|Courtesy of Depicted Image Photography|
With the loss, the Stars dropped to 33-16-4 (70 points). Lincoln is still in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference, one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (71 points). Click here to view the current USHL standings.
Recently, the Stars have had some issues getting outplayed and outscored in the first period, and that inability to play smart hockey really hurt Lincoln last night. Stars spent most of the period in the penalty box thanks to some undisciplined play, which in turn really limited the offensive chances they had. And when the Stars did get on the powerplay, they were stifled by a very good Muskies penalty-kill unit which also scored