Friday, December 31, 2010

B³ Postgame Recap 12/31: Lincoln 0, Cedar Rapids 4

The Lincoln Stars ended 2010 with a whimper Friday evening as the black and blue were shutout on the road by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders by a score of 4-0.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  The loss was the sixth straight for Lincoln.  With the defeat, the Stars dropped to 11-13-1 (23 points), and still occupy last place in the USHL Western Conference.  I did not watch this game, so this recap will be brief.  I was able to listen to most of the radio broadcast, however.

In an all too familiar fashion, the Stars fell behind early tonight as CR defenseman Josiah Didier, who hadn't scored at all this season coming into the game, lit the lamp twice in the first twenty minutes to give the 'Riders the 2-0 lead.  Cedar Rapids added one goal in each of the next two periods to cruise to the 4-0 victory.  Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock started the game, and stopped 24 of 28 shots in the loss.  CR goaltender Brady Hjelle stopped all 26 Lincoln shots to record his league-leading 18th win, and fourth shutout of the season.  

Another frustrating loss.  From listening to Mike Melbye, it sounded that the Stars played pretty well in the second and third periods, but they could not solve CR goaltender Brady Hjelle.  Hjelle, who left the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the offseason, is considered by many as the best goaltender in the league.  He showed why tonight.  In the third period, the Stars really sounded like they were swarming around the CR net, but just could bury the puck.  I think at that point some frustration rose to the top and some players on the Stars acted out with the fights we saw late in the third period.  Listening to head coach Chad Johnson after the game on the radio, it doesn't sound like he was happy with the extracurricular fisticuffs that the Stars initiated at the end of the period.

As usual, the Roughriders had many more powerplay opportunities than their opponent.  Melbye pointed this out on air, but when Cedar Rapids is at home, they seem to always have more PP opportunities than their opponents.  Home cookin' for sure, but it's no excuse.  It's known league-wide that Cedar Rapids will dive to create PP chances, and referee's seem to favor the home team in that barn.  You know that going in, and you have to adapt your game.  Lincoln had only one powerplay opportunity the entire game, and did not score.  Cedar Rapids finished 1-for-6 with the man advantage.

Well, the best part about tonight was that it was the last game of 2010, which was arguably the worst year in the history of the franchise.  Out with the old, in with the new.  9 out of the next 11 games the Stars will play will take place at the IceBox.  Although the Stars have struggled at home this season, it's time to take advantage of the advantages the IceBox gives Lincoln, and put together a winning streak similar to what we saw in November.

Lincoln will take the rest of the weekend off, and return to the IceBox next Friday night (1/7/11) when they host the Tri-City Storm.  More on that matchup later next week.

Have a safe and healthy new year, everyone!  Be safe out there!

Go Stars. 

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Cedar Rapids Roughriders 12/31

New Years Eve edition!

The Lincoln Stars will wrap up 2010 and ring in the new year tonight with a road game against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Puck drops at 7:05pm tonight.  Lincoln is currently 11-12-1 (23 points) on the season, and are in last place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are in the middle of a slump right now, having lost five straight games. You can listen to Mike Melbye call the game on AM 1480 KLMAS by clicking here. You can also watch the game via B2 Network by clicking here. If you want to follow the Pointstreak boxscore, click here.

With an outstanding record of 18-4-2 (38 points), the Cedar Rapids Roughriders have the top winning percentage (.792) in the entire USHL, and are tied for first place in the eastern conference with the Green Bay Gamblers, the team the Stars lost to this past Wednesday.  Through 24 games played, the 'Riders have scored more goals (84) than any other team in the league.  On the other side of the ice, the 'Riders have only given up 52 goals in those 24 games played, which is also tops in the league.  So statistically, the Roughriders have the top offense, and defense, in the USHL.  This is a team that very rarely loses at home, and normally get a lot of calls to go their way because of how they play.  They are a small, skilled, fast team that isn't afraid to dive to draw a penalty.  Love it or loathe it, that's how they play.

To beat Cedar Rapids on their home ice, the Stars first of all have to play smart hockey and stay out of the penalty box.  That's easier said than done, especially with certain referee's this season.  It's not an impossible task, as the Stars have shown the past couple of seasons.  Last season, the Stars only won 16 games, but one of those wins came against the Roughriders in Cedar Rapids on 10/25/09 by a score of 3-1.  The season before, the Stars beat CR by a score of 3-2 on 3/15/09.  It can be done.  Winning the special teams battle is important also.  The Stars' PP unit has struggled lately, and have dropped from first to second place in overall PP percentage.  

