Monday, January 16, 2012

B³ Pregame Report: Tri-City Storm vs. Lincoln Stars 1/17

The Lincoln Stars will host the Tri-City Storm this Tuesday evening in a rare mid-week game at the IceBox.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST.

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.  

The Stars are all alone in second place in the USHL Western Conference with a record of 19-11-2 (40 points), two points behind the first place Omaha Lancers.  Click here to view the updated USHL standings.

The Tri-City Storm enter this game with a record of 11-21-0 (22 points) and are in last place in the USHL Western Conference.  Tri-City's 21 losses are tied for most overall with the Chicago Steel.  The Storm are riding a four-game losing streak and were outscored 24-7 in those four games.  Tri-City has a road record of 4-12-0, although one of those four road victories came this season at the IceBox against the Stars.

This will be the fourth time these two teams will play each other this season, with the Stars holding a 2-0-1 record over the Storm in the three previous games.  Like I mentioned above, the only win the Storm have over the Stars this season came on 11/23/11 at the IceBox when Tri-City beat Lincoln by a score of 3-2 in an overtime shootout.  In that particular game, newly acquired Storm goaltender Adam Wilcox stood on his head and single-handedly beat the Stars as he stopped 40 of 42 shots on the night.

The Storm have been languishing in the cellar of the western conference for most of the season, but this can be a dangerous team when they want to be.  From the few times I've seen them play, it's hard for me to say with any certainty that they are a last place club.  In my opinion, their main deficiency comes on the blueline.  Unlike some of the teams in their conference, the Storm just don't have the "horses" on defense.  Tri-City defensemen have scored a total of only three goals this season, while Lincoln defensemen have combined for 16 goals.

The Storm have a few guys up front that are very skilled and can put the puck in the net, like Nick Lappin and Kenny Brooks.  After that, it's hard to find a player on their roster who can strike fear into the heart of an opponent.  Lappin and Brooks have combined for 27 goals this season, which accounts for 32% of the 85 goals the Storm have scored through 31 games.

The Storm goaltending duo of Pheonix Copley and the aforementioned Adam Wilcox may not have a whole bunch of wins between them, but both have save percentages above .900 which is something neither goaltender for the Lincoln Stars can say right now.

The Stars are coming off a tough home loss a few days ago to Omaha that saw Lincoln battle back in the third period but were unable to stop the Lancers from answering with scoring of their own.  Omaha made the most of their opportunities while the Stars ran into a hot goaltender in Alex Lyon.  The effort was there for the most part, but the Stars just couldn't muzzle Omaha's third period scoring barrage.

For some reason, this game against the Storm worries me a bit.  I don't think the Stars will necessarily overlook the Storm, but that could easily happen.  Mid-week games are sketchy....you never know if a team is going to show up or not.  They are out of their element, so to speak, with playing a mid-week game.  The players aren't used to suiting up and getting out there on a Tuesday night to knock heads.  In Lincoln's case, they are getting ready for two big games this weekend against arguably the two hottest teams in the USHL right now (Fargo Force on Friday, and the Omaha Lancers on Saturday).  Lincoln cannot afford to look past this Tri-City club.

If the Stars can pull out a win and get the two points this Tuesday evening, they'll once again be tied for first place in the western conference with the Omaha Lancers.

Go Stars.

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