot the Stampede 42-23 for the game. Sioux Falls goaltender Clay Witt was the star of game, as he stopped 41 of 42 shots on goal for his first USHL playoff win. Stars netminder Kevin Murdock stopped 19 of 22 shots on goal in the loss.

This was a weird game to watch. There were stretches of the game that Lincoln dominated the play, yet they couldn't put any biscuits past Clay Witt. I'm not sure what the result would have been had Eric Hartzell started in net for the 'Pede, but Witt is certainly the goaltender of the future for Sioux Falls. Like Kevin Murdock, Witt is a native of Florida and should be considered one of the better young goaltenders in the USHL. 'Pede head coach Kevin Hartzell would seem to have an easy decision to make for Game 3, as Witt would seem to be the easy choice for starting goaltender. Who knows, as Kevin Hartzell could just as easily start his son in net.

I was a little disappointed with the comments coach McGroarty made after the game. In his radio postgame interview with Mike Melbye, McGroarty said he was satisfied with the effort of his team Saturday night. Personally, I thought quite a few players seemed to be playing on auto-pilot. Also, I'm not sure how you could be "satisfied" when your team gave up TWO shortanded goals. Giving up shorties has been an issue this team has had problems with all season long, and it didn't take long for us to see it in the playoffs. It just seemed to me that the guys out there were just skating around at times, waiting for someone else to step up and be a hero. I also didn't think the Stars did a good enough job crashing the net, and creating opportunities down low in front of Witt.

Game 3 will be Tuesday night in Sioux Falls. I think we'll see the players come out strong after their effort in Game 2. Despite outshooting the 'Pede by such a large margin in Game 2, I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully we'll see that Tuesday night. Go Stars.

Your thoughts on Game 2?

Friday Night Fight - Sioux Falls at Lincoln Game 1

Not sure how many of those punches by Sdao actually landed, but he certainly yanked Perrier around like a rag doll.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Game 1 Postgame Report - Sioux Falls at Lincoln

Final Score: Sioux Falls 1, Lincoln 6

At the Ice Box on Friday night, the Lincoln Stars used 4 first period goals to catapult themselves to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede, and a 1-0 lead in their Best-of-Five first round series. Scoring goals for the Stars were Jimmy Siers, Jake Newton (2), Garrett Peterson, and Garrett Vermeersch (2). 11 Stars players had at least one point in this game. Stars netminder Kevin Murdock started in net, and stopped 35 of 36 shots on goal for his first playoff win. Lincoln put an incredible 40 shots on goal in the first two periods, and outshot the Stampede 45-36 for the game.

'Pede goaltender Eric "I get cranky when I don't have my pacifier" Hartzell was yanked by his daddy head coach Kevin Hartzell after giving up the fourth Lincoln goal. Eric Harzell also received a 10min misconduct after mixing it up with Stars forward Kory Kaunisto after the fourth goal. I've seen this kid blow up quite a few times at the Ice Box. It's strange, because the kid has talent. But for whatever reason, he has a hair trigger temper, and the Stars seem to know just the right buttons to push to send him off the deep end.

I've mentioned this before, but Jimmy Siers is really underrated as a forward. I think folks outside of Lincoln tend to label him as a meathead, or just another Stars enforcer. The guy hustles after every loose puck, and throws his body at anything that moves. He has more offensive talent than people give him credit for. He can do more than just hurt you with his fists, and that showed tonight. Siers had one goal, one assist, three shots on goal, and was +2 on the night.

Despite the blowout win, you'd have to figure that the 'Pede will come out Saturday night very hungry, and ready for a fight. It's important that the Stars use the home crowd and get off to a fast start once again. I hope that Boone Bruggman is the ref again Saturday night, as I believe he did a great job of just letting the guys play. There were quite a few calls in game one, but most were coincidental minors.

I'm starting to shake this nasty flu/cold bug I've been dealing with the last week, so I hope to be in the crowd Saturday night. Looking forward it! Pack the house! BE LOUD!! GO STARS!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Playoff Preview - Sioux Falls vs. Lincoln

This will be the second year in a row that the Stars and 'Pede faceoff against each other in the first round of the USHL Clark Cup Playoffs. In 2006, the 'Pede swept the Stars, 4-0, and went on to win the Clark Cup. In 2007, the Stars returned the favor and swept the Stampede, 3-0.

The regular season series between these two teams was won by Lincoln, 4 games to 3. In those seven games, each team scored a total of 19 goals. Lincoln goaltenders Anthony Borelli and Kevin Murdock both had two wins against the 'Pede in the regular season, while SF goaltender Eric Harztell started every game against the Stars and finished with a 3-4 record.