In an article posted today on the Lincoln Journal Star, head coach Chad Johnson hinted at some personnel changes if things don't get turned around quickly.  Click here to read the article.  Johnson isn't happy with how "cute" the Stars are playing, and certain players could be moved if need be.  Chad has made it a point to keep the players he started with, and not turn the team into a revolving door of players.  However, if the coaches aren't happy with what they see, and certain players aren't buying in, I would assume trades could be made.  We'll have to wait and see.

We will not be chatting tonight for the game, but I want to wish everyone out there a safe and happy new year!  Thanks for being a part of the B³ this last year.  Hoping for good things in 2011!

Go Stars.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

B³ Postgame Recap 12/29: Lincoln 4, Green Bay 7

The Lincoln Stars fell behind early on the road last night in Green Bay and couldn't recover as the Gamblers rolled up the Stars by a score of 7-4.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  With the loss, the Stars dropped to below .500 (11-12-1, 23 points) for the first time since early November.  Lincoln is also riding a five-game losing streak.  In those five games, the Stars have been outscored 26-8.  With the loss to the Gamblers last night, and Des Moines' victory over the Youngstown Phantoms, the Stars are now all alone in last place in the USHL Western Conference.  In a little over one month's time, the Stars have dropped from second place to last place in the west. 

The Stars were apparently still in holiday break mode at the start of this game, as the Gamblers scored three quick goals in the first five minutes of the game to give themselves a commanding 3-0 lead.  Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock surrendered all three goals (on seven shots), and was pulled after the third GB goal in favor of Lukas Hafner.  The Stars woke up a bit in the first period, and forward Ryan Dzingel was able to get on the board to pull the Stars within two goals at 3-1.  Ben Oskroba and Andrew Schmit earned the assists on Dzingel's eighth goal of the season.  At the first intermission, the Gamblers lead comfortably by a score of 3-1, and they outshot the Stars 13-10 in the first 20 minutes.

In the second period, the Stars finally came to life and played more like they wanted to be there.  Garrett Peterson scored first in the second period at the 4:28 mark, with assists going to Sam Alfieri and Teemu Tiitinen, to pull the Stars within one goal.  A little over five minutes after Petey's goal, Ryan Dzingel potted his second goal of the game, this one on the powerplay, to even the score at 3-3.  Brent Tate and Garrett Peterson collected the assists on Dzingel's goal.  Suddenly, the Stars were dominating the the play and taking it to the Gamblers.  However, the Gamblers stormed back later in the second period to recapture the lead.  Two GB goals, scored in the last eight minutes of the game, restored the Gamblers' two goal lead at 5-3.  At the second intermission, Stars were down 5-3, and were outshot 10-8 in the period.

In the last 20 minutes of the game, the Stars scored first at the 12:51 mark when Sam Alfieri buried the puck against his former team to give the Stars some life, and pull them back within one goal, at 5-4.  Richard Coyne and Teemu Tiitinen earned the assists on Alfieri's third period goal.  That was as close as the Stars would get in the third period, as the Gamblers scored two goals late in the period (one was an empty net goal) to give GB the 7-4 victory.  The Stars outshot GB 11-7 in the third, but were outshot overall, 30-29.  Both teams went 1-for-4 on the powerplay.  Lukas Hafner stopped 19 of 22 shots, and earned the loss in relief of Kevin Murdock.  

I think the final score isn't indicative of how well the Stars played in this game, although that's not to say they played great.  Obviously in the first part of the opening period, the Stars weren't in the game mentally, and the Gamblers took advantage of that.  Instead of going into a hole and letting the Gamblers roll over them at that point, the Stars showed a lot of heart by scoring the three straight goals to tie it up.  But like we've seen in the past month, mental mistakes cost them at the end of the second period which allowed GB to regain the momentum.  It's cliche, but you really have to play the whole 60 minutes.  You can't take a shift or even a period off in this league and expect to win.  Certain teams might be able to do that in midget major, or high school, but not at this level.  The talent is there on the roster, but mentally they just aren't consistent.   Lincoln is in a huge rut right now, and they need to figure out how to get out of it before they get buried in the western conference standings.

