|Courtesy of Brandon Anderson|
The Lincoln Stars used a very strong second, and third period to shutout the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede by a score of 2-0 at the IceBox on Friday night. Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore. The win was Lincoln's first of the season, and at 1-0-0, the Stars are in a three-way tie for first place in the USHL Western Conference.
In the first 20 minutes of the game, both teams exchanged scoring opportunities but neither squad cold find the back of the net. Shots on goal were even at 9-9 in the first, but I thought the Stars were the better team. Stampede goaltender Stephon Williams made a number of highlight-reel saves in that period, otherwise the score could have been 2-0.
The Stars came out for the second period with their hair on fire, and took it right to the Stampede. Lincoln dominated the period, out-shooting the Stampede 21-6. However, goaltender Stephon Williams continued to blank the Stars until about halfway through the period. With a Sioux Falls player sitting in the sin bin, Stars defenseman Colton Saucerman collected a pass at the blue line and ripped a shot glove-high on Williams to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. The IceBox went nuts. First Stars goal of the 2011-12 goes to the defenseman from Colorado Springs, CO, Colten Saucerman. After the goal, Saucerman saluted the crowd, which I'm sure is a homage to the NFL Denver Broncos and their "Mile High Salute." Assisting on Saucerman's powerplay goal was Luke Johnson and Brent Tate.
Less than three minutes after Lincoln's first goal of the game, the Stars would quickly get on the scoreboard again when rookie forward Logan Smith scored at the 12:14 mark to increase the black and blue lead to 2-0. Earning the assists on Smith's even-strength goal were defensemen Richard Coyne and Mike McKee. If the crowd wasn't bananas before, it was certainly loud at this point in the game. Through two periods, the Stars doubled up the Stampede with shots on goal, 30-15.
Although there was no scoring in the third period, there was plenty of action and drama on the ice. Despite playing nearly half of the third period a man down due to penalties, the Stars' penalty kill unit rose to the occasion and thwarted every Sioux Falls scoring chance. After defenseman Richard Coyne was sent to the dressing room after a "grabbing face mask" major and misconduct penalty, the Stars were forced to kill a five minute 'Pede powerplay. Although the score was 2-0 Stars at the time, the Stampede could have gotten right back into the game with a goal or two on that PP, but Williams and the PK unit closed the door. This game was won due to outstanding special teams play by the Stars.
Lincoln outshot the 'Pede 44-25 overall, and 14-10 in the third period despite playing shorthanded nearly half the period. Stars went 1-2 on the powerplay, while the Stampede went 0-5 with the man-advantage. In the battle of the "Williams," Stephon Williams stopped 42 of 44 shots on goal in the loss, while Charles Williams stopped all 25 shots his faced in the win.
Great effort tonight! If it wasn't for the Sioux Falls goaltender (Stephon Williams), the score could have easily been 6-0 Stars. Dominating second period by Lincoln, and winning the special teams war was how the Stars won this game. After some undisciplined penalties in the third period, the Stars' PK unit was put to the task, especially after Coyne's five minute major. I was really impressed with how the PK unit played last night. Although the Stars only had two PP opportunities, I thought they did a great job passing the puck with the man-advantage, and keeping pressure on Stephon Williams.
I raved about goaltender Charles Williams way back in June during the Stars' tryout camp in Minneapolis, and he continues to impress me. Someone brought this up on the B³ Facebook page, and I agree completely, but Williams did a fantastic job last night staying square to the puck. You very rarely saw him out of position, and never saw him have to dive across the crease to make a save. Cool, calm, collected. He made it look easy last night. There were some times in the game, especially in the second period, when Williams hardly saw any shots on goal at all. And as a goaltender, that can sometimes be an issue because you get a little "cold," and it's hard to find that groove. Williams, however, kept his head in the game and made the big saves when needed. Very excited to see what he can do for the Stars this season.
Felt great to be at the IceBox once again, watching live hockey, and talking to all of my hockey friends. A sellout crowd of 4,101 rabid fans were treated to a fantastic atmosphere, and a big home opener win. Great night. I thought the opening video was very well done, and can't wait until it's uploaded to youtube so I can watch it again. What did everyone think of the new uniforms? Looked pretty nice from where I was sitting. I'll be posting some pictures of those uni's soon, so stay tuned for that.
Stars will take the rest of this weekend off and return to action next Friday night (10/7) at the IceBox against the Waterloo Blackhawks. The B'hawks were in Omaha last night, and beat the Lancers 3-1 on their home ice. From what I have read about Waterloo, they have a very explosive group of forwards, and many hockey pundits expect them to finish near the top of the USHL Western Conference. Should be a heck of a game. More on that matchup later next week.