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.

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