Great to see Stars defenseman Matt Prapavessis back in the lineup, who played his first game since 11/13/10.  As mentioned earlier on the blog, Stars captain Josh Berge was placed on the 45-day injured reserve list on 12/28/10, so he will be out until at least February.  I believe Josh is still suffering from symptoms related to a concussion he received a few weeks ago.  We'll have to see if the coaches plan on filling that roster spot for the time being, or if they keep it open.  The opportunity exists to call up a player on the Stars' affiliate list, if they choose to.

The Stars return to the ice this Friday night (New Year's Eve) when they take on the Cedar Rapids Roughriders on the road.  Puck drops at 7:05pm in CR.  Like the Gamblers, the 'Riders are one of the top teams in the league right now, so the Stars will have yet another difficult road game in store for Friday night.  I'll have a preview article up for that game sometime tonight, or early tomorrow.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

B³ Live Chat - Lincoln Stars vs. Green Bay Gamblers 12/29

Join us tonight as we chat live during the Lincoln Stars game against the Green Bay Gamblers. The puck will drop at 6:05pm CST this evening, but we'll be chatting live around 5:45pm. For those who are new to our live game chats, you do not have to register to talk with other Stars fans during the game. Just type in a user name, and chat away. This is a great way to interact with other Lincoln fans during road games. Hope to see you all there!

Click here to listen to Mike Melbye call the game (AM 1480 KLMS online feed).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Green Bay Gamblers 12/29

Back to the regular season grind.

The Lincoln Stars will return to the ice Wednesday evening when they will take on the Green Bay Gamblers, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Faceoff will occur at 6:05pm central.  The Stars have a record of 11-11-1 (23 points), and are in seventh place in the USHL Western Conference.  Lincoln has lost four in a row, and have been outscored 19-4 in those four games.  Click here to listen to Mike Melbye call the game on AM 1480 KLMS.  If you have money to burn, you can also watch the game via B2 Network by clicking here. If you want to follow the Pointstreak boxscore, click here.

The Green Bay Gamblers are currently tied for first place in the USHL Eastern Conference with a record of 17-5-2 (36 points), and have a very impressive home record of 8-0-1.  Although the game against the Stars is considered a home game, this matchup will not take place at the Resch Center, where the Gamblers normally play all of their home games.  Because of a scheduling conflict, the game against the Stars and the Gamblers will take place at the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena, which is also located in Green Bay.  As I stated above, the puck will drop a little early Wednesday night, at 6:05pm.  

Stating the obvious here, but this is going to be a HUGE test for the Stars.  First game back from the long x-mas break, and the Stars will face arguably the best team in the USHL right now.  The Stars have had some issues of late scoring goals, and the Gamblers are the best defensive team in the league.  There really isn't a lot of weaknesses on the GB roster.  Compared to the Dubuque Fighting Saints and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders (the other two USHL teams with 36 points), the Gamblers aren't as high-scoring, but that hasn't hurt them at all.  This is still a very dangerous hockey club, and they aren't gooning it up this season as opposed to previous seasons now that former head coach Jon Cooper has left for the AHL.  Believe it or not, the Gamblers are one of the least penalized teams in the USHL right now, which is shocking when you consider how rough and tumble they used to play the past few seasons under Cooper.

No reason to look past this game, but the Stars will travel to Iowa later this week on Friday to take on the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, another very good hockey team.  This is a short two game road trip, but the two teams the Stars will face have a combined record of 34-9-4.  Wow.  Hopefully the players on the Stars roster have their heads back in hockey-mode, and are ready to get back on the ice and prove they are capable of competing (and beating) the top teams in the USHL.  

Hopefully players such as Josh Berge and Matt Prapavessis are healthy enough to return to the lineup this week.  It will be interesting to see if the healthy players head coach Chad Johnson scratched against Omaha on 12/18 are back in the lineup against the Gamblers on Wednesday.  Johnson was obviously sending a message to some of the players, so we'll have to see if they respond.

We will be chatting live for this game, so make sure you check back here around 5:45pm Wednesday evening to join in on the fun.  Hope to see a lot of you there.

Go Stars.

Edit:  According to the Pointstreak transaction page, Stars captain Josh Berge has been placed on the 45-day injured reserve list, effective 12/28/10.  Crappy news.  I was hoping Josh would be healthy enough to return to the lineup after the holiday break.  I assume he is still suffering from symptoms related to the concussion he suffered earlier this month.  I wonder now if the coaches will bring in a player to fill the empty roster spot....maybe an affiliate player??

