Thursday, February 25, 2010

B³ Weekend Preview - Omaha and Team USA U-18

The Lincoln Stars will once again play host to two teams at the IceBox this weekend, as the Omaha Lancers visit Friday night, and Team USA U-18 visits Saturday night.  The Stars are smack dab in the middle of an 8 game home-stand, the longest of the season.  Lincoln has a home record of 6-11-4, an overall record of 13-25-8 (34 points), and continue to occupy last place in the USHL West Division.

On Friday night, the Lincoln Stars will attempt to win their first matchup against their rival to the north, as the Omaha Lancers are 4-0 against the Stars this season.  This particular game will be the final time these two teams face each other this season.  In those four previous games against Lincoln, the Lancers have outscored the Stars, 19-6.  Adding to the string of ugly statistics, the last time the Stars faced off against the Lancers, it was Omaha who took Lincoln to the woodshed with a 7-0 spanking at the IceBox on 1/22.  The Lancers are in first place in the USHL West Division with a record of 32-12-3 (67 points).  

The Lancers are a very well balanced team, with explosive fowards, great goaltending, and exceptional special teams.  If there is one "weak" spot on this Lancers team, it's on defense.  The Lancers aren't a very physical team on the blueline, thus their d-men can be pushed around a bit.  However, this is still one of the top three teams in the league, in my opinion.  The Lancers are currently riding a three game winning streak, but all three wins came against the bottom feeders of the USHL East Division, the Youngstown Phantoms.  As usual, the Lancers offense is led by forwards Matt White, Erik Haula, Dakota Everland, and newly acquired Greg "Stars Killer" Wolfe (from Chicago).  Omaha goaltender Jeff Teglia is 4-0 against the Stars this season, with a 1.50 goals against average, and a .953 save percentage in those four games.  In my opinion, Teglia is the top goaltender in the league.

On Saturday night, the Stars will entertain the U-18 Team USA squad for the first time this season at the IceBox.  Team USA, which consists of two seperate teams (U-17's and U-18's), has a record of 14-23-4 (32 points) and are in sixth place in the USHL East Division.  The players on the Team USA U-18 squad are all 17 years old or younger, and have been hand-picked by the Team USA Developmental Program.  The U-18 squad faced off against the Stars back on 2/5, and it was the Stars who fell 3-0 to Team USA.  Surprisingly in that game, the Stars outshot the U-18 squad, 34-27, but could not solve Team USA goaltender Andy Iles, who recorded his first and only shutout of the season.

The U-18 squad splits their schedule between USHL opponents, and collegiate teams.  Despite being such a young team, this team frequently beats collegiate teams from around the country.  For example, Cornell and Colgate Universities are just two hockey clubs who have been beaten by the U-18 Team USA squad this season.  Against USHL opposition, the U-18 squad has only lost a few games.  Like Omaha, this is a very offensive top-heavy team, but they also have fantastic goaltending.  Netminders Jack Campbell and the aforementioned Andy Iles are two of the top NHL draft eligible, American born goaltenders in the country.  Catching this team on a night off is a rare event.  The players on this team end up on the rosters of some of the best college hockey teams in the country.  There will be a lot of home-grown talent on the ice Saturday night, so don't blink.

The schedule never gets any easier for the Stars, as both teams Lincoln will face this weekend are very skilled and battle-tested.  The Lancers are right in the middle of a divisional title race with Fargo, so I'm sure they are well aware not to overlook the Stars or take them for granted.  Despite their record, the Stars have played Omaha tough at times this season...other times, not so much.  The recent 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Omaha should be fresh in the minds of the Lincoln players, so I would hope they come out in this game with some fire in their bellies, looking for revenge.  Although the Stars have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the hope of playing in the postseason is long gone.  However, this team can play the role of spoiler from here on out this season.  A lot of these teams will be looking at the Stars as an easy two points, so it's up to the players on the roster to show up and play for each other, and play for their own pride.

Go Stars.

What do you think?  Can the Stars finally beat the Omaha Lancers?  Who starts in net this weekend for Lincoln?  Will it be hard for you to root against a Team USA squad?  Will the Devaney Center parking clowns attendants provide more headaches for Stars fans this Saturday night, with both basketball teams playing? 

