Tuesday, September 20, 2011

B³ Lincoln Stars 2011 Fall Classic Preview

The 2011-12 Lincoln Stars will continue their exhibition schedule this week when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa to participate in the 2011 USHL Fall Classic tournament.  The Stars will play a total of three games over the course of four days, all against USHL Eastern Conference competition.  Lincoln will face off against the Chicago Steel on Wednesday, September 21st, the Green Bay Gamblers on Thursday, September 22nd, and the Youngstown Phantoms on Saturday September 24th.  The Stars will not play a game on Friday, September 23rd.  These three exhibition contests will be the final preseason games the Stars will play before they start the USHL regular season on Friday, September 30th at the IceBox in Lincoln against the Sioux Falls Stampede.

For those who are unaware, the USHL Fall Classic tournament is held at two different ice rinks in Sioux City:  the Tyson Events Center (TEC), and the IBP Ice Center.  All games, including those at the IBP Ice Center, will be broadcast on FASTHockey. Unlike in the past when B2/America One was used by the USHL, only games played at the TEC were broadcast.  I've never used FASTHockey before, but I think it's great that ALL games at the Fall Classic will be available to view.  I believe the cost of each game is roughly $7, and I also think you can purchase games ahead of time and watch them later with FASTHockey.  For example, you can purchase one of the games the Stars will play ahead of time, and if you can't watch it live, you can log into your FASTHockey account and watch it later (on-demand).  I believe that's how FASTHockey can work, but don't quote me on that.  FASTHockey is very new to me also.  Click here to learn how to use FASTHockey.  Click here to read the USHL's press release regarding FASTHockey, which was just posted yesterday.

If you don't want to spend the cash on FASTHockey, you can also follow the boxscores of each game online via Pointstreak.   I do not believe any of the Fall Classic games will be available on the radio.  Okay, enough of that.  Let's get to the individual matchups.  All times listed below are CST.

                                            4:00pm Wednesday, 9/21: Lincoln Stars vs. Chicago Steel
The Chicago Steel are coming off an abysmal season which saw them finish dead last in the USHL with a 9-43-8 record.  What could go wrong last season with the Steel inevitably went wrong.  Injuries caused a revolving door of players who came and went.  Things didn't get a lot better over the summer as most of their draft picks either went to college early, or decided they'd rather play elsewhere.  The Steel are 1-3 in four preseason game thus far, and they have surrendered 17 goals in those four games.  This game will be played at the Tyson Events Center.

                                            6:00pm Thursday, 9/22:  Lincoln Stars vs. Green Bay Gamblers
The Gamblers are coming off yet another strong season in 2010-11 when they finished with a 41-15-4 record, and a Clark Cup finals appearance where they lost to the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  The Gamblers return two of the better goaltenders in the league last season in Ryan McKay and Adam Wilcox.  In addition to the two goaltenders, the Gamblers will go into the 2011-12 season with 15 players on their roster with USHL experience.  This should be the toughest test the Stars have during the Fall Classic.  This game will be played at the IBP Ice Center.

                                            4:00pm Saturday, 9/24: Lincoln Stars vs. Youngstown Phantoms
The Phantoms are coming off a 23-30-7 season last year that saw them narrowly miss a spot in the Clark Cup Playoffs.  I know very little about this team, so I'm not sure what to expect.  The Phantoms are 1-1 in two preseason games so far in this exhibition season.  Like the Steel, I think the Phantoms will be a little better in 2011-12, but considering how stacked the USHL Eastern Conference is, I believe the Phantoms will still fall short of the playoffs.  This game will be played at the TEC.  

Like all preseason games, you really never know what to expect.  Most of these teams will not play some of their better players, and will instead roster some of the younger, borderline players whom the coaches want to watch live during a game environment.  As I've said before, these exhibition games are more for the coaches than they are for the fans.  The coaches of every USHL team have to cut down their respective rosters down to 23 players immediately after the Fall Classic.  So it's really important that they get as many players as possible into these games so they can better evaluate them.  The veterans like Tate, Shine, Teemu, Hanson, Dax, Carlson, and Coyne might not get the amount of playing time compared to some of the younger, less experienced players on the Stars' roster.

I really wish I could attend this event, but as I've mentioned before I'm on the IR due to a recent knee injury.  However, I do know that a lot of Lincoln Stars fans will be in Sioux City this week, and I will be leaning on them a bit in terms of their opinions of the games, and hopefully some pictures as well.  I'm planning on watching all three games via FASTHockey, so I'll be able to provide thoughts and opinions as well.  I'll be posting frequent recap articles this week after each game, so stay tuned for those.  Looking forward to it!  It's starting to feel more and more like hockey season!  Wishing safe travels to all hockey fans going to Sioux City this week.  Go Stars!

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