Thursday, March 24, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Team USA - Chicago Steel

The Lincoln Stars (28-20-5, 61 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference) will take their last long road-trip of the season this weekend when they will take on Team USA U-18 on Friday night, and the Chicago Steel on Saturday night.  Faceoff for the game against Team USA will take place at 6:00pm CST.  Faceoff for the game against the Steel will take place at 7:30pm CST.   Click here to listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye call the games on AM 1480 KLMS.  You can also watch the games via B2 Network by clicking here. If you want to follow the Pointstreak boxscores, click here.

First up this weekend for the Stars will be the youngsters of Team USA U-18.  This team has some of the best home-grown talent under the age of 18 years old on its roster.  These kids were hand-picked at the beginning of the season by the Team USA coaches, and many will go on to play in the NHL.  Unlike the U-17 squad, the U-18 team also plays games against NCAA  teams along with their schedule of USHL opponents.  If my calculations are correct, the Team USA U-18 squad has a 12-8-3 record against USHL competition this season.  Click here to see the U-18's 2010-11 schedule, which includes the results of their games.

The Stars are catching the U-18's at the wrong point of the season.  Earlier on in the 2010-11 campaign, the U-18's struggled a bit at times against USHL competition.  In their first eleven games against USHL teams, the U-18's had a record of 4-6-1, including a loss against the Chicago Steel, a team that has only won 9 games all season.  However, this team has gelled and are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now.  The U-18's are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games against USHL foes, including wins over heavyweights like the Green Bay Gamblers and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  This will definitely be a big test for the Lincoln Stars.

On Saturday evening, the Stars will travel to the "Windy City" to take on the struggling Chicago Steel.  To say that the Steel are struggling this season is an understatement.  The Steel currently are dead last in the USHL with a record of 9-37-8 (26 points), and a winning percentage of .241%.  The next closest point total to the Steel's 26 points is Youngstown and Waterloo, who each have 47 points.  As bad of a season as the Stars had last season, it pales in comparison to what the Steel are having to deal with this season.  Through 54 games, the Steel have only scored 92 goals (last in the USHL), and have given up 213 goals (second to last in the USHL).

You almost have to feel bad for the Steel fans out there, especially after the season the Stars had last year.  We've been there.  We know how it feels.  Mostly I feel sorry for the kids on the Steel roster.  Chicago has been hit hard by the injury bug this season, much like the Stars last season.  They fired their head coach a month ago, and the team hasn't responded at all to new head coach Scott McConnell.  The Steel haven't won a game since February 13th, and have only won two games since January 1st, 2011.  In their last 13 games, the Steel are winless with a record 0-12-1.  They've been shutout 9 times this season, which is by far the most by any team in the USHL this season.  Those are some ugly stats, folks.  Regardless, this is NOT a team the Stars can overlook.  Chicago is coming off a 10-1 loss to the Waterloo Blackhawks this past Wednesday night, so you have to figure they'll play a lot better in their next game, which comes Saturday night against the Stars.

The Stars are coming off a big week in which they went 3-0 with wins against the Tri-City Storm, the Omaha Lancers, and the Des Moines Buccaneers.  With 61 points, the Stars are only 5 points behind the Fargo Force, who are sitting in fourth place in the western conference with 66 points.  The Stars also have one game in hand over the Force.  As we've talked previously on the blog, it's important the Stars finish the season strong and jump up to that 4th spot in the west so they can host the all of the first round playoff games at the IceBox.  Getting at least 3 out of 4 points this weekend is a must to keep pace with teams like Fargo and Omaha ahead of the Stars in the standings.  Only 7 games remaining in the regular season for the Stars!  It's do or die time.

We will be doing our live in-game chats for both games this weekend, so make sure you check back here both evenings to join in on the fun.  Hope to see you all there.

Go Stars.

1 comment:

Yeti said...

According to Pointstreak transactions page, Garrett Peterson will miss the Team USA game due to a league sanctioned one-game suspension.

I suppose the suspension may be related to the "Abuse of Officials" misconduct he picked up in the Des Moines game this past Saturday, but three other players on the ice also got the same "Abuse of Officials" misconduct and none of those three players were suspended.

I don't understand this suspension at all because Petey was not kicked out of that Des Moines game after he received the misconduct. So why is he suspended now? Losing Petey against the U-18's is huge.