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays from the B³!

I'm a little bit early with this, but I wanted to wish everyone out there a Merry X-Mas, and a safe and happy holiday season.  

The Stars will be back in action on Wednesday, December 29th when they will travel to Green Bay, WI to take on the Green Bay Gamblers.  

BT and I will probably take a break from writing articles here on the blog until early next week.     

Thanks for being a part of the B³ community!  I appreciate your patronage.  Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!  Go Stars!!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2011 World Junior Hockey Championships

Team USA - 2010 WJC Gold Medal Champions
I wanted to take a few minutes and highlight the 2011 World Junior U-20 Ice Hockey Championships (WJC) which are being played this year in Buffalo, NY from 12/26/10 to 1/5/11.  Team USA is the defending goal medal winner.

The WJC is one of my favorite hockey events of the entire year. The best young players from around the world representing their countries, all vying for gold.  You will see a lot of these players in the NHL someday.  Some of the players are USHL alumni, so you may see some familiar names.  In fact, seven players on the Team USA roster are USHL alumni.

This tournment does not contain any current or former Stars players, but Team USA's Chris Kreider is a former Lincoln Stars draft pick.  Click here to read an article I wrote about Kreider in April of '09.  Kreider won gold for Team USA last year at the WJC, and is a first round draft pick of the NHL's New York Rangers.  Kreider is currently a sophomore at Boston College University.  Not only did Kreider win gold last year for Team USA, but Boston College also won the NCAA championships last season.  He's considered one of the most talented (and fastest) players on the Team USA Roster.

Here are some great WJC-related links to check out:
  • Official WJC website:  Click here to view
  • "The United States of Hockey" blog devoted to hockey in America.  Tons of great Team USA-WJC information.  Chris Peters does a fantastic job with this blog.  One of my favorites.  Click here to view 
  • Official WJC blog from the USA Hockey:  Click here to view 
  • Tongue-in-cheek blog devoted to Team USA and the WJC:  Click here to view

Here are the preliminary round matchups (dates and times) for Team USA.  All times listed below are EST.

Sun, Dec. 26
Tue, Dec. 28
Thu, Dec. 30
Fri, Dec. 31


If you're lucky enough to have the NHL Network, you will be able to watch all of the Team USA WJC games, and many others.  Click here to view a full TV broadcast schedule of all games.  I printed out the TV schedule, and highlighted all the Team USA games, and other matchups I want to watch.  But I'm a hockey nerd like that.

Anyway, if you get the opportunity to watch any of these games, please check them out.  I know you won't be disappointed.


B³ USHL Power Rankings: December 21

I'm going to fill in again for BT this week and give my take on the USHL power rankings.  These rankings are a lot of work to put together, but it's interesting to track how the other teams in the USHL are doing.  As always, I would appreciate any comments!

Previous week's ranking in parentheses

1. (2) Cedar Rapids Roughriders (17-4-2, 36 points, 1st place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Roughriders went 2-0 last weekend, with home wins over the Omaha Lancers (2-1) and the Waterloo Blackhawks (5-0).  Goaltender Brady "Peanut butter and" Hjelle leads the USHL in wins, with 16.  The 'Riders are tied for first in overall points (36) with Dubuque, and Green Bay.

2. (3) Dubuque Fighting Saints (17-4-2, 36 points, 1st place in USHL Western Conference)
The "Saints" went 2-0 last weekend, with a 4-1 home win against the Youngstown Phantoms, and a 3-2 road win against the Des Moines Buccaneers.  Dubuque is averaging 3.53 goals scored per game, which is tops in the USHL.  The "Saints" are riding a six-game winning streak.

3. (1) Green Bay Gamblers (17-5-2, 36 points, 2nd place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Gamblers went 1-1 last weekend, with a 5-2 road win over the Chicago Steel, and a 2-1 road loss against the Indiana Ice.  The Gamblers are on a eight-game home winning streak, and have not lost at home since 10/2/10 (opening night).

4. (6) Fargo Force (12-10-4, 28 points, 4th place in USHL Western Conference)
The Force went 2-0 at home last weekend with a VERY impressive 6-1 blowout of Team USA U-18, and a 4-3 OT/SO victory over the Sioux Falls Stampede.  This team is making a lot of noise now that they have a complete lineup.  

