Thursday, December 2, 2010

B³ Weekend Preview: Team USA U-17, Des Moines, and Omaha

The Lincoln Stars (9-7-0, 18 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Confernce) will once again play three games in three consecutive days this week, as the black and blue will play one game at home, and two games away from the IceBox.  The Stars will open play at the IceBox on Friday evening when they will host the U-17 squad of Team USA.  Friday night's matchup will be the only home game for the Stars this weekend.  On Saturday night, Lincoln will travel to Iowa to take on the Des Moines Buccaneers.  Lastly, the Stars will wrap up the busy weekend with a Sunday evening game in Omaha against the Lancers.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm on Friday and Saturday night, while the game in Omaha Sunday evening will start at 5:05pm. 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 games via B2 Network by clicking here. You can also follow both games via Pointstreak by clicking here.

Friday night in Lincoln, the Stars will be looking for franchise win #500 against the youngsters (U-17) of Team USA (5-10-1, 11 points, last place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  For those not familiar with Team USA, they are divided into two different squads:  U-18 and U-17.  The U-18 squad consists of some of the best homegrown hockey players under the age of 18.  The U-17 squad consists of players under the age of 17 (all players on this team were born in 1994).  This will be the first time Lincoln and Team USA will face each other this season.  In 8 games this season against USHL foes, the U-17 squad is 1-7, with their only win coming against the Chicago Steel on 10/10/10.  In those 7 losses, the U-17 team were outscored 28-10.  On a Nebraska road-trip last weekend, the U-17's lost to both the Tri-City Storm (2-0), and the Omaha Lancers (4-1).

Based on their win-loss record against USHL teams this season, you would think the Stars should win this game handily.  However, despite their young age, the U-17's are chocked full of the best young talent in the nation and could explode at any moment.  I'm sure Head Coach Chad Johnson is telling his players not to take this team lightly.  One name on the U-17 squad that Lincoln fans may recognize is defenseman Dakota Mermis.  Dakota, the younger brother of former Stars forward Jarrod Mermis, played two games for Lincoln last season before being selected to participate in the USNTDP (United States National Team Developmental Program).  Dakota was one of those players that many in Lincoln hoped would play for the Stars this season.  You can't blame him for deciding to suit up for Team USA, considering the exposure to college and NHL scouts that it affords.

On Saturday night, the Stars will be on the road to play another team they haven't faced this season, the Des Moines Buccaneers (9-3-2, 20 points, third place in the USHL Western Conference).  Like the Stars, the Bucs have a new head coach this season and are playing much better than last year.  Over the summer, the Bucs hired Regg Simon to be their new head coach.  Simon, a former coach and player for the Bucs, was the head coach in Des Moines from 2004 to 2008 before leaving to take a head coaching position at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.  After two season in Alaska, Simon returned to the Bucs and currently has them playing much better than what we have seen from Des Moines the last few seasons.  The Bucs sport one of the most potent offenses in the USHL this season as they are scoring an average of 3.6 goals per game (second best in the USHL).  The Bucs are 5-1-2 at home this season, and although Lincoln has a respectable 4-3 road record, this will be another tough road game for the Stars.  In years past, the Bucs were a team that score goals in bunches, but didn't have the horses on the blueline or in net to stop the puck from finding the back of their own net.  One of the big reasons the Bucs are near the top of the standings this season is goaltender Michael Shibrowski.  The overager ('90) from Edina, MN has an impressive record of 9-1-1, a 2.67 goals against average, and a .913 save percentage.  Shibrowski is a Colorado College recruit, and actually played two games for the Tigers last season before leaving the school.  From what I have read online, Shibrowski will return to Colorado College next season after completing the 2010-11 season with the Bucs.

The Stars will be looking for a little revenge Sunday evening when they faceoff against rival Omaha Lancers at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha.  Last Wednesday evening in Lincoln, it was the Lancers who spanked the Stars by a score of 6-2, largely because of special teams play.  On that particular night, the Stars' special teams weren't all that "special" at all.  Omaha scored three goals on the powerplay, while the Stars were held scoreless on two powerplay opportunities.  Five on five, the Stars played very well against Omaha, but they had no answer at all for Omaha's high-powered powerplay.  The Lancers are alternating their goalies, so I expect the Lancers to start goaltender Todd Mathews, who played very well and earned the win against the Stars on 11/24.  Mathews, who plays with an edge, stopped 34 of 36 Lincoln shots in that matchup.  I expect another hard-fought game Sunday night, and possibly more carry-over fisticuffs from the game last week.  Hopefully this time, the Stars will end up on the winning side of both the rough stuff, and the final score.

Should be another good test for the Stars this weekend.  Last weekend, the Stars had some issues with their conditioning, which is understandable considering they played three very tough games in three consecutive nights.  Head Coach Chad Johnson mentioned after the 6-2 loss to Fargo on 11/26 that the team would work on conditioning during the week.  Like last weekend, I hope the Stars can get at least four points out of a possible six this weekend, but all three games should be a challenge.  The USHL schedule-makers certainly weren't kind to the Stars with these recent six games, but there's no sense whining about it or making excuses.  Get out there and take it to your opponent.

Defenseman Matt Prapavessis will be out of the Stars' lineup until at least the X-Mas break due to a concussion he suffered in practice.  To my knowledge, apart from Prapavessis, the Stars are a very healthy team right now.  I expect Kevin Murdock to start the game Friday night against Team USA.  

Don't forget to bring your new stuffed animals to the game Friday night at the IceBox for the "Teddy Bear Toss" to benefit Community Action Partnership.  This is always a very fun event for the fans, and a great way to give back to the community.  Hope to see another sellout crowd at the IceBox.  Go Stars!

1 comment:

Hey Hey Whadda Ya Say said...

Nice breakdown of the weekend Yeti...

Anybody going up to Omaha on Sunday ?

Lets Go STARS !!!