Thursday, October 6, 2011

B³ Pregame Report: Waterloo Blackhawks vs. Lincoln Stars 10/7

The Lincoln Stars will return to the ice this Friday night when they will face off against the Waterloo Blackhawks at the IceBox.  Faceoff is at 7:05pm CST.  The Stars are 1-0-0 on the young season, and are currently tied for first place with three other teams in the USHL Western Conference.  If you can't make it to the friendly confines of the IceBox this 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.  For the second straight weekend, the Stars will only play the lone Friday night game, and will not play on Saturday (10/8).

Like the Lincoln Stars, the Waterloo Blackhawks also started the 2011-12 USHL regular season with a win last Friday night.  In Omaha against the Lancers on 9/30, the Blackhawks spanked the skating pumpkins by a score of 3-1.  Waterloo outshot Omaha 38-26 overall in that game also.  It's still a little early to tell how teams are going to play this season, but many USHL pundits are picking the Blackhawks to finish near, or at the top, of the western conference.  Waterloo traditionally is a franchise that does very well each and every year, much like the Stars.  However, last season the B'hawks finished below .500 for the first time in five seasons, and were bounced from the USHL playoffs in the first round.

One of the reasons that so many people think Waterloo will rebound this season is the fact that they are loaded with young talented players, especially on offense.  The past few seasons the B'hawks have drafted very well, in both the USHL entry and futures drafts.  Leading the way on offense for Waterloo is Taylor Cammarata, who just happens to be the youngest player on the team (DOB 5/13/95).  Cammarata was picked #1 overall by Waterloo in the 2011 Futures Draft after he scored 139 points (71g, 68a) in only 54 games last season for the Shattuck-St. Mary's U-16 prep hockey team.  In his first USHL game last weekend against Omaha, Cammarata had two points (both assists) and was +2 on the night.

Along with Cammarata, there are a number of other young forwards on the Waterloo team who should compliment scoring.  Forwards Tony Cameranesi ('93 - Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth recruit), AJ Michaelson ('94 - Univ. of Minnesota commit), and Vinnie Hinostroza ('94 - Univ. of Notre Dame commit) are just three other Waterloo young guns who will join Cammarata up front and lead the charge on offense.  On the other side of the rink, the Blackhawks have a very good group of big, skilled defenseman, and one of the top young goaltenders in the league in Jay Williams ('93 - Miami University).

Starting this year, and for the first time in 13 straight seasons, the Waterloo Blackhawks will play in the USHL Western Conference instead of the Eastern Conference.  The league decided to have Waterloo and the Dubuque Fighting Saints swap conferences, so the Stars will play the Blackhawks a total of four times this season, instead of two times like in years past.  

As for the good guys, the Lincoln Stars are coming off an impressive 2-0 shutout win over the Sioux Falls Stampede this past Friday night at the IceBox.  Goaltender Charles Williams stopped 25 shots to record his first shutout of the season, and for his efforts he shared the USHL Goaltender of the Week award.  I thought the team played very well that night, and although it's still very early, I thought the fans were shown that this team could win a lot of games this season.  Roster-wise, the team will need to make some cuts coming up next week, from what I have been told.  There could be 3-4 players currently on the roster who will need to be moved by the coaches.  I can't imagine having to make that decision.  In my worthless opinion, there isn't one player on this team who doesn't deserve to be here.

Well, this should be a very good litmus test for the Stars this Friday.  Even though it was only one game, we all got a glimpse at how good this Stars team can play when they put it all together for 60 minutes.  The game last Friday could have easily been 6-0 Stars if it wasn't for the heroics of the Sioux Falls goaltender.  It's a little early to predict how good these teams will be, but I believe the Blackhawks are a much more talented team than the squad the Stars faced this past Friday night.  

Hoping for another crazy, sellout crowd tomorrow night!  See you all there.

Go Stars.

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