Tuesday, February 28, 2012

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede 2/29

The Lincoln Stars will have an opportunity to snap their six-game road losing streak this Wednesday night when they travel to Sioux Falls, SD to battle the last place Stampede.  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 in sole possession of  second place in the USHL Western Conference with a record of 26-14-4 (56 points), three points behind the first place Omaha Lancers.  Lincoln currently has two games in hand over Omaha.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

As I mentioned briefly above, the Sioux Falls Stampede are statistically the worst team in the USHL right now with a record of 13-26-4 (30 points).  This will be the eighth, and final time these two teams will face each other this season.  In their seven previous meetings this season, the Stars sport a record of 6-1-0 against the Stampede.  The lone loss to the Stampede came way back on 10/21/11 when Sioux Falls beat Lincoln by a score of 2-1.  In that particular game, 'Pede goaltender Stephon Williams stood on his head and stopped 35 of 36 Lincoln shots to record the win.  Stephon Williams has since been traded to the Waterloo Blackhawks for current SF goaltender Jay Williams.

Things have not gone well this season for head coach Kevin Hartzell and the Stampede.  For one, they have a very, very young team.  I haven't looked at the numbers that closely, but I would be willing to bet that statistically they have the youngest team in the USHL this season.  They have a ton of players born in '93, '94, and '95, and only a few players born in '92 and '91.

 Because of the inexperience, the Stampede have struggled to put the puck in the net this season.  Through 43 games played, the Stampede have only scored a total of 95 goals.  They average 2.21 goals scored per game, which is by far the lowest in the entire USHL.  On the other end of the rink, the Stars are averaging 3.59 goals scored per game, which is tied for second-best overall.  So basically, this game will feature one of the USHL's top offenses vs. the USHL's worst offense.

Having said all of that, I believe the Stampede are a much better team than their record indicates.  They have been hit hard with injuries this season, and have recently lost a number of players to suspension for their actions in a line brawl against the Sioux City Musketeers on 2/18/12.  Click here to check out the boxscore from that game.  Wowzers.  A total of 208 penalty minutes were whistled in that particular game.  Click here to see the video of that line brawl.

All of the four Sioux Falls players suspended in that game are back in the lineup, and should be available this Wednesday evening against the Stars.  For the most part this season, they have played the Stars tough.  Four of their seven previous games have been decided by one goal.  Although their offense is anemic, they play team defense pretty well and they have two very capable goaltenders in Charlie Lindgren, and Jay Williams (formerly of the Waterloo Blackhawks).

This is a team the Stars cannot afford to overlook.  Yes, they are the last-place team in the league.  Yes, they are 1-8-3 in their last 12 games.  Yes, they couldn't score in a monkey whorehouse with a pocket full of bananas.  However, the Stampede have a pretty respectable home record of 9-11-2 and have played the Stars tough on their home ice.  The Stars desperately need to break out of this road slump (they have not won a road game in 2012), but they have to take the Stampede seriously if they want the two points.

I'm planning on watching this game on FastHockey, so I hope to have a recap article up on the blog later on Wednesday evening.  Stay tuned for that.

Go Stars.

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