Thursday, November 10, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux Falls, Omaha, Tri-City

It will be a busy weekend for the Lincoln Stars coming up as they will play three games in three consecutive nights, each game against a divisional foe.  The first two games of the weekend will take place at the IceBox against the Sioux Falls Stampede (Fri) and the Omaha Lancers (Sat).  On Sunday, the Stars will travel west to Kearney, NE to take on the Tri-City Storm.  Faceoff for the two games at the IceBox on Friday and Saturday will be at 7:05pm CST.  Faceoff for the Sunday evening matchup in Kearney against the TC Storm will be at 5:05pm CST.

If you are unable to make it to any of the games this weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.  

*A reminder, the UNL mens basketball team is scheduled to play a game Friday night at the Devaney Center starting at 7:00pm.  Plan accordingly because traffic could be a mess.

First up for the Stars will be a Friday night matchup against the Sioux Falls Stampede (4-4-1, 9 points, fourth place in the USHL Western Conference) at the IceBox.  Surprisingly, this will be the third time these two teams will face each other already this season.  We're barely past the 10 game mark, yet these two teams will have played each three times.  Back on 9/30/11 at the IceBox, the Stars and goaltender Charles Williams shutout the 'Pede by a score of 2-0.  On 10/21/11 in Sioux Falls, the Stampede returned the favor with a 2-1 win over the Stars.

I normally would expect to see Sioux Falls start goaltender Stephon Williams in this game, but backup netminder Charlie Lindgren is coming off a game in which he stopped 38 of 40 shots in a 3-2 'Pede victory over the TC Storm.  For his efforts, Lindgren was named USHL goaltender of the week.  I still believe Stephon Williams is one of the top goaltenders in the Western Conference, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Lindgren in net against the Stars this Friday.

Along with the Tri-City Storm, the Stampede are one of the lowest scoring teams in the USHL (2.33 goals scored per game).  The Stars are averaging 3.60 goals scored per game, which is tops in the Western Conference.  Sioux Falls scores most of their goals by committee, and don't score a lot of them on the powerplay.  The 'Pede are dead last in the USHL in powerplay percentage with 7.09% (3 powerplay goals scored in 38 PP opportunities).  It doesn't get any better on the other end of the ice on special teams, as the Stampede have the 13th worst penalty kill percentage at 78.69%.

On Saturday night, the Stars will play host to rival Omaha Lancers (7-3-1, 15 points, first place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the first time this season that the Stars and Lancers will knock heads.  Omaha is on a bit of a hot streak having won three in a row coming into the weekend games.  The Lancers will play Friday night at home against the Des Moines Bucs before traveling down I-80 to face the Stars on Saturday.  The MVP of the Lancers so far this season has been goaltender Alex Lyon.  The rookie from Baudette, MN is 5-1-1 on the season with a 1.94 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.  Two of his five wins have been shutouts.

Stating the obvious here, but when these two teams meet on the ice....sparks fly.  Year in, and year out, the players on these two teams will always hate each other.  Every game has a playoff type feel to it.  Every game is World War III.  Disregard the win-loss record of each team, because when these two rivals meet, each team plays their best.  Well, not so much for the Lancers last season.  During the 2010-11 USHL regular season, the Stars went 6-2-0 in eight games against the Lancers.  Lets hope that trend continues this season.

A reminder, the Stars will be wearing special jerseys on Saturday night to raise awareness for breast cancer and help benefit the American Cancer Society.  The jerseys will be auctioned off to the fans after the game.  Make sure you stick around afterwards and contribute to a great cause.  Click here to read more.

Finally on Sunday, the Stars will bus it west to face the Tri-City Storm (3-7-0, 6 points, seventh place in the USHL Western Conference).  This also will be the first time that these two teams will face each other this season.  Unlike the Lancers, the Storm are struggling as they enter the weekend games.  Tri-City has lost four games in a row overall, and three in a row at home.   Just like last season, the Storm are having issues putting the biscuit in the basket.  Through 10 games, the Storm have only scored 21 goals, averaging 2.10 goals scored per game (dead last in the USHL).  

