Saturday, April 2, 2011

B³ Postgame Recap 4/1: Muskegon 4, Lincoln 5

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson
It's a six-game winning streak, and the Lincoln Stars are playoff bound!  w00t!

The Lincoln Stars earned the right to play for the USHL's Clark Cup on Friday night with a 5-4 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks at the IceBox.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  After missing out last season, the Stars clinched a spot in the 2010-11 USHL playoffs last night with the victory.  With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Stars still have the opportunity to move up in the standings and secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs.  With the win last night, the Stars improved to 31-20-5 (67 points), and are now only one point behind the Fargo Force (67 points) for that coveted fourth spot in the USHL Western Conference standings.  If the Stars and leapfrog the Force in the standings, and earn that #4 seed, they will play all of their first round playoffs games at the IceBox.

It was a wild and crazy first period in which the Stars and the 'Jacks combined for six goals scored, and 41 penalty minutes.  Lincoln got on the scoreboard first when at the 3:38 mark, forward Sam Alfieri fired a shot from near the blue line which beat Muskegon goaltender Joel Vienneau.  Alfieri's goal, which came on the powerplay, was assisted by Matt Prapavessis and Eric Scheid.  The 'Jacks would respond quickly with two straight goal of their own, to give Muskegon a 2-1 lead in the first period.  However, Stars forward Andrew Schmit would answer with a shorthanded goal, scored at the 12:07 mark, to knot the game up at 2-2.  Teemu Tiitinen earned the lone assist on Schmit's goal.  Andrew Schmit has now scored a goal in six straight games.  Here's an interesting stat related to Schmit:  he has scored 14 goals in 13 games this season, and the Stars are 13-0 in those games that Schmit has scored a goal in.  

Ryan Dzingel would give Lincoln its second lead of the game, this time at 3-2, with his goal at the 16:17 mark of the first period.  Matt Prapavessis and John McCarron collected the assists on Dzingel's 22nd goal of the season.  Dzingel is currently riding an eight game point scoring streak.  Dzingel has scored 15 points (3g, 12a) in his last eight games played.  The Lumberjacks completed the first period scoring when Charlie Taft scored at the 17:22 mark to tied the game up at 3-3 going into the first intermission.  Stars out-shot the 'Jacks 17-2 in the first twenty minutes.

The second period only featured one goal scored, this one from Stars forward John McCarron who potted his 19th goal of the season at the 17:05 mark to give Lincoln a 4-3 lead.  Ryan Dzingel and Matt Prapavessis earned the assists on McCarron's even-strength goal.  Stars out-shot the Lumberjacks 11-9 in the second period.

In the third period, the Lumberjacks would answer first when Brendan Woods scored at the 8:30 mark to tie the game at 4-4.  It was a back-and-forth third period, with both teams trading scoring chances until the 14:10 mark when Stars forward Ryan Dzingel fed John McCarron with a pretty backhand pass from behind the net that McCarron buried top shelf to give Lincoln the 5-4 lead, and eventual win.  McCarron was left all alone in the slot in front of Vienneau, and made the most of his shot after the great setup from Dzingel.  Along with Dzingel, Jared Hanson also earned an assist on McCarron's game-winning goal.  After scoring 7 goals in 58 games last season, McCarron has potted 20 goals in 56 games this season.

Stars were out-shot by the 'Jacks in the third period 12-7, but Lincoln out-shot Muskegon overall in the game, 35-33.  Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock stopped 29 of 33 shots on net to record his fifth straight win, and his 27th win overall.  Lincoln finished the game 1-for-3 on the powerplay, while Muskegon finished 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  The Stars still have the top-ranked PP unit in the entire USHL, scoring at a rate of 21.78%.

Well, it may not have been the most complete win of the season, but the Stars got it done in the end.  I thought at times that the Stars played down to the Lumberjacks, and let them hang around longer than they should have, but give credit to the players for digging deep and scoring big goals when needed.  With both captains (Brent Tate, Garrett Peterson) out of the lineup last night due to injuries, it was nice to see the Stars continue to play well without those key leaders on the bench.  The sellout crowd of 4,322 was a loud as I've heard this season, and I think the players fed off of that, especially in the third period.

The Stars return to action tonight (Saturday) when they will travel north on I-29 to face off against the Sioux City Musketeers.  Puck drops at 7:00pm.  We will not be doing a live chat tonight, so make sure you follow the game on the radio, or on Pointstreak.  The Stars need some help tonight from the Indiana Ice, who are playing the Fargo Force in Fargo, ND tonight, so we're all Ice fans tonight!  Keep that train rollin', and let's make it seven in a row.

Go Stars.

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