5. (5) Indiana Ice (11-10-2, 24 points, 4th place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Ice had an up and down weekend, with a 4-3 home loss against Team USA-17 on  Friday night, then a very impressive 2-1 home win against the Green Bay Gamblers on Saturday night.  The Ice are 7-1 their last 8 games.

6. (7) Tri-City Storm  (11-7-4, 26 points, 5th place in USHL Western Conference)
The Storm went 2-0 on the road last weekend with wins against the Muskegon Lumberjacks (4-2), and the Chicago Steel (3-2 OT).  The Storm are 7-1 in their last 8 games, with the only loss coming against Dubuque by one goal.

7. (9) Sioux City Musketeers  (13-9-2, 28 points, 3rd place in USHL Western Conference)
The Muskies went 2-0 on the road last weekend with wins against the Lincoln Stars (5-1), and the Sioux Falls Stampede (2-1).  The Muskies always play good defense, and now it appears their offense is coming around.

8. (4) Omaha Lancers (13-7-3, 29 points, 2nd place in USHL Western Conference)
The Lancers went 1-1 last weekend, with a 2-1 road loss to the CR Roughriders, and a 4-2 home win against the Lincoln Stars.  Omaha head coach Bliss Littler was very critical of his teams performance even after the win against Lincoln.  In my opinion, they were outplayed in that game.

9. (10) Muskegon Lumberjacks  (11-9-5, 27 points, 3rd place in USHL Western Conference)
The Lumberjacks went 1-1 at home last weekend, with a 4-2 loss against the Tri-City Storm, and a 3-2 win over the Youngstown Phantoms.  The 'Jacks score a lot of goals (83), but give up a lot of goals (96) also.  Muskegon is 4-2 in their last 6 games.  They're the Lumberjacks, and they're ok.

10. (8) Lincoln Stars  (11-11-1, 23 points, 6th place in USHL Western Conference)
Lincoln went 0-2 last weekend, with a 5-1 home loss to the Sioux City Musketeers, and a 4-2 road loss against the Omaha Lancers.  The Stars have lost 5 in a row at home, and have only scored 2 goals in their last 3 games at the IceBox.  

11. (11) Sioux Falls Stampede  (11-9-2, 24 points, 5th place in USHL Western Conference)
The Stampede went 0-1-1 last weekend, with a 4-3 OT/SO road loss to the Fargo Force, and a 2-1 home loss to the Sioux City Musketeers.  The 'Pede are 1-4-2 in their last seven games.

12. (14) Des Moines Buccaneers  (10-8-2, 22 points, 8th place in USHL Western Conference)
The Bucs went 1-1 at home last weekend, with a 5-4 victory over the Waterloo Blackhawks, and a 3-2 defeat to the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  Des Moines is 1-5 in their last 6 games played.

13. (12) Waterloo Blackhawks  (9-9-3, 21 points, 5th place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Blackhawks went 0-2 on the road last weekend with a 5-4 loss to the Des Moines Buccaneers, and a 5-0 shutout loss to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  Waterloo is 1-4-1 in their last 6 games played.

14. (13) Youngstown Phantoms  (9-14-1, 19 points, 7th place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Phantoms went 0-2 on the road last weekend, with a 4-1 loss to the Dubuque Fighting Saints, and a 3-2 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  Youngstown has lost four in a row.

15. (15) Team USA  (9-16-2, 20 points, 6th place in USHL Eastern Conference)
I still feel like I should not include Team USA in these rankings because they are split up into two squads (U-17, U-18).  Last weekend, the U-17's had an impressive 4-3 road win over the Indiana Ice, while the U-18's were surprisingly blown out on the road by the Fargo Force, 6-1.  

16. (16) Chicago Steel  (7-14-5, 19 points, 8th place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Steel went 01-1 last weekend at home with a 5-2 loss to the Green Bay Gamblers, and a 3-2 OT loss to the Tri-City Storm.  Chicago is winless (0-5-1) in the month of December.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snapshots of the Game: Lincoln vs. Omaha 12/18

Thanks to Brandon Anderson and Jeff White for allowing me to use some of their great photos from the Omaha game last night. It is much appreciated. If you would like to contact Brandon to purchase any of his pictures, you can email him at  If you would like to view all of the photos Brandon took at the Omaha game, click here to view them on his website.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the picture below to see all of the photos in this series.

