Thursday, September 29, 2011

B³ Pregame Report: Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Lincoln Stars 9/30

The Lincoln Stars will open the 2011-12 USHL regular season schedule this Friday night at the IceBox against the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede.  Faceoff is at 7:05pm.   If you're not lucky enough to be one of the 4,000+ screaming lunatics in attendance Friday evening, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.  The Stars will only play the lone Friday night game on this opening USHL weekend.

The visiting 'Pede are a team much like the Stars insofar that they enter the 2011-12 season having lost a lot of their top-end offensive players from the year before.  The Stampede are missing their top six scorers from last season, while the Stars are missing their top seven point-getters from 2010-11.  Considering the roster turnaround each USHL team faces every season, losing some of your top players from the year before is expected.

What Sioux Falls returns in Stephon Williams, is one of the better goaltenders in the USHL Western Conference and in my opinion one of the top young netminders in the whole league.  The '93 native of Fairbanks, AK went 20-7-6 last season with a 2.59 goals against average and a .909 save percentage.  Gaudy numbers for such a young player.  However, in four starts against the Stars last season Williams was only 1-3-1, and winless in three starts at the IceBox.  Williams has committed to play for the University of Minnesota-Mankato after his USHL career.  There's no doubt in my mind we'll see Williams between the pipes Friday night at the IceBox for the 'Pede.

While the Stars start the new season with a lot of there top scorers and vets gone, there is a lot to be excited about in the capital city.  On offense, Lincoln will be led by grizzled veterans such as Brent Tate, Dominik Shine, Teemu Tiitinen, and Jared Hanson.  Right behind those four are a group of talented youngsters ready to be the next "Stars" in black and blue.  Maybe it's just me, but looking at the roster and watching these guys in the preseason (and even way back at tryouts), I think the Stars are a little smaller up front, but much more skilled and faster than we've seen in Lincoln in the last 3-4 years.  This is a FUN group to watch, and I think they have the skill to score more goals this season than we've seen in many years.

On defense, the Stars are big, mean, and extremely talented.  Did I mention "big"?  Of the eight defensemen protected by Lincoln going into the home opener, six of the eight are 6'1 or taller.  Those group of eight have an average weight of 200lbs.  The Lincoln d-corps is a 1600 pound, ass-kicking gorilla.  It's a group that has plenty of USHL and NAHL experience also.  Five of the eight have USHL game experience, while seven of the eight have at least NAHL experience.  I'm really, really excited to see what this group can do.  I haven't been this excited about a group of defensemen since the fantastic four of Dalhuisen, Sdao, Newton, and Henry in 2008-09.  I expect d-men like Ralfs Freibergs and Colton Saucerman to be the two main PP quarterbacks, while Mike McKee (6'5", 235 pounds) is used as a screen in front of the opposing goaltender on the PP.

While Jackson Teichroeb gets healthy after his offseason foot surgery, goaltender Charles Williams is more than capable of standing on his head and winning many games for the Stars.  Williams was by far the best goaltender at the Stars' tryout camp this past June, and his play at that camp really won me over.  He's not a big guy, but he's very quick and moves well post to post.  He'll be wearing #1, and will start for the Stars tomorrow night.  Make sure you check out his mask.  Very cool design.  I have no doubt that he'll quickly become a fan favorite.

In non-Stars related news, click here to read an article (no copy and paste job here) released by the USHL today about the start of the 2011-12 season, and what new rules the fans will see.  Interesting stuff.  I liked the five shooters in OT as opposed to the new rule of three shooters, but the USHL is aligning more and more to the NHL (where three shooters are also used).

Are there two better words in the lexicon of Lincoln Stars hockey than "home opener"?  I'm not sure how much work I'll get done at my job tomorrow because I'll be thinking of the game all damn day long.  7:05pm, Friday night can't get here soon enough.  

Before I end this rambling mess, take a minute and think about how hard these young men have worked to get to this point in their hockey "careers".  Over 100+ players tried out for the Stars way back in June at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, MN.  The players in uniform tomorrow night have worked their asses off to earn a spot on this roster.  So cheer a little louder tomorrow night in honor of these young men who are here to play for your entertainment.  

Let's get crazy.  Go Stars.

1 comment:

Crazy Carl said...

Pretty good for a team that's not even "in your peer group," huh Borat?