Tuesday, November 23, 2010

B³ Thanksgiving Week Preview: Omaha, Sioux City, and Fargo

The Lincoln Stars (8-5-0, 16 points, tied for 4th place in the USHL Western Conference) will celebrate the week of Thanksgiving with games before, on, and after Turkey Day as the black and blue begin a stretch of 6 games in 12 days.  On Wednesday night at the IceBox, the Stars will host their rival to the north, the Omaha Lancers.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm Wednesday evening.  On Thanksgiving, the Stars will go on the road and play the Sioux City Musketeers Thursday evening.  Faceoff for the game against the Muskies will be at 7:00pm.  On Friday, the Stars will travel further north to play the Fargo Force.  Faceoff in Fargo will occur at 7:35pm.  If you can't make it to any of the games this week, 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 game via B2 Network by clicking here.  You can also follow both games via Pointstreak by clicking here

The Omaha Lancers (7-5-2, 16 points, tied for 4th place in the USHL Western Conference) will be looking to snap Lincoln's six-game winning streak Wednesday night in what will be the first time these two teams have faced each other this season.  The Lancers have had a up-and-down start to the season thus far.  At times, they have played like a top five USHL team.  At other times, they haven't looked good at all.  The Lancers have struggled at times to score goals, but they are getting better as of late in that category.  While the offense isn't clicking like in years past in Omaha, the defense and goaltending is.  Omaha traditionally is a team with multiple lines of skilled forwards, and I just don't see that this season.  The Lancers do have a number of very talented forwards, but they are not nearly as deep offensively as they have been the last three seasons or so.  Seth Ambroz of Omaha will probably be a first round NHL draft pick next spring, but the power-forward has not had the best start.  Ambroz, who has committed to play collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota, is a player who needs a quality, skilled center to feed him the puck on a consistent basis.  Last year, the Lancers had superstars like Matt White and Eric Haula, but that kind of player just hasn't materialized this season on the Lancer's roster.  Regardless, this is still a very dangerous team. Regardless of their record, the Lancers ALWAYS play the Stars tough.  It should be another classic battle Wednesday night at the IceBox.

In a rare Thanksgiving day game, the Sioux City Musketeers (9-6-0, 18 points, tied for second place in the USHL Western Conference) will be looking for a little payback against Lincoln after losing to the Stars this past Friday at the IceBox, 3-2.  In that game, the Stars and Muskies played a very evenly-matched game, but it was the black and blue who took control in the third period to win the game.  The Muskies will play Wednesday night in Cedar Rapids against the league leading Roughriders in what should be a very tough game.  You have to wonder what kind of game will be played in Sioux City Thanksgiving evening considering that both teams will have played the night before in key, emotional games.  Also, I can only imagine how tough it would be to play a game on a holiday like Thanksgiving, when thoughts no doubt will be of home and family.  Which team can set aside those thoughts and feelings and come out strong for 60 minutes?  

The Fargo Force (7-9-2, 16 points, tied for fourth place in the USHL Western Conference) will be the third opponent in three days for the Stars Friday night in Fargo, ND. The Force are coming off two key road victories last weekend, after losing the previous seven straight games.  Last Friday night, the Force beat the Sioux Falls Stampede 3-2, and on Saturday night, the Force waxed the Waterloo Blackhawks by a score of 8-3.  A big reason for that recent seven-game losing streak was that five of their best players were participating in the World Junior A Challenge for Team USA.  Those group of players have been referred to as the "Fargo Five," and they were a big reason why Team USA captured gold.  Without those five key players in the lineup, and with goaltender Ryan Massa nursing an injury, the Force struggled mightily the last month.  However, this team is whole again and have already shown that they are not a last place team.  I have mentioned this previously, but in my opinion...this Fargo team is one of the most talented teams in the USHL.  Top to bottom, they are a very competitive, skilled hockey club.  They are much better than what their record indicates right now, and it would not surprise me to see them near the top of the USHL Western Conference very soon.  The Force will not play any games this week before the Friday night matchup against Lincoln, so they will be well rested and ready to battle the Stars.  In that 8-3 drubbing of the Waterloo Blackhawks last Saturday night, the two teams combined for a whopping 258 penalties and a third period line brawl.  Because of actions in that line brawl , Fargo assistant coach Bryan Pool, forward Nick Oliver, forward Chad Demers, defenseman Willie Corrin, and defenseman Dan Weissenhofer have been suspended one game and will not suit up against Lincoln.

This article is already way too long, so I'm going to keep this short.  Pointing out the obvious here, but this will be a great test for the Stars this week.  Three games in three days is going to test the resolve and fortitude of this team.  Can they keep the winning streak going?  Honestly, I'd be happy with two wins this week, considering the quality of teams the Stars will face in the next three days.  Defenseman Matt Prapavessis has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, so I'm hoping he'll be healthy enough to play in these three games.  Of course, Wednesday night at the IceBox will be intense (duh).  Arguably, the game against the Lancers will be the biggest the Stars have played this season.  I really hope to see a sellout crowd tomorrow night!  

Keep the train rollin'!  Go Stars!!


Yeti said...

By the way, the Lincoln Stars are only two wins away from franchise win number 500.

OmahaHockeyTalk said...

That's a very good assessment of the Lancers.

Yeti said...

A few stats to chew on:

Goals scored per game:
Lincoln = 3.46 (fourth best in the USHL)
Omaha = 2.79 (ninth best in the USHL)
Sioux City = 2.60 (tenth best in the USHL)
Fargo = 2.50 (thirteenth best in the USHL)

Goals allowed per game:
Lincoln = 2.85 (seventh best in the USHL)
Omaha = 2.43 (third best in the USHL)
Sioux City = 2.53 (fifth best in the USHL)
Fargo = 2.83 (sixth best in the USHL)

Penalty minutes per game:
Lincoln = 20.8
Omaha = 12.6
Sioux City = 15.0
Fargo = 23.8

Power play percentage:
Lincoln = 26.5% (#1 in the USHL)
Omaha = 16.7% (#6 in the USHL)
Sioux City = 15.5% (#8 in the USHL)
Fargo = 11.9% (#11 in the USHL)

Penalty kill percentage:
Lincoln = 82.5% (#13 in the USHL)
Omaha = 90.8% (#4 in the USHL)
Sioux City = 85.1% (#7 in the USHL)
Fargo = 84.0% (#8 in the USHL)

Yeti said...

Ugly second and third periods tonight as the Stars have their six-game winning streak snapped by the Omaha Lancers, 6-2. I'm not going to have time tonight to type up a recap article, but I hope to be able to do that tomorrow sometime.

Stars have a quick turnaround tomorrow as they will take on the Sioux City Muskies in SC. I do not believe I will be around to run the chat tomorrow night, but I am planning on having the chat open for the Fargo game on Friday night.

Special teams really hurt the Stars tonight. Omaha went 3-for-6 on the PP. Lincoln might have won the fights tonight, but Omaha won where it mattered...on the scoreboard.

Yeti said...

Also, I think we all saw why Lancers forward Seth Ambroz is a projected first round NHL draft pick. 2 goals, and 8 shots on net. Big kid who works well in front of the net. His first goal was a nasty wrister.

Chin up! Let's start a new winning streak tomorrow night in Sioux City.