Note:  It was announced today that the radio home of the Lincoln Stars will switch back to an all-sports programming format on March 8th, and be known once again as ESPN 1480 AM.  One month ago, 1480 AM switched to oldies music, which apparently didn't sit well with the sports fans in Lincoln.  The month-long oldies experiment failed after sports fans in Lincoln complained to the station, according to the article linked above.  This is good news for sports fans like myself, but the station still has horrible coverage outside of Lincoln.  For many who live outside of the capital city, 1480 AM cannot be picked up at all.  It's just my opinion, but the best thing the Stars could do in the offseason is to go back to a FM station to broadcast games.


starstruck said...

Saturday night will definitely be a parking nightmare with the basketball games. The men play at 3 and the women play at 7. I have heard there will likely be a crowd of 12,000 at the women's game, following the clinching of the Big 12 on the road. Definitely planning on allowing extra time.

Looking forward to a great weekend of hockey - Go Stars!

Hog Smoker said...

I am going to the mens game so I might just tailgate in my car for awhile before I go to the hockey game.

BellTolls said...

Speaking of Team USA, the olympic team is KILLING Finland right now. It's 6-0 with seven minutes the FIRST PERIOD. So much for a competitive semifinal. Bring on Canada Round II.

James said...

Well I will be there in my team USA jersey. But of course Ill have my Stars shirt on underneath. I will cheer when both teams score. Really this is a great game for me cause I am ok with whoever wins or loses. -Go Stars....USA! USA! USA! -James

tzweeb said...

ok so now that the USA, STARS and Stripes have won, its time to take one from the lancers...
how about doing a live blog for the gold medal game on sunday?? i would skip church if we can get a group together... cant skip teaching sunday school though...LOL
game might be starting at 11 am??

tzweeb said...

yahoo sports shows the gold medal game being at 3:15 est.... HELP someone figure this out!!!

Anonymous said...

pitiful effort by the stars tonight. changes are needed

realist said...

the more i read about stars info this year, it really sounds like coach toke a long shot on 15 players during the draft. if he would have got them we would have kicked but, however it looks like he swung for the fences of guys that never would have played in the ushl. not sure if many of you know this but steve johnson actually drafted sidney crosby in the last round of the ushl draft years ago.. johnson knew what a lark was mcgroarty hasn't learned that yet. good luck coach,, you've got 1 year to figure it out.

stars fan said...

fouts was an awesome team player!

why does that make him a coach?

BellTolls said...

Realist, I somewhat agree, but largely disagree.

2009 Entry Draft Picks
1. Steve West - made team
2. Brodie Reid - made team
3. Steve Racine - made team
4. Brent Tate - made team
5. Dax Lauwers - made team
6. Jeff McMinimy - showed up but cut
7. Will Rayner - made team
8. Chris Wagner - no show
9. Tucker Brockett- made team/traded
10. Ryan Dzingel - made team
11. Izaak Berglund - no show
12. Jonathon Mleczko - no show
13. Luke Curadi - no show I believe
14. Matt Green - now on team
15. Luke Johnson - no show

If anything, more of our draft picks showed up than usual I believe. McGroarty I think makes it a point to ask kids if they'll come here before he drafts them. So I don't think he should be criticized for drafting players who won't show.

What is really the problem is that we did not have an entry draft pick until the 4th round. Think about that: 44 of the nation's best young players were taken before we even sniffed a chance. We'll see what coach has learned in this year's draft...should be interesting. We need to go grab some highlight-reel goal scorers because this year has just been ugly.

Longtimefan said...

BellToll is correct, we only had a few players not show up that were drafted. We have some good young talent on the team, I guess what bothers me the most is the lack of improvement. Our younger players have gotten somewhat better, but I wonder if that is from playing in the USHL or have the coaches improved them. I'm leaning towards their experience. I would like to see our coaches develop the talent more. I haven't seen the team improve which would indicate good coaching. I think of Fargo last year. They started slow but Dean Blais developed them throughout the year and made them into one heck of a club. Our offense reminds me of the Husker football team at times. I give the Stars credit, they play their hearts out and never quit. They get dirty, fight, and block shots. I enjoy their effort, sometimes they are just out talented.