Lukas Hafner

B³ Postgame Recap 12/18: Lincoln 2, Omaha 4

Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson
The Lincoln Stars were on the wrong end of some home cookin' officiating Saturday night in Omaha, as the Lancers scored two powerplay goals to propel them to a 4-2 victory.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  The Stars were shorthanded a total of seven players against Omaha as Josh Berge, Matt Prapavessis, Chris Casto, Eric Scheid, Frank Misuraca, Jake Lynes, and Ryan Dzingel all sat out of this game due to injuries, or being scratched.  With the loss, the Stars are now 11-11-1 (23 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL Western Conference.

Omaha got on the board first when Lancers forward Nick Oddo scored a powerplay goal at the 10:34 mark of the first period to give the Lancers an early 1-0 lead.  Less than three minutes later while the Stars were on the powerplay, an errant pass by Lincoln allowed Stefan Demopoulos of Omaha to steal the puck and score a shorhanded, breakaway goal to give the home team a 2-0 lead.  A total of five minor penalties and one misconduct penalty were called in the first period, and four of those calls (including the misconduct) were called against Lincoln.  Omaha outshot Lincoln 11-5 in the first period, mostly because the Stars played shorthanded for the majority of the first 20 minutes.

In the second, the Stars outplayed the Lancers for most of the period, but they could not get any pucks past Omaha goaltender Todd Mathews.  Mike Chiasson of the Lancers scored a 5-on-3 powerplay goal with only 12 seconds remaining in the period to give Omaha the 3-0 lead.  The perimeter shot from the Omaha defenseman was never by seen Stars goaltender Lukas Hafner who was screened on the play.  A total of four minor penalties were called in the second period, and three were whistled against Lincoln.  Lincoln outshot Omaha 14-10 in the second period.

In the final 20 minutes of the game, the Stars would finally get a puck past Todd Mathews when forward Garrett Peterson scored with less than four minutes remaining to give the Stars some life at 3-1.  Andrew Schmit and John McCarron collected the assists on Petey's goal.  With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Stars pulled goaltender Lukas Hafner for the extra attacker, but it was Omaha forward Nick Oddo who took advantage of the empty net and scored an empty-netter goal at the 18:48 mark of the third period.  The Stars were not done fighting, as defenseman Kyle Quick would score 22 seconds remaining to finish the scoring at 4-2.  Stars forward Brent Tate collected the lone assist on Quick's first USHL career goal.  Both teams had nine shots on goal in the third period.  A total of 12 penalties were called in the third period, and nine were whistled on the Stars.  Both teams had nine shots on goal in the third period, and Omaha outshot Lincoln overall, 30-28.  The Stars went 0-for-2 on the PP, while the Lancers went  2-for-11.  Overall, the Stars were whistled for a total of 63 penalty minutes, compared to just 13 penalty minutes for Omaha.

The Stars faced a lot of adversity Saturday night, and considering those obstacles (all of the players out of the lineup, the poor officiating), I thought the team played very, very well.  Call me a homer, I don't really care.  I'm objective enough to know when the Stars play bad, and when they play well considering the circumstances.  I'm not afraid to state on this blog if the Stars play like crap, and despite the loss last night, I think the Stars can be proud of their effort.  The Stars blocked shots, and played very well shorthanded last night, while the Lancers at times looked lost on the PP.  

I'm not one to normally rail on a referee for poor officiating, but I thought Christopher Pitoscia did a terrible job Saturday night.  I'm not sure if the guy just loves his whistle that much, or if he just doesn't like the colors of black and blue, but he certainly seemed to have an agenda Saturday night in Omaha.   I'm not saying every call against Lincoln was unwarranted.  Through the first 40 minutes of the game, the Stars were whistled for 24 minutes worth of penalties, compared to only 4 minutes for Omaha.  In total, 11 Omaha powerplay opportunities, to only 2 for Lincoln.  Really?  Are the Lancers suddenly angels?  If you're going to call every ticky-tack penalty, call them both ways.  I don't mind if a ref has a napoleon complex and loves to hear his own whistle, but call it both ways.  Pitoscia definitely had his hand in this game, in my opinion.  

The Stars will now go on x-mas break, and hopefully get healthy in the next week or so.  Lincoln will return to the ice on 12/29/10 in Green Bay, WI against the Gamblers.  

