Friday, December 10, 2010

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo and Dubuque

The Lincoln Stars (11-7-1, 23 points, second place in USHL Western Conference) will look to improve upon their current two-game winning streak this weekend when they play two games against western conference foes at the IceBox.  On Friday night, the Stars will host the Fargo Force.  On Saturday evening, the Stars will host the expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints.  The Stars have four games to play until the Christmas break, and the first three will be at home.  Faceoff for both games this weekend is at 7:05pm.  You can listen to Mike Melbye call the game on AM 1480 KLMS 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.

First up for the Stars this weekend will be the Fargo Force (9-9-4, 22 points, fifth place in USHL Western Conference), winners of four of their last six games.  Just one month ago, this Force team was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, and were dead last in the western conference.  The Force struggled mightily in November as five of their best players missed multiple games due to their participation in the World Junior A Challenge in Canada.  Now that the "Fargo Five" are back in the lineup, the Force are quickly climbing up the standings in the west.  This is a very talented, young, fast team.  Leading the charge on offense for the Force is forward Jimmy Mullin.  The Cincinnati, OH native was drafted (4th round) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and has committed to play collegiate hockey for Miami (OH) University.  At the Junior A Challenge last month, Mullin scored 6 goals in four games to lead Team USA in scoring, while capturing the gold medal.  In 16 games for Fargo this season, Mullin has scored 19 points (8g, 11a) and is +9.  

The Force have two very capable goaltenders in Ryan Massa, and Zane Gothberg.  Massa has committed to play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, while Gothberg has committed to play for the University of North Dakota, and was drafted (6th round) by the Boston Bruins in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  The Force seem to alternate goaltenders every game, so I expect Gothberg to start against Lincoln this Friday night.  Gothberg was in net and earned the win on 11/26/10 when the Force waxed the Stars by a score of 6-2 in Fargo.  This team is definitely on the rise, and it would not surprise me at all if they finish near, or on top of the USHL Western Conference at the conclusion of the regular season.

On Saturday night, the Stars will faceoff against the "expansion" Dubuque Fighting Saints (13-4-2, 28 points, first place in USHL Western Conference).  These two teams have never faced each other, as the Saints are one of two expansion teams to enter the USHL this season.  The name "Fighting Saints" should be familiar to those who have followed the USHL over the years.  The current Fighting Saints were named to honor the original Dubuque Fighting Saints who competed in the USHL from 1980 to 2001.  The Saints have occupied the top spot in the USHL Western Conference since the start of the regular season, and like the Force, they are another team jam-packed with talent.  When Dubuque was awarded a USHL team, they were given six tenders (signings of players before other USHL teams can draft them) and expansion draft picks, so the Saints started the season with more talent than many established USHL teams had on their roster.  Some have argued that the two expansion USHL teams (Muskegon, Dubuque) were given too good of a "boost" to start the season.  Regardless, this team is red-hot and they haven't slowed down.  The Saints are an impressive 9-1-1 at home, but only 4-3-1 on the road.

Leading the Saints on offense is forward Vinny Saponari, who leads the USHL in scoring with 28 points (7g, 21a) in 19 games played.  The story of Saponari ('90) is a very interesting one.  Last season, he was playing for Boston University before getting kicked off the team due to alcohol related offenses.  The native of Powder Springs, GA was a fourth round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and has now since committed to play for Boston College after this season.  In all actuality, Saponari is a big fish in a small USHL pond.  He should really be playing collegiate or NHL hockey right now, but due to some bad decisions, he's playing one year of Junior A hockey before going back to college.  Having said all that, Dubuque isn't just the "Vinny Saponari Show."  The Saints have three players who have scored 20 points or more this season, compared to Lincoln who has zero players with 20 points, so this is a very deep, high-scoring club.  The Stars will have their work cut out for them Saturday night at the IceBox.

The Stars are a little banged-up right now with defenseman Matt Prapavessis and forward Josh Berge both out with concussions.  From what I have heard, it will probably be after the X-Mas break before both players are healthy enough to return to the lineup.  The next three games the Stars play will be at home, so it's very important the team take advantage of home ice and earn as many points as possible before the Christmas break in a few weeks.  Goaltender Kevin Murdock is on a two-game winning streak, so I expect Doc to be between the pipes Friday night against Fargo.  The last time Fargo and Lincoln faced each other at the IceBox, Stars forward Brent Tate and Force defenseman Oleg Yvenko dropped the mitts and had one of the better fights I've seen in a long time.  Rematch, perhaps?  

Remember, folks, the UNL women's basketball team will be playing at the Devaney Center on Saturday night at the same time of the Stars game.  Be prepared for traffic, especially since it appears the weather will be very crappy that day.  From what I have seen, it will begin raining/sleeting Friday night before changing over to all snow on Saturday.  Give yourself plenty of time Saturday evening when traveling to the IceBox.  Don't let the basketball game traffic or the weather discourage you from trekking to the game, though.  Real hockey fans show up in any weather.  Pack the IceBox this weekend and be LOUD!  

Go Stars.


Yeti said...

New B³ poll question on the sidebar to the right. Which Stars veteran has shown the most improvement this season? Vote away!

tzweeb said...

what about murdock??
but i would still pick dzingle!

tzweeb said...

also very good booster club meeting with cory being the featured speaker.. he had alot to say about concussions and how they evaluate players from a starting point to getting them back on the ice. alot has been done to make our team the leaders in the league for this.
thanks alot to cory for speaking and the infromation!

Yeti said...

I only included players who were on the roster last season, and Doc was at college. He's a big reason why the Stars are in second place right now, no doubt.

I voted for John McCarron, although Brent Tate was a close second. Both players have really impressed me this season.

Yeti said...

Somebody brought this up to me the other day, but Frank Misuraca has played 15 games this season, and has ZERO penalty minutes. He's also +5. That's damn impressive, if you ask me. To play that position (defenseman), and to not have any penalty minutes in 15 games....that's discipline. He's a stay-at-home defenseman who isn't going to rack up a ton of points, but he does his job quietly, and with 100% efficiency.

nutz4puckz said...

I voted for Tate. he's making that jump from being just a fighter to a good hockey player that can fight. It's like that jump that Brandon Bollig made his last two seasons in Lincoln. Easily could have voted for McCarron also. Is it game time yet :-)

Yeti said...

One word for tonight's game against Fargo: Ugly.

Stars get shutout at home for the first time this sesaon, losing 3-0 to the Fargo Force. Easily the worst effort we've seen from the Stars at home. Just brutal. I'll post a recap article sometime tomorrow morning.

Yeti said...

Actually, this was the first game the Stars have been shutout all season. Yuck.