Thursday, December 1, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Omaha and Sioux City

The IceBox in Lincoln, NE will be the place to be this weekend as the Lincoln Stars return home for two games against western conference divisional foes.  On Friday (12/2), the Stars will take on their rival to the north, the Omaha Lancers.  On Saturday (12/3), the Stars will battle the Sioux City Musketeers.  Faceoff for both games this weekend will be at 7:05pm CST.

If you are unable to attend any of the two weekend 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 game on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this weekend with a record of 12-5-1 (25 points), and are all alone in first place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are on a two-game winning streak, and went 2-0-1 in three games last week.  In their last 10 games, the Stars have a record of 8-1-1.  Lincoln has outscored their opponents 37-23 in those ten games.  Click here to see the USHL standings.

First up for the Stars this weekend will be the Omaha Lancers, who have a record of 9-8-2 (20 points) and are in third place in the USHL Western Conference.  This will be the second time this season that the Stars and Lancers have faced one another.  Back on 11/12, the Stars beat the Lancers by a score of 2-1 at the IceBox in a tightly contested, playoff-like game.  The Lancers are on a bit of a slide as of late, having lost three in a row and four of their last five.

The big news out of Omaha this week was the firing of Lancers head coach Bliss Littler.  Click here to read more about that.  Basically, the president of the Lancers told Littler that he had no confidence in him anymore, and sent him packing.  The move surprised many USHL fans and pundits, although Littler's departure was considered a positive move in the right direction by many Omaha fans.  Littler's style of hockey (low scoring, non-aggressive, trap) wasn't received well by Lancer fans, and his teams generally were looked upon as underachieving.  A 5-9 postseason record didn't help either.  

Current Omaha assistant coach Mike Aikens will assume the interim head coaching position until the end of this season.  Assistant coach Michael Zucker will assume the "associate head coach" role.  Aikens' first task as assistant turned head coach?  Beat the Stars at the IceBox this Friday night. It should be interesting to see how the Omaha players respond to this drama-filled week.  Will they come out with their hair on fire and play hard to win a game for their assistant coaches?  Or will they be distracted and play with no inspiration?  We'll find out Friday night.

On Saturday night, the Stars will play host to the Sioux City Musketeers who currently have a record of 7-11-0 (14 points) and are in sixth place in the USHL Western Conference.  This will be the third time these two teams will face each other this season with the Stars going 2-0 in their two earlier head-to-head battles.  In both of those games, all in Sioux City, the Stars dominated play winning 4-1 on 10/15, and 6-2 on 11/8.  In those two games against the Muskies, Stars forward Kevin Roy has scored six points (5g, 1a) and scored the game-winning goal in both games.

The Stars have certainly had Sioux City's number this season, but they have yet to face the Muskies in Lincoln.  The Musketeers have been playing better on the road this season, but the Stars are 6-2-1 playing in front of the home fans at the IceBox.  After going a dismal 2-7-0 in the month of October, the Muskies have turned it around and are playing much better as of late, as their 5-4-0 record in November indicates.  The hot hand for the Muskies has been forward Brad Robbins, who is on an eight-game point scoring streak, and an four-game goal scoring streak.

As for the Stars, they will be coming home after playing 5 of their previous 6 games on the road.  Lincoln went 4-1-0 in those five road games.  After these two home games this weekend, the Stars go back on the road with 7 of their next 8 games away from the IceBox.  Every game is important, but the Stars really need to take care of business this weekend, take advantage of the home crowd, and earn four points before they have to spend the rest of December on the road.

Don't forget that the Friday evening Omaha Lancers game is "Teddy Bear Toss" night at the IceBox.  Bring your new stuff animal(s) to the game and throw then onto the ice after the Stars score the first goal of the game.  All of the stuffed animals collected by the Stars that night will be donated to the 104.1 FM The Blaze's Kampout for Kids campaign.  This event is always a favorite of the fans, and should make for some great photos.

Hope to see you all at the IceBox this weekend!

Go Stars.

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