Go Stars.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snapshots of the Game: Sioux City vs. Lincoln 12/17

Much thanks to Jeff White for letting me use some of his pictures from the game last night.  I really like the shot Jeff got that you see below.  You can clearly see Teemu's shot go between the legs of the SC goaltender.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

B³ Postgame Recap 12/17: Sioux City 5, Lincoln 1

Photo courtesy of Jeff White
It was another sloppy, uninspired effort by the Lincoln Stars at the IceBox Friday night, as the Sioux City Musketeers skated past the black and blue by a score of 5-1. It was a second period meltdown by the Stars which allowed the Muskies to score four goals, compared to zero for Lincoln.  With the loss Friday night, the Stars have now dropped five in a row at home, and are on a three game losing streak overall.  In the past five games at the IceBox, the Stars have been outscored 20-to-7.  With the loss, the Stars dropped to 11-10-1 (23 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL Western Conference.  

In the first period, I thought the Stars came out and played very, very well.  In the first ten minutes of the game, the Stars put a number of shots on goal, and out-skated and out-hit the Muskies.  Credit Muskies goaltender Matt Skoff for keeping his team in the game early on when they were getting out-played.  Despite the good play by the Stars early on, it was the Muskies who got on the board first at the 11:08 mark of the first period.  Max McCormick scored on a rebound in front of the net to give SC the early lead at 1-0.  Exactly three minutes after the goal by McCormick, Stars forward Teemu Tiitinen scored on a breakaway to even the game up at 1-1.  Jake Lynes and Jared Hanson collected the assists on Tiitinen's first period goal.  After the first 20 minutes of the game, the score was 1-1.  The Stars outshot the Muskies 12-10 in the first period.

The second period was all Sioux City as the Muskies outscored the Stars 4-0, and chased Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock from the game.  Noah Nelson, Brett Patterson, Max Gaede (PP), and Matt Paape all scored for SC in the second period to give the Muskies a commanding 5-1 lead.  Although Kevin Murdock was pulled in this game after surrendering the final fifth SC goal, he really didn't get a lot of help from his teammates last night.  I can't count how many times I saw defensemen and forwards just standing around in the defensive zone instead of chasing pucks.  I'm not sure what happened in between the first and second periods, but the Stars looked like a different team in the second.  Sioux City outshot Lincoln 13-10 in the nightmare period for the Stars.

It was a scoreless third period which saw the Muskies outshoot the Stars, 8-7.  Kevin Murdock stopped 18 of 23 shots in the loss.  Stars goaltender Lukas Hafner stopped all eight shots he saw in relief of Kevin Murdock.  There were three fights in this game as Dominik Shine dropped the mitts against Noah Nelson, Richard Coyne traded punches with Jake Suter, and Brent Tate fought Max McCormick.  Neither of the three fights were much to talk about.  I think some of the Stars tried to get the team fired up with the fights, but it just didn't work.

Disappointing game for sure.  Not much more to say than that.  The Stars PP unit continued to struggle, going 0-for-5 against SC.  I'm trying hard not to sound like a negative nancy, but it's difficult after watching the game last night.  Very little positives at all to draw from.  Sioux City weathered the early storm, and took advantage of their opportunities.  Give credit to them for out-skating, and out-playing the Stars for the majority of the game.

The Stars have one last opportunity before the x-mas break to break out of this slump and get a much needed win when they travel to Omaha to battle the Lancers tonight.  Lincoln is 2-0 on the road the past couple of games, so hopefully they can continue that streak Saturday night at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha.  I didn't get a chance to listen to head coach Chad Johnson talk to Mike Melbye after the game last night on the radio, but from what I have heard from those who did listen, it sounds like Chad wasn't happy at all and will sit certain players against Omaha tonight.  With the injuries mounting up, and the potential of healthy players being scratched, the Stars will most likely go with a very short bench tonight against the Lancers.

Would love to hear from the blog readers out there.  Please leave a comment!  It's been too quiet here...time to speak up!

