Thursday, March 4, 2010

B³ Weekend Preview - Chicago and Sioux City

The Lincoln Stars will once again return to the IceBox this weekend to take on the Chicago Steel on Friday night, and the Sioux City Musketeers on Saturday night.  Home ice has not been kind to the Stars this season, as Lincoln sports a dismal 6-13-4 record at the IceBox.  The Stars currently have an overall record of 13-27-8 (34 points), and are in last place in the USHL West Division (I'm getting sick of saying that).  

Up first for the Stars this weekend will be the USHL East Division Chicago Steel.  The Steel have a record of 19-22-5 (43 points) and are in fifth place in their division.  As I write this article, the Steel are on the road playing the Sioux Falls Stampede, with the Stampede winning 1-0 at the end of the first period.  The game Friday night will be the fourth and final time these two teams face each other this season.  The Steel are 3-0 against the Stars this season, but two of those wins were only by one goal.  The last time these two teams knocked heads at the IceBox (10/23/09), the Steel won a barn-burner, 7-5.  The Steel are 8-13-4 on the road this season, but have won 3 out of their last 4 away games.

The Steel have traditionally been a team that can score a lot of goals, but have issues stopping pucks from finding the back of their own net.  That is the case once again this season, although the offense isn't as potent this season as in the past.  The Steel seemed to have given up on this season earlier this month when they traded a number of their top players to different teams.  Gone are forwards Greg Wolfe, Mark Anthoine, and Alex Krushelnyski.  At the time, the Steel were only 5 points behind Waterloo for the last playoff spot in the USHL East Division, so the Steel "yard sale" which took place at the trade deadline left many hockey fans scratching their heads.  Like the Stars, it appears the Steel are building for next season by trading veterans away to playoff teams, and stockpiling draft picks.  That's not to say this Chicago team is without skilled players, on the contrary.  Chicago is still led on offense by one of the top young forwards in the league, Andrei Kuchin.  In three games against the Stars this season, Kuchin has scored 3 goals and 2 assists.  Another good young forward on the Steel is Jake Chelios, son of NHL ironman Chris Chelios.  On the blueline, Chicago is led by defenseman Kevin Lind.  Lind has the size (6'3", 200 pounds) and skill that has NHL scouts drooling.  In net, the Steel have one of the better young goaltenders in the league in Connor Wilson.  Wilson is 3-0 against the Stars this season with a 3.24 goals against average and a .914 save percentage in those three games.  Wilson is starting the game tonight (Thu) against the Sioux Falls Stampede, so I would not be surprised if the Steel start goaltender Nick Pisellini against the Stars Friday night.

Saturday night, the Lincoln Stars will host the Sioux City Musketeers.  The Muskies sport a record of 18-23-6 (42 points), and are in fifth place in the USHL West Division.  Like the Stars, Sioux City finds itself on the outside looking in this season, in terms of the playoffs.  The Muskies are 10 points behind fourth place Tri-City for the last playoff spot in the West.  This will be the fourth time the Stars and Muskies have faced each other this season.  Surprisingly, the Stars have won two out of three games this season against SC.  The last time these two teams played (2/19/10), it was the Stars who beat the Muskies at the IceBox by a score of 3-1.  In three games against the Musketeers, Lincoln forward Brodie Reid has potted 3 goals and 2 assists to lead the Stars in scoring.  The Musketeers have a road record of 11-12-2, and are winless in their last three away games.

Not unlike the Stars, the Muskies have struggled mightily this season with "lighting the lamp."  Sioux City has scored an anemic 112 goals in 47 games for a 2.38 goals per game average.  The Stars have scored an equally anemic 110 goals in 48 games for a 2.29 goals per game average.  The leading scorer for the Muskies is forward Stephan Vigier (32 points in 45 games), but the native of Notre Dame de Lourdes, Manitoba Canada has been limited to only one goal in three games against the Stars this season.  Vigier recently committed to play collegiate hockey at Northern Michigan University, the same school Stars goaltender Jared Coreau will play for next season.  Mentioned previously, forward Alex Krushelnyski (son of former NHL tough guy Mike Krushelnyski) now calls Sioux City home after the Chicago Steel traded him to the Muskies earlier this month.  Krushelnyski has recorded 2 goals and 2 assists in 8 games with Sioux City since the trade.

These are two teams the Stars can beat, but you never know what to expect at the IceBox this season.  We've seen the Stars come out and play with the best in the league, and we've also seen them come out and lay a big egg.  Chicago isn't nearly as scary offensively as they were earlier on in the season, but they can still bury pucks.  Sioux City might have issues putting the biscuit in the basket, but they can play very good team defense.  Like the Stars, both of these teams have below average special teams.  In fact, the Stars, Steel, and Muskies are the bottom three teams statistically in the USHL in powerplay goal percentage.  With the Steel and the Muskies most likely out of the playoffs, the Stars cannot play the role of spoiler this weekend.  However, they can still put together a winning streak and finish the season on a positive note.  

Go Stars.

What say you?  Will the recent home slide continue?  Will the Stars break out of their slump this weekend?  Which goaltender for the Stars will get the start Friday night?  Will the recent home losses affect the attendance this weekend? 

Notes:  I've heard rumors today that Stars forward Jarrod Mermis recently committed to play hockey for Denver University, but that has not been noted on Chris Heisenberg's 2010 Hockey Recruit Page.  DU is a VERY good school with a top-notch hockey program.  If these rumors are indeed true, Jarrod should be congratulated.

Former Stars defenseman Matt Bartkowski was in the news this week, as his NHL rights were traded from the Florida Panthers to the Boston Bruins.  Bartkowski, a sophmore defenseman for the Ohio State University, was originally drafted by the Panthers in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.


dr said...