For some reason, this series scares the crap out of me. Sioux Falls has shown this season that they can play outstanding hockey if they want to. Their 5-1 beatdown of the Stars at the Ice Box on 10/16/08 was one of the ugliest games I've seen the Stars play. The 'Pede completely dominated the Stars that night. Eric Hartzell, when he's not throwing temper tantrums, can take over a hockey game single-handedly. Being that this game is in Lincoln and it's Game One, I expect the Stars to come out with tons of emotion. What's important is that the emotion translate into scoring opportunities, not dumb penalties. If the 'Pede can get a quick PP goal, and take the crowd out of the game, this could be a loooong series.

It doesn't look like I will be attending the game tonight due to this cold I've been fighting for the past week, so I would appreciate any reports from those who were there. I was really hoping to post more articles here this week, but I haven't been this sick in a long time. I'll be listening at home tonight. Be loud! Go STARS!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Playoff Beard?

Being the superstitious hockey nut I am, I started growing my "playoff beard" after the last regular season game the Stars played Saturday night. What's a "playoff beard," you ask?

"A playoff beard is the superstitious practice of a National Hockey League player not shaving his beard during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The player stops shaving when his team enters the playoffs and does not shave until his team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup. It is believed that the tradition was started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders.[1][2] The tradition is also practiced by nearly all North American hockey leagues, to include high school leagues and the NCAA hockey teams, as well as minor league affiliates.[3] The tradition has also spread to hockey leagues in Europe."

I thought it would be neat if we could get some of our readers to join this cause with me, and maybe we can even post pictures of our beards as the playoff season unfolds. Granted, I doubt I'll be able to grow mine out as studly as Mike Commodore did a few years ago when he played for the Carolina Hurricanes, but I will certainly try. He had a sick flow going on too, eh?

Who's with me? :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

USHL Playoffs

First Round Matchups:

East Division

(1) Green Bay vs. (4) Waterloo
(2) Cedar Rapids vs. (3) Indiana

West Division

(1) Lincoln vs. (4) Sioux Falls
(2) Omaha vs. (3) Fargo

I'm going to write up a Sioux Falls-Lincoln "playoff preview" sometime this week to break down that particular series. Stay tuned for that.

Now, for the rest of the are my predictions:


GB over Waterloo in 5 games
Indy over CR in 5 games

Omaha over Fargo in 4 games

I'm really superstitious when it comes to predicting a game or series for the team I follow, so I am not going to predict the Stars-'Pede series. I only hope the Stars leave it all on the ice and play smart, physical hockey.

Your predictions?

#1 in Attendance...Again

For the third straight season, the Lincoln Stars were the #1 team in the USHL in terms of home attendance. The Stars averaged 4,314 fans for each of the 30 home games this season, which was almost 1,000 higher than the second place team (Green Bay).

Considering the recession, I think we have a lot to be proud about as fans when looking at these numbers. There's a reason why so many players from other teams hate playing at the Ice Box. We pack the joint, and we're LOUD. Pat yourself on the back, Stars fans.

Click the graphic below:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

USHL Announces Award Winners

Link Here

Andrew Miller – Chicago Steel
B2 Networks USHL Player of the Year
CCM USHL Forward of the Year

Louis Leblanc – Omaha Lancers
The Collegian Group USHL Rookie of the Year

John Moore – Chicago Steel
ProGuard USHL Defenseman of the Year

Mike Lee – Fargo Force
Stauber’s Goalcrease USHL Goaltender of the Year

Mike Walsh – Chicago Steel
USHL Curt Hammer Award

Jeff Teglia – Omaha Lancers
USHL Scholar-Athlete Award

Dean Blais – Fargo Force
KwikRink USHL Coach of the Year

Jon Cooper – Green Bay Gamblers
JLG Architects USHL General Manager of the Year

Jim Pflug – Lincoln Stars
Dave Tyler Executive of the Year

Fargo Force
Highwood Rings USHL Organization of the Year

RBK First-Team All-USHL
Goalie: Brett Bennett – Indiana Ice
Defense: John Moore – Chicago Steel
Defense: Matt Donovan – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Forward: Andrew Miller – Chicago Steel
Forward: Mike Cichy – Indiana Ice
Forward: Craig Smith – Waterloo Black Hawks

Second Team All-USHL
Goalie: Kevin Murdock – Lincoln Stars
Defense: David Makowski – Green Bay Gamblers
Defense: Jake Newton – Lincoln Stars
Forward: Mike Seidel – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Forward: Stephane Da Costa – Sioux City Musketeers
Forward: Andy Taranto – Fargo Force

Center Trophy USHL All-Rookie Team
Goalie: Mike Lee – Fargo Force
Defense: Torey Krug – Indiana Ice
Defense: Brett Kostolansky – Chicago Steel
Forward: Louis Leblanc – Omaha Lancers
Forward: David Eddy – Sioux Falls Stampede
Forward: Stanislav Galiev – Indiana Ice
Forward: Alex Chiasson – Des Moines Buccaneers

The omission of Kirt Hill and Ross Henry is unfortunate, imo. Both players should have at least made 2nd Team All-USHL. Nice to see Jim Pflug be recognized for his job.

