Thursday, October 20, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux Falls and Indiana

The Lincoln Stars will look to build upon their current two-game winning streak this weekend when they play the Sioux Falls Stampede, and the Indiana Ice.  On Friday, the Stars will go on the road to Sioux Falls to face the Stampede.  Faceoff for that game will be at 7:05pm.  On Saturday, the Stars will be back at the comfy confines of the IceBox to host the Indiana Ice.  Faceoff for that game will be at 7:05pm.  If you are unable to make it to any of the games this weekend, 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.  

First up for the Stars this weekend will be the Sioux Falls Stampede (1-3-0, 2 points, seventh place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the second time these two teams will face each other this season.  On 9/30/11 in Lincoln, the Stars shutout the Stampede by a score of 2-0.  In that particular game, the Stars outplayed Sioux Falls for the majority of the game, and outshot them 44-25.  If it wasn't for the heroics of Stampede goaltender Stephon Williams, the Stars would have won by a score of 5-0, or 6-0.  

The 'Pede haven't had a great start to the 2011-12 season, having lost three of four games.  They are riding a two game losing streak coming into this weekend after back-to-back home losses to the Green Bay Gamblers and the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  In fact, the Stampede have given up a total of 11 goals in their last two games.  Not so good.  I expect that Stephon Williams will get the nod once again against the Stars this Friday night, as backup goaltender Charlie Lindgren has struggled in net for the the 'Pede both in the preseason and regular season.

Saturday night at the IceBox, the Stars will knock heads with the red-hot Indiana Ice (4-0-0, 8 points, first place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  This will be the only time the Stars and Ice face each other in the regular season.  Although we're only a few weeks into the 2011-12 USHL season, it would be safe to say that the Ice are performing as well as any team in the league right now.  They lead the entire league in offense, with an average of 5 goals scored per game.  Their powerplay unit is downright scary.  In 20 PP opportunities, the Ice have score 9 goals.  Their PP percentage is clicking at 45%, which is tops in the league.  

Leading the Ice on offense is uber-talented  forward Daniil Tarasov.  The '91 native of Moscow, Russia leads the USHL in scoring with 9 points scored (4g, 5a) in four games played.  Last year for the Ice, Tarasov scored 75 points (37g, 38) in 57 games played, and finished second overall in league scoring.  Put it simply, Tarasov is the real deal.  To be honest, I'm not sure why he's still in the USHL.  Most Russian players in the USHL don't go on to college, so I would have expected Tarasov to bolt to major juniors (CHL) by now.  Tarasov was a free agent invite to the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) rookie camp this past summer.  Keep an eye on #79 this Saturday night at the IceBox.  He's a special player.

The Ice have what in my opinion is the best young goaltender in the league in Jon Gillies.  The '94 native of South Portland, ME stands at 6'5", and weighs 215 pounds.  This goes back a few years, but Gillies reminds me of another Ice goaltender in Scott Darling.  Darling had a memorable battle against former Stars goaltender David Reekie back a few seasons ago at the IceBox.  In that game on 2/15/08, Darling stopped 40 of 41 shots in the overtime loss, while Reekie stopped 30 of 31 shots in the win.  It was one of the best goaltender battles I've ever seen at the IceBox.  Speaking of the IceBox, Gillies is no stranger to winning in Lincoln.  Back on 1/28/11, Gillies stopped 33 of 34 shots on goal to beat the Stars at the IceBox by a score of 3-1.  Gillies another player to watch Saturday night.

The Stars are coming off a productive weekend that saw them go 2-0 with a home win against the Chicago Steel, and a road win against the Sioux City Musketeers.  Goaltender Jackson Teichroeb earned the win in both of those games, stopping 40 of 44 shots over the weekend.  Forward Kevin Roy, who was a bit quiet in his first three games in a Stars uniform, exploded for a natural hat trick plus one assist in Lincoln's 4-1 win against the Muskies on 10/15/11.  In that game, Brent Tate dropped the gloves with SC forward Nikita Sirotkin after a questionable hit on Dominik Shine.  Due to their actions during the fight, both Tate and Sirotkin were suspended one game by the USHL.  That means Tate will be out of the lineup this Friday against the Stampede, but he should be back in the lineup on Saturday night against the Ice.

As I mentioned yesterday, Stars forward Dominik Shine injured his knee badly against the Musketeers last weekend, and he will be out of the lineup for an indefinite amount of time.  From what I was told, Shine will have surgery this Friday.  While this is a huge loss for the Stars, it will be a good opportunity for another forward on the team to step up and take a larger role on offense.

There are no easy games in this league, and that is evident with the schedule this weekend.  The 'Pede will be looking for some payback against the Stars for their loss a few weeks ago.  I'm sure the Ice will want to continue their hot streak with two wins this weekend also.  Although the Stampede and Ice have different records, both teams should be very good tests for the black and blue.

I will have another chat session running Friday night during the Sioux Falls game, so stop by if you can. 

Go Stars.

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