Just a reminder that girls state bball is in town this weekend and we all know how well the parking geeks down there work so maybe people will want to take that into consideration for the games this weekend. Just a thought

Anonymous said...

Great pregame and look at the steel Yeti. These two clubs should give fans a nice game, as the Stars have shown they will come to play despite their record.

The Steel are a completely different club from the one Stars fans had seen earlier. Kuchin, the only one who wasn't traded off, will be out tonight. So from a month ago the Steel will be without their top 5 scorers for this game.

But IMO they are a better club. No they are nowhere near as skilled, but no longer play perimeter Euro hockey. This group will battle for pucks, clear the crease and get to scoring areas for rebounds. They have been real tight in the defensive zone keeping clubs to the outside. If the stars beat the Steel tonight they will have earned it. That wasn't always the case before the player dump.

They've also inserted Wilson as the #1, and he's responded. In his last 5 starts he's 3-2, 1.60 GA and a .952 SPG with a shutout. Conner has been excellent.

A heads up. Check out little center Theo DiPauli. Kid just turned 17 a week ago and is tough as nails with some skill. He'll remind many of Theo Fluery before he leaves the USHL. Love this little guys game.

Some stats I gathered and will share with Stars fans. If anyone would like to talk a little smack, in a civil manner of course, come visit our league wide USHL board and do so.


GF---------- 3.02 10th------------ 2.29 14th

GA---------- 3.59 10th------------- 3.63 11th

PP---------- 14% 12th-------------- 13.6% 13th

PIM--------- 20.96 5th------------- 28.19 1st

Majors------ 36 4th---------------- 57 1st (Tied with GB)

Shots For---- 29.30 10th------------ 30.90 5th

Shots Against-31.43 10th------------ 30.40 8th

Mr Ricochet

Yeti said...

Thanks for the heads up, dr. I obtained a schedule of all the basketball games, so I thought I'd list those games being played at Devaney that might interfere with both Stars games this weekend:

7:00pm - Millard West vs. Lincoln Southwest
8:45pm - Bellevue West vs. Elkhorn

5:00pm - Class D-2 championship game
7:00pm - Class A championship game
9:00pm - Class C-2 championship game

Be aware of all the out-of-town drivers when you are driving around Devaney this weekend.

Yeti said...

Mr. Rico,

Thanks a ton for the insight on the Steel. It is much appreciated. Why is Kuchin out? Injured? Also, do you think Connor Wilson will get the start again tonight, despite playing last night against the Stampede? Like I mentioned, he has played VERY well against the Stars this season.

I'll have to keep an eye on DiPauli tonight. Theoren Fleury is still one of my favorite all-time NHL players. I have a couple of "Fluery" jerseys at home. I loved how he battled every game, despite his size (5'6"). He had a huge heart.

Jofa said...

Nice job as usual Yeti. Chicago seems to have a defensive pipeline to the NHL with Poapst as coach. Jake Chelios will not be one of those, he is a forward. Kevin Lind will be a fairly high round pick and he is a D. I definately think you will see a little fire in our guys this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Kuchin is dinged Yeti, that's all I know. Poapst went back to back nights with Wilson last week at TC and at home two weeks ago vs SF. Wilson has also started the last 6 games, so Poapst has been riding him.

If I had to guess, I'd say tonight is a perfect game to go with Pis in Poapst's mind. Especially seeing as things may get a bit rough. But, I'm hoping he gives you guys a look at Wilson.

Mr Ricochet

Yeti said...

Jofa...good catch with Chelios. I just assumed since his old man was a defenseman, Jake would be also. I'll correct my typo. I hope you are right about the Stars playing with some fire in their bellies this weekend.

Rico, I remember Pisellini trying to goad Stars goaltender David Reekie into a fight a few years ago at the IceBox. Pisellini's "temper" is well known throughout the USHL. I'm sure Jared Coreau would be willing to drop the mitts and bang if Pisellini wants to. We'll see. :)

Hey Hey Whadda Ya Say said...

Goalie fight 'n' line brawl at the Icebox....Hmmm
Now THAT would get the crowd loud !

Choo-Choo 2nite !!!


countdown begins said...

I predict another 0-2 weekend.

Jofa said...

If you don't see a little more giddyup in there step, the bagging will continue until morale improves.

MacAttack said...

I really hope we don't see anymore paper bags tonight. that was totally disrespectful of the players.

Yeti said...

Well, the person wearing the paper bag last week was sitting in the front row of Section D. Keep an eye out. If I see it, I'm going to give him/her a piece of my mind....or just rip the bag off and throw it away.

Jofa said...

I was talking pucks staying in the bag. The paper bags on the head should not be tolerated.

MacAttack said...

I wrote a letter to the editor for the Journal Star addressed to the no class person. I doubt they print it though but I had to try. The kid who sits behind me thought it was funny and even mentioned he might do the same thing. I know people are allowed their right to express themselves but not when it comes at the expense of others who are trying their best.

Anonymous said...

I got ur back Yeti..from sec C


want to know said...

what happened with 18 seconds left?

let's go STARS! said...

Section C and J. Please don't claim you've got someone's back. I know it's inspirational, however, who's back are you going to cover if next week 15 people are wearing bags, I know that doesn't seem like much, but if 15 are wearing bags 30 wish they did. Not everybody thinks like you guys on this blog and censoring those that don't is infantile.

Yeti said...

let's go STARS,

If 15 people are dumb enough to wear bags on their heads next week, then I guess I'd better bring a trash bag to throw them all in.

Keep whining about censorship, also. If you have a problem with the way I run this blog, let me know. Section J, row 13, seat 15. Or you could start your own blog. Either way, knock yourself out.

Yeti said...

BTW, I'll write up a post-game recap tomorrow morning.

Jofa said...

I guess I was wrong.