Also...I know Fargo was an "expansion" team (and that's debatable), but
I think Jon Cooper of Green Bay was more deserving of the
coach of the year award.

The Gamblers were dead last in the USHL last season. Cooper
took over in the offseason, and GB is one win away from
winning the Anderson Cup today. They also play in the East
Division, which is arguably more talented top-to-bottom than
the West Division.

Blais had a done a great job, but Cooper is much more
deserving imo.

Your thoughts on the selections?

End of Regular Season Recap

Just thought I'd take a few minutes and blog about the regular season accomplishments of this years Lincoln Stars team. I'll also compare the last two seasons under Head Coach Jimmy McGroarty.

With 80 points, the Lincoln Stars won the USHL West Division Regular Season Championship.

The Lincoln Stars finished the '08-'09 regular season with the #1 penalty kill efficiency. The Stars killed 89.5% of all the powerplays they faced this season, which is a good 3 percentage points higher than the team in second place (Cedar Rapids with 86.1%).

Goaltender Kevin Murdock finished the regular season as the top goaltender in the USHL, in terms of goals against average (2.24) and save percentage (.920). Both are incredible accomplishments for Doc, and he should receive a ton of props. I must admit, I had doubts about Doc coming into this season. I questioned if he could be a starter in the USHL, as I didn't think he had enough experience. He certainly proved me wrong.

Forward Kirt Hill finished the regular season as the leading scorer for the Stars. The native of Winnipeg scored 24 goals and 42 assists for a total of 66 points in 56 games. Hill was the sixth leading scorer in the USHL. Kirt also finished the season with +10 rating.

Let's compare the last two seasons under Coach McGroarty:

'07-'08 = 31 regular season wins
'08-'09 = 37 regular season wins

'07-'08 = 69 points
'08-'09 = 80 points

'07-'08 = 186 goals scored
'08-'09 = 191 goals scored

'07-'08 = 163 goals scored against
'08-'09 = 155 goals scored against

'07-'08 = 19 home wins
'08-'09 = 21 home wins

'07-'08 = 12 road wins
'08-'09 = 16 road wins

'07-'08 = #1 rated PK unit
'08-'09 = #1 rated PK unit

As you can see, there is much to be excited about if you are a Lincoln fan. It is hard to find a statistic that the Stars did not improve on this season from last. I think we are VERY lucky to have a coach like Jimmy McGroarty in Lincoln, and I certainly hope he stays here a long, long time.

Your thoughts on this past season?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weekend Update

Just wanted to apologize for being MIA the past couple of days. I'm battling a nasty cold/virus, and I've been miserable. Having to work while I'm sick isn't helping either.

The Lincoln Stars finished up the 2008-09 USHL regular season with road games against the Sioux Fall Stampede, and the Fargo Force. On Friday night, the Stars lost 4-2 to the Stampede, as 'Pede forward Victor Anilane scored the final two goals of the game. The Stars were outshot by the 'Pede, 29-24. Scoring for the Stars was Brett Chartier (PP), and Corey Chakeen. Kevin Murdock started in net for the Stars against the 'Pede, and stopped 25 of 29 shots on goal in the loss. In the pregame report, I predicted a gongshow...and the end of the first period certainly got nasty. Michael Sdao and Mike Dalhuisen both received misconducts and were ejected from the game. There were no other fisticuffs after the first period, as both teams settled down. Despite the loss, the Stars won the regular season series against Sioux Falls, 4 games to 3.

On Saturday night, the Stars scored four staight goals, after falling behind 3-0, and beat the Force in Fargo, 4-3. The big "Star" of the night was Eric Meland. The native of nearby Grand Forks, ND scored 2 goals, had 2 assists, and was +2 on the night. Also scoring for the Stars was David Gerths and Kory Kaunisto. Anthony Borelli returned from his one game suspension for fighting, and stopped 24 of 27 shots to record his 15th win of the regular season. The Stars won the regular season series against the Fargo with an impressive record of 6-1. I doubt many other teams could claim that sort of record against the Force this season.

After the dissappointing loss to the Sioux Falls Stampede on Friday night, it was nice to see the Stars fight and claw their way back to beat the Force on Saturday night. I have to admit, I wasn't really optimistic after the Force went up 3-0, but the Stars battled back and played outstanding after the sluggish first period. Great way to end the regular season, with a come from behind road win against a very game Fargo team, and against a goaltender who is one of the best in the USHL. I'd like to point out that defenseman Taylor Kuypers picked up his first USHL point, an assist on Eric Meland's first goal of the game. I've stated this before, but I'm a big fan of Kuypers and I'm very happy to see him playing well as of late.

