Tuesday, February 8, 2011

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks 2/9

The "Road Trip from Hell" begins this Wednesday evening when the Lincoln Stars (18-15-3, 39 points, sixth place in the USHL Western Conference) take on the expansion Muskegon Lumberjacks in Muskegon, Michigan.  The puck will drop at 6:15pm CST.  This will be the first time these two teams will face each other in the 2010-11 regular season.  The Stars lost to the Lumberjacks in the 2010 USHL Fall Classic last September by a score of 8-3.  Click here to listen to Mike Melbye call the game on AM 1480 KLMS.  If you have money to burn, you can also watch the game via B2 Network by clicking here.  If you want to follow the Pointstreak boxscore, click here.

The first-year Muskegon Lumberjacks (17-15-7, 41 points, fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference) are a squad that has had trouble all season long with stopping the opposing team from scoring.  The 'Jacks have surrendered a whopping 154 goals (most in the USHL) in 39 games played, which averages out to be 3.95 goals against per game.  To say their defense and goaltending can be porous at times is an understatement.  They are also in the bottom five in the USHL in special teams (13th rated PP unt, 14th rated PK unit).  So how does this team have a winning record, and how are they in fourth place in the eastern conference?  Simply put, they get to feed on weaker eastern conference teams such as Waterloo, Youngstown, and Chicago.  Place this team in the western conference, and there's no way they'd have a winning record.  

Having said that, this team is very dangerous offensively, and their goal-scoring ability is another reason why they've been able to win so many games despite having the worst defense in the league.  The 'Jacks have scored 134 goals in 39 games played, which averages out to be 3.38 goals scored per game (third highest in the USHL).  The Lumberjacks give up a ton of goals, but they have the potential to score a ton also.  Again, I don't think their goal totals would be nearly as high if they primarily played western conference teams.  Still, the Stars must be aware and cognizant of players such as forwards Ryan Misiak (4th overall in scoring) and Matt Berry (tied for ninth overall in scoring) at all times on the ice.

The one thing the Lumberjacks do VERY well is rack up penalty minutes (1066 total minutes coming into Wednesday night's matchup).  This game will feature the two most penalized teams in the entire USHL.  Muskegon averages 27.33 penalty minutes per game, while the Stars average 24.92 penalty minutes per game.  Considering those numbers, you'd expect fireworks when they meet tomorrow night, and you could be correct.  The one thing that could damper the potential for a gong-show is the fact that this is a mid-week game, and in my opinion, mid-week games are usually more "tame" than weekend games.  Leading the way for the 'Jacks in penalty minutes is defenseman Micki Mihailovich.  The native of Westland, MI has accumulated an incredible 175 penalty minutes in only 35 games played this season, which averages out to be 5 PIM's (one fighting major) per game.  Mihailovich's 175 penalty minutes ranks first overall in the league, and the second closest is 28 PIM's behind him (Fargo's Oleg Yvenko with 147).  What's crazy is that Mihailovich is only 5'11", and 176 pounds.  The kid sounds like a Tasmanian Devil to me.

As for the Stars, the black and blue are coming off a very emotional weekend in which they beat the Sioux Falls Stampede in consecutive games at the IceBox.  With their recent good play, the Stars have pulled themselves out of last place in the western conference, and are currently only four points out of 4th place in the west.  The regular season schedule isn't too kind for the Stars in the next month or so, as Lincoln will play 9 out of the next 11 games on the road.  The Stars have shown already this season that they can be road warriors.  With this current road trip, I believe getting at least four points out of a possible six will be necessary in terms of keeping ahead of teams such as Tri-City and Sioux City in the western conference standings and in the playoff hunt.

Defenseman Zach Frye, who was called up by Lincoln from the NAHL Wenatchee Wild just a few days ago, has joined the Stars on this long road trip.  We'll have to wait and see if the heralded youngster gets any ice time in these next three games.  For the most part, the Stars have a healthy roster, which is nice when you consider how taxing the schedule looks to be for the next month.  Let's hope the Stars can continue their winning ways this week on the road against three teams from the east.

Go Stars.

Note:  I'm hoping to have a live chat going tomorrow night during the Muskegon game, but it all depends on what time I get out of work and get home.  Check back here around 6:15pm Wednesday night to participate in the chat.  If it's not up exactly at 6:15pm or before, be patient.  I'll get the chat room up as quick as I can.  Thanks.


Yeti said...

When I first started putting this article together, it was Monday...and at the time the Stars were in 6th place in the western conference. Sioux City beat Tri-City in OT last night, so with both of those teams getting at least one point, the Stars are now all alone in 8th place.

Brandon Anderson said...

its amazing how close everyone in the west is, these next few months we need to get on a tear and start winning some games. Im sure our boys can do it they just need to get everyone on the same page.