Leading the way for the Storm is forward Nick Lappin,. who has been one of the only bright spots on a dismal TC offense.  Lappin, who is a Brown University recruit like Lincoln Stars forward Kevin Roy, is leading the Storm in scoring with 12 points (8g, 4a) in 10 games.  Lappin is riding a five-game point scoring streak, and has 8 points (5g, 3a) in those five games.  Lappin's 8 goals accounts for 38% of all goals scored by the Tri-City Storm so far this season.

Also playing well for the Storm this season has been goaltender Pheonix Copley.  Although his win loss record isn't the greatest (3-6-0), his goals against average (2.92) and save percentage (.908) is impressive considering his team is so offensively challenged.  Copley, who was at the Stars' tryout camp in Minneapolis this past June, has been a workhorse for the Storm this season having played in all but one game.  His 553 minutes played so far this season is second-most in the entire USHL.

As we all know, the Stars are coming off two big wins in which they exploded for a total of 14 goals.  This past Saturday, Lincoln beat the Fargo Force by a score of 8-3.  Just a few days later on Tuesday (11/8), the Stars unleashed the fury against the Sioux City Musketeer on the road by a score of 6-2.  After scoring six points last weekend in two games against Fargo, forward Kevin Roy was named USHL Offensive Player of the Week.  Roy celebrated his second USHL award of the season by scoring two third period goals against the Muskies this past Tuesday.  Roy is now tied for first place in scoring in the entire USHL with 17 points (10g, 7a) in 10 games.

According to the Lincoln Stars' twitter page, affiliate forward Vinni Lettieri ('95) is in town practicing with the team and could play in the three weekend games.  Lettieri is a 2011 Futures Draft pick of the Lincoln Stars, and will be a junior for his Minnetonka (MN) Clippers high school hockey team.  Current Stars forward Tommy Schutt was teammates with Lettieri last season on the Minnetonka squad.  Lettieri is already attracting the attention of a number of scouts, and recently committed to play collegiate hockey for the University of Minnesota (2013 or 2014) after his high school/junior career.  His high school's regular season doesn't start until late November, so it sounds like Lettieri is here to get a taste of the USHL before heading back to Minny.  I don't believe we'll see Vinni here full-time this season, but there is a good chance he will play in Lincoln next season.  Lettieri was at the Stars' tryout camp this past June, and I was really impressed with his play after watching him in person.  He's a bit undersized, but he's very shifty and extremely gifted with the puck.

Hope to see two big crowds yet again this weekend.  Both games at the IceBox should be a lot of fun.  Thanks for reading.  Sorry for the length of the post.

Go Stars.


Unknown said...

I heard it's a done deal that Lettieri will be with the Stars next season. I'm pretty certain he'll be back at Minnetonka for this year's high school season as that team is the favorite to win state this year. I'm interested to see how he does this weekend. He was a little inconsistent in the games I saw of him last season in Minnesota, but I think that was a little bit of inexperience showing there. I think him and Schutt play really well together.

nutz4puckz said...

YES!! It's Friday and it's a two game weekend at the Ice Box. Hard to get much better than that. Let's Go Stars!

nutz4puckz said...

One thing I just remembered. Nebraska has a home basketball game tonight that starts at 7 as well, so there might be a few more people looking for parking tonight.

Question is now, who draws better, Hukser Hoops or Stars Hockey :-)

Yeti said...

Thanks, nutz4pucks. Someone reminded me about the basketball conflict earlier in the week, but I spaced it off when I was writing this article last night.

I also forgot to mention that Saturday the Stars will be wearing special jerseys to raise awareness for breast cancer, and the proceeds of the jersey auction after the Omaha game will benefit the American Cancer Society.

I edited the article above to include the news about the basketball game, and the Saturday jersey auction.

LoudmouthLancer said...

Lancers fan here, I come in peace. I'm hoping that you guys can answer a question of mine. I am wondering where the Lancers designated section is? I have tickets for tonights game and have no clue what section they are but I do know that we are in the Lancers designated section. Thanks in advance

Yeti said...

As far as I know, I don't believe there is a specific "designated" section for Omaha fans. In previous games, I've seen them sit just about anywhere. I do see a lot of them in Sections A and B, though.