With the win, the Stars finished the regular season with a record of 37-17-6, and a total of 80 points. I will blog about the last two seasons under Coach McGroarty sometime in the near future.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pregame Report - Lincoln at Sioux Falls 4/3

The Lincoln Stars will travel to Sioux Falls, SD to knock heads with the Sioux Falls Stampede Friday night at the Sioux Falls Arena. The game will be a preview of the first round of the USHL playoffs, as the Stampede will play the Stars in Game 1 of their best of 5 series a week from today (Friday) at the Ice Box in Lincoln. This will be the seventh and final time the Stars and 'Pede have played each other this season, with the Stars holding the 4-2 advantage in the six games. Lincoln is in first place in the USHL west division with 78 points, while Sioux Falls has 56 points and are in fourth place in the west division.

This could end up being a VERY interesting game. The 'Pede have had a less than spectacular season, and really have had trouble playing consistent hockey. The knock on the 'Pede yet again is that they are a soft team. The play with more grit than most USHL east division teams, but that's not saying a lot. However, the 'Pede have recently shown that they are not afraid to get their collective hands dirty. This past Saturday night in Omaha, the Stampede and Lancers combined for a total of 113 penalty minutes and five fighting majors. Sure, the 'Pede lost the game 6-1, but they let the Lancers know they weren't going to be pushed around. The new tough guy in Sioux Falls is forward Marcus Perrier (not to be confused with the Frenchy water). Perrier has a total of 126 PIM's in 46 games this season, and hails from Thunder Bay, Ontario. You know you're a badass when you're from a town called Thunder Bay. Anyway, 'Pede defenseman Max Grover used to be the resident tough guy for SF, but since being KO'd by Stars forward Jimmy Siers, Grover has not dropped the gloves once. From what I've heard, he has been instructed by the team doctor NOT to drop the mitts any more.

I really think this game could end up as a gongshow. Lincoln has the top spot wrapped up in the West, and really has nothing to lose (except 2 points in the Anderson Cup race). Sioux Falls might come out with a chip on their shoulders, wanting to mix it up with the Stars all night. I'm sure the Stars would be happy to oblige the 'Pede if that's what they want. The point I'm taking way too long to make is that I believe both teams are going to want to send a message in this game, with their playoff series starting a week from now. The 'Pede will want to let the Stars know that they won't just roll over and die, while the Stars will want to give the Stampede something to think about all next week.

Of the two Lincoln netminders, Anthony Borelli has posted the better numbers against Sioux Falls this season. Borelli is 2-0 against the 'Pede, with a .926 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average in those two games. 'Pede goaltender Eric "I act like a child and throw fits on the ice, but I'm protected by my Coach" Hartzell has played in all six games against the Stars this season, accumulating a 2-4 record with .919 save percentage and a 2.85 goals against average. It's tough to predict which Stars goaltender will get the nod in this game. With the way the team as played as of late, I'm not sure it matters. Both are playing extremely well.

Finally..separated at birth! 'Pede Head Coach Kevin Hartzell and Borat!

Faceoff is at 7:05pm

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

First Round Playoff Schedule Announced

First Round Playoff Schedule: Sioux Falls vs. Lincoln

Game 1: Friday, April 10th @ Lincoln 7:05 PM
Game 2: Saturday, April 11th @ Lincoln 7:05 PM
Game 3: Tuesday, April 14th @ Sioux Falls 7:05 PM
*Game 4: Friday, April 17th @ Sioux Falls 7:05 PM
*Game 5: Saturday, April 18th @ Lincoln 7:05 PM
*if necessary

Some interesting quotes from Stampede Chief Crybaby CEO Gary Weckwerth in regards to the scheduling of these games:

“The planning of the playoffs this year has been a challenge at best,” said Stampede CEO Gary Weckwerth. “While we respect the Lincoln Stars for earning the top seed in the West Division, we are disappointed in them and the league in not supporting a different format to help more fans get to our home playoff game and assisting us in maximizing the only Friday we have open at the Arena.”

“The USHL suggests that teams use the 2-2-1 format, but we asked Lincoln to consider a home and home series over the five games, starting in Lincoln for Game #1 midweek, then Game #2 in Sioux Falls on Friday the 10th,” said Weckwerth. “Lincoln refused to budge on that request, we asked the league to intervene, which they did. The commissioner ruled with the 2-2-1 format, we appealed that decision to the league's executive committee and they came back agreeing with Lincoln.”

Every year it seems as if the Stars, and other teams, bend over backwards to work around their schedule. So now when things go the way they should, this guy whines? Cry me a river.