Final Score: Lincoln 3, Youngstown 2
Can you say, "two game winning streak"? "Three game road winning streak"? I knew you could.
Defenseman Alec Rush scored his second goal of the season with less than eight minutes remaining in the third period to propel the Lincoln Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms. As stated before, it was Lincoln's second straight win, and third straight win on the road. The Stars opened the scoring a little over three minutes into the game, when forward Jon Puskar scored to give Lincoln an early 1-0 lead. The Phantoms, obviously upset with their effort the night before, scored less than twenty seconds after Puskar's goal to even up the game at 1-1. Early in the second period, forward Ben "The Youngstown Killer" Lynch scored on a breakaway to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. Lynch has scored four goals in three games against Youngstown this season. The Stars entered the third period with a one goal lead, but that quickly disappeared when Youngstown scored just one minute into the third period to bring the Phantoms back in the game, tied at 2-2. After a back-and-forth third period that only saw one penalty (against the Phantoms), Stars defenseman Alec Rush intercepted a Youngstown pass, skated in to the top of the circle in the Phantoms defensive end, and slapped a shot past Phantoms goaltender Matthew Mahalak to give Lincoln the 3-2 lead. The Stars held on the final seven minutes of the game to secure their eighth victory of the season.
Goaltender Matt Green continued his good play as of late, as he stopped 22 of 24 shots for his third win of the season, second straight against the Youngstown Phantoms. It is early, but it appears the Stars may have found their #1 goaltender. Forward Jonathan Puskar had 1 goal and 1 assist on the night, while forward John McCarron potted 2 assists, and 3 shots on goal. Brodie Reid assisted on Ben Lynch's breakaway goal in the second period, which was Reid's sixth point in the last three games for Lincoln. Reid is now the leading scorer on the Stars with 16 points (8g, 8a) in 17 games played. Defenseman Alec Rush scored the game winning goal and was an impressive +3 on the night.
Another gutsy road win against a quality opponent. What is really impressive is that the Stars limited the Phantoms to a total of only 44 shots in two games, in their own barn. That's great team defense, folks. I think we are seeing this team finally getting comfortable playing with one another, and comfortable with the system Coach McGroarty is utilizing. Not having 8 players injured helps also. That young, inexperienced defense that struggled early on in the season are coming together as a unit, which is exciting. The defense will only get better as the season goes along, so hopefully the scoring picks up a bit also. Goaltender Matt Green, who mishandled the puck in his own zone, leading to the second Youngstown goal, settled down and shut out the Phantoms the rest of the game. Green has had some ups and downs so far for the Stars, but I believe he is getting more and more comfortable playing with his teammates, and his confidence is showing.
Also, it was nice to see the Stars stay out of the penalty box for the majority of the game. In fact, the Stars were not whistled for a penalty for the final 35 minutes of the game. Two minors against Lincoln for the entire game...that's it. Credit referee Zachary Blazic for letting the boys play, and letting the players determine who wins the game. Speaking of special teams, the Stars penalty kill unit is playing much better, while the powerplay is doing better also. The PP still needs a little help, but the PK unit has been playing lights-out the past six games. The Stars penalty kill unit as killed 34 of 35 PP opportunities against in the past six games. That's impressive.
Three stars of the game, per Pointstreak:
1ST STAR: Puskar, Jon (LIN)
2ND STAR: Green, Matt (LIN)
3RD STAR: McCarron, John (LIN)
The Stars will take the week off and return to the Ice Box this Friday night to battle the Tri-City Storm. The Storm are winless in 10 straight games, and seem to be reverting to their disastrous season of 2008-'09. With the win Saturday night, the Stars are now only two points behind the Storm in the USHL West Division, and only one point behind the Des Moines Buccaneers. The game Friday night at the Ice Box against the Storm is teddy bear toss night, which is always fun. More on that game later in the week.
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