The Lincoln Stars fell for the second time in the last four days to the Sioux City Musketeers on Tuesday night, this time by a score of 4-2. Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore. With the loss, the Stars dropped to 31-22-5 (67 points) and are still in fifth place in the USHL Western Conference. With only two games remaining in the regular season, both against the Tri-City Storm, the Stars still have a chance to finish in fourth place in the west, and clinch home-ice for the first round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.
After a scoreless first period, the Stars got on the scoreboard first in the second stanza when forward John McCarron scored his 22nd goal of the season at the 1:59 mark to give Lincoln the 1-0 lead. Ryan Dzingel and Jared Hanson earned the assists on McCarron's goal. With the assist, Ryan Dzingel has scored at least one point in 10 consecutive games. Two consecutive Sioux City goals later in the second period gave the Muskies the 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
In the third period, the Muskies increased their lead to 3-1 with a goal at the 7:13 mark. However, John McCarron would score his second goal of the game just 36 seconds after the Sioux City goal to bring the Stars back to within one goal at 3-2. Despite out-shooting the Musketeers 10-4 in the third period, the Stars were unable to get another puck past Sioux City goaltender Matt Skoff. The Muskies would add an empty net goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation to put the icing on the cake. The Stars out-shot the Muskies 20-19 overall in the game. Stars finished 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while Sioux City went 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Stars goaltender Kevin Murdock stopped 15 of 18 shots in the loss.
With the win, the Sioux City Musketeers wrapped up the final playoff spot in the western conference. The Muskies are now riding an 8 game winning streak, and are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. Without a doubt, the Muskies are the hottest team in the USHL right now. They are definitely not a team you want to play in the first round of the playoffs. The Stars finished the season series against Sioux City with a 4-4-0 record, although they have lost their last three games against the Muskies, all of which have been at the Tyson Events Center.
Like I mentioned above, the Stars still have an outside shot at getting that #4 seed in the the western conference playoffs, and play all of their first round playoff games at the IceBox. Most importantly, the Stars must win their last two games of the regular season. Friday night the Stars will host the Tri-City Storm, and on Saturday night the Stars will travel to Kearney to finish out the regular season against the Storm. The Stars need either the Fargo Force, or the Omaha Lancers to lose both of their games this weekend in regulation. The Force host the Lancers on Friday night, so that will be a game a LOT of Stars fans will be watching. The loser of that game (must be in regulation), has to lose the next night (again in regulation) in order for the Stars to earn that #4 seed in the western conference playoffs.
We'll talk about the two games against the Tri-City Storm tomorrow. The Storm are in last place in the west, and have been eliminated from the playoffs, but they can still play the spoiler role in Lincoln's quest for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.