Go Stars.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chad Johnson Interview on KIBZ

Lincoln Stars head coach Chad Johnson was on the "Tim and the Animal" radio show this morning on 104.1 KIBZ, "The Blaze."  Click play below to watch the video.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Omaha

The Lincoln Stars (11-9-1, 23 points, sixth place in the USHL Western Conference) will play two games this weekend before the team breaks for the holidays; one game at the IceBox, and the other on the road.  On Friday night, the Stars will play their final home game of 2010 when they host the Sioux City Musketeers.  On Saturday night, the Stars travel an hour north to battle the Omaha Lancers at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, NE.  Faceoff for both games will occur at 7:05pm.  If you can't make it to any of the games this weekend, you can listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye online at AM 1480 KLMS by clicking here. You can also pay to watch live video of the games via B2 Network by clicking here. You can also follow both games via Pointstreak by clicking here.

Friday night at the IceBox in Lincoln, the Stars will be looking to snap out of their current four-game home losing streak when they host the Sioux City Musketeers (11-9-2, 24 points, third place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the third time the Stars and Muskies will face each other this season.  The Stars are 2-0 against SC, although both wins have been by only one goal.  On 11/19/10, the Stars beat SC in Lincoln by a score of 3-2.  In Sioux City on 11/25/10, the Stars won in overtime, 2-1.  In that game in SC on 11/25/10, Stars goaltender Lukas Hafner stopped stopped 27 of 28 shots on net, and forward Dominik Shine scored the game-winning goal 12 seconds into OT to give Lincoln the victory.

The Muskies have won two straight on the road, and considering how uninspired the Stars have looked at home the past four games, this should be a very interesting game.  Both teams have played low scoring games so far against each other, and I don't expect that to change Friday night.  Just a hunch, but I think the Stars will start Lukas Hafner between the pipes against Sioux City.  Hafner has played well against the Muskies this season, and since Kevin Murdock hasn't won a game at home since 11/19/10, I think Hafner is the safe bet Friday night.

On Saturday night, the Stars will go on the road to take on their arch-rival, the Omaha Lancers (12-6-3, 27 points, second place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will also be the third time these two teams will face each other this season.  The Stars are 1-1 against the Lancers in those two games.  On 11/24/10, the Lancers came to Lincoln and put a hurting on the Stars, winning the game in most part due to their superior special teams, 6-2.  Lincoln got a little payback a few weeks later when on 12/5/10, the Stars won in Omaha by a score of 4-3, thanks to Eric Scheid's overtime game-winning goal.

The Lancers are on a bit of a hot streak right now, as they have won 5 of their last 6 games.  As mentioned, the only loss the past six games came in overtime against the Lincoln Stars.  In the two games these teams have faced each other, they key has been special teams.  In the 6-2 drubbing of Lincoln on 11/24, the Lancers scored three powerplay goals.  In Lincoln's OT win on 12/5, the Stars scored three powerplay goals.  Which Stars team will show up Saturday night in Omaha? 

The injury bug has come out of nowhere to bite the Stars a bit as of late.  Defenseman Matt Prapavessis and forward Josh Berge will both be out of the lineup until after x-mas due to symptoms related to concussions .  Forward Brent Tate and defenseman Chris Casto appear to be questionable this weekend due to injuries they suffered last weekend.  Tate was the recipient of a hit along the boards against Fargo on 12/10, and Casto suffered a separated shoulder the next night on 12/11 against Dubuque.  Stars head coach Chad Johnson mentioned on the radio last weekend that Casto could play this weekend, as they were able to pop his shoulder back in place after the Saturday night game.  Losing all four of the above players this weekend would be tough, but the Stars have shown previously this season that they can win games with key players out of the lineup.

I won't be highlighting any opposing players this go around.  Last weekend, I highlighted Jimmy Mullin of Fargo and Vinny Saponari of Dubuque, and both players had very good games against Lincoln.  I guess I'm too superstitious in that regard.   

Every weekend is big in the USHL, especially in the wild, wild western conference, so hopefully the Stars can come out and get 3 or 4 points and go into the x-mas break with a little bit of momentum.  I think the key this weekend will be to play physical hockey, yet clean enough to stay out of the box.  As bad as the PK has been this season, the Stars cannot afford to spend all night in the penalty box.  Play smart, play tough, and drive hard to the net.  Dirty goals win hockey games.  Back to the basics.

I'll be in attendance Saturday night for the Stars-Lancers game, so I will report back on that game as well.  Looking forward to that one.  Although it's the "home" of the Lancers, the Civic Auditorium is a great place to watch a hockey game.  Hope to see a lot of Stars fans there that night also.

Go Stars.