Sunday, September 25, 2011

B³ USHL Fall Classic Recap 9/24: Lincoln 6, Youngstown 4

The Lincoln Stars concluded the 2011 USHL Fall Classic on Saturday evening with a strong effort against the Youngstown Phantoms and an exciting 6-4 win.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  With the scored tied at 4-4 late in the third period, Stars forward Jared Hanson became the hero when he scored his second goal of the game with only 55 seconds remaining to give Lincoln the 5-4 lead, and eventual win.  Stars forward Matt Friese added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds to go to complete the scoring.  In their three games at the Fall Classic, the Stars finished with a 2-0-1 record.  In those three games, the Stars out-scored their opponents by a combined total of 12-8.  Here are my thoughts after watching the game via FASTHockey.

Like in their two other games at the Fall Classic, the Stars came out and played very strong in the first twenty minutes of this matchup.  It wasn't until late in the period before the Stars capitalized when forward Jared Hanson scored his first goal of the game from a nice pass from forward Logan Smith at the 17:09 mark.  Smith earned the only assist on Hanson's goal.  The Stars dominated the first period for the most part, and outshot the Phantoms 16-4.

The first period was a little chippy, as two fights and seven minors were called.  The first round of fisticuffs occurred when Teemu Tiitinen took exception to a Pat Conte charging penalty, and dropped the mitts immediately with Conte.  Unfortunately, Teemu took a couple of clean right hands to the head and did not return to the game.  From what I heard from Stars fans there, Teemu was cut underneath his eye and may have needed stitches.  The second round of fights saw Brent Tate trade punches with Michael Gunn of Youngstown.

In the second period, the game got a little less chippy and both teams had no issues finding the back of the net.  The Stars got on the board first in the second period when Logan Smith sniped a wrister glove high past Youngstown goaltender Matthew O'Connor at the 1:28 mark to give Lincoln a 2-0 lead.  Defenseman Colten Saucerman had the lone assist on Smith's second period goal, which came on the powerplay.  Less than a minute after Smith goal, Youngstown finally got on the score board when Alex Gacek scored on Stars goaltender Charles Williams to pull the Phantoms to within one goal at 2-1.  The Stars would answer about four minutes later when Matt Friese scored at even strength (Pointstreak is incorrect by showing it as a PP goal) at the 6:28 mark.  Stars forwards Brad Hawkinson and Ryan Cole earned the assists on Friese's goal.

Later in the period the Phantoms would get right back in the game with two goals roughly two minutes apart.  First at the 14:36 mark, Youngstown's Ryan Belonger used a nifty toe drag move to beat a Lincoln defender and roofed a shot past Williams.  Then at the 16:45 mark of the second period, Nolan Culver collected a rebound in the slot and slapped the puck past Charles Williams to even the score at 3-3.  Just when it looked like the Phantoms would take the tie score into the second intermission, the Stars struck back very quickly.  Just 10 seconds after Culver's game tying goal, Lincoln's Zach Aston-Reese snapped a bad angle shot past a surprised O'Connor to give the Stars a 4-3 lead.  Dominik Shine and Brent Tate earned the assists on Aston-Reese's first preseason goal.  At the end of two periods, the Stars had a 4-3 lead and had outshot the Phantoms by a whopping margin of 31-11.

In the final twenty minutes of the game, the Phantoms played a little more aggressive while the Stars played a bit more conservative and in a shell.  The Stars hung onto the 4-3 lead late into the third period until the Phantoms scored a late powerplay goal.  With Lincoln's Jared Hanson in the penalty box due to a kneeing minor, Youngstown's Mike Ambrosia scored on a goal mouth scramble to tie the game up at 4-4 with only 2:21 remaining in the third period.  However, Jared Hanson would redeem himself less than two minutes later.  With the Stars pressing in the Phantoms defensive zone, Lincoln defenseman Paul Ladue made a great play by gloving a Youngstown clearing attempt, and backhanded the puck to a wide open Hanson.  Jared skated in alone to the right of O'Connor and wristed a nasty short-side glove-high shot past the goaltender to give Lincoln the 5-4 lead with only 55 seconds remaining.  Although Hanson finished the play, it was Ladue who started it all with a great individual effort by keeping the puck in the zone and finding a wide open Hanson.

With O'Connor pulled for the extra attacker, Stars forward Matt Friese added the icing on the cake with an empty net goal to give Lincoln the final 6-4 score.  Lincoln finished the game 1-for-6 on the powerplay, while the Phantoms went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.  Stars goaltender Charles Williams stopped 20 of 24 shots for the win, while Phantoms goaltender Matthew O'Connor stopped 30 of 35 shots in the loss.

Another gutsy effort against a quality opponent.  Coming into this game, the Phantoms were riding a two game winning streak at the Fall Classic with convincing wins over the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Lincoln played very smart once again, and didn't commit a lot of stupid penalties.  I thought Lincoln was the better team for the majority of the game, and it showed when it came to puck possession and shots on goal.  The Stars specifically did a great job with cycling the puck in the Youngstown defensive zone and keeping O'Connor on his toes.  Williams was hung out to dry by his teammates a few times, but there were also a couple of goals I'm sure he'd want back.  Overall I was really impressed with how the Stars played together as a team, and the fact that they never gave up.  I sound like a broken record, but I really think this team is going to be fun to watch.  The talent is there this season to score a LOT of goals.  The defense is big and nasty, and the goaltending is solid.

Lincoln will now take some time off to rest, practice, and make some roster moves.  The Stars currently have 26 players on their protected training camp roster, and that number will have to be cut down to 23 by opening night, which is Friday, September 30th.  The coaches have some very tough decisions to make in regards to the three players they have to release from the team.  I have a feeling it will be one defensemen and two forwards who get cut, but that's just my guess.  I don't envy the hard decisions the coaches will have to make in these next few days.

I hope to have some pictures from the Stars-Phantoms game posted on the blog sometime during the day on Sunday, so keep an eye out for those.  I'll also be posting an article soon about the upcoming "Meet the Stars" event at Playmakers Bar and Grill on Wednesday, September 28th, and our own "Meet the Stars" article profiling all of the players.  Opening night at the IceBox is just around the corner!

Go Stars.

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