Thursday, February 3, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux Falls Stampede

The Lincoln Stars (16-15-3, 35 points, eighth place in the USHL Western Conference) will finish their current four-game home-stand this weekend with two games at the IceBox, both against the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Puck drops at 7:05pm for both games.   Click here to listen to Mike Melbye call the games on AM 1480 KLMS.  If you have money to burn, you can also watch the games via B2 Network by clicking here.  If you want to follow Pointstreak boxscore, click here.

The Sioux Falls Stampede (19-12-4, 42 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference) will visit the IceBox this weekend for the first time in nearly three months.  In the three games these two teams have faced each other this season, the Stars are 2-1-0, having won the last two straight games.  The Stampede have been a team on the rise since they last played the Stars on 11/13/10.  In their last 10 games, the 'Pede are 8-2-0.  Sioux Falls has a very impressive 12-6-1 record at home, but aren't nearly as sharp on the road with a 7-6-3 record.  In regards to special teams, the 'Pede aren't spectacular either.  They have the ninth rated powerplay unit, and the eleventh rated penalty kill unit.

One of the main reasons for the recent surge of the 'Pede has been the play of goaltender Stephon Williams.  The '93 native of Fairbanks, Alaska has established himself as one of the better young goaltenders in the league, as his 14-3-4 record indicates.  Williams is undefeated (7-0) in his last seven games, and hasn't lost since a 4-3 OT defeat on 1/4/11 against the Sioux City Musketeers.  On 11/5/10 at the IceBox, Williams suffered one of his four regulation losses, this time to the Stars by a score of 3-1.  Despite that loss, Williams played well, stopping 32 of 35 Lincoln shots on net.  Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock was better, however, as Doc stopped 31 of 32 Stampede shots.  Considering his current seven-game winning streak, I fully expect for Sioux Falls to start Williams Friday night against the Stars.

As for Lincoln, the Stars are coming off a disappointing weekend in which they played very well at times against two very good teams (Indiana, Fargo), but came away with two home losses.  As we've seen at times this season, the Stars just couldn't put together a full sixty minutes against either the Ice or the Force last weekend.  Despite having a winning record, the Stars are still in last place in the western conference, so earning 3 or 4 points this weekend is a must if Lincoln wants to climb back into the playoff hunt.  The two teams ahead of the Stars in the standings, Tri-City and Sioux City, are only a few points ahead of Lincoln, so a good winning streak can definitely pole-vault the black and blue back in the hunt.

The USHL trade deadline is Sunday, February 6th, so if the Stars want to make a move and acquire a player or two, now is the time.  Looking at the Pointstreak transaction page, a number of other USHL teams have already made some moves.  Will the Lincoln coaches pull the trigger on a trade in the next few days?  We'll have to wait and find out.  I haven't heard any rumors or hints of trades, but anything is possible.  I still believe the Stars are in need of another goal-scorer, and maybe more depth on the blueline, but I think we'll see the Stars stand pat and not move any players in or out.  If any trades are made, we'll make sure to post them here as soon as that information becomes available.

It sounds like it will be another packed IceBox this weekend.  If you haven't bought your tickets, call the Stars ticket office and get them now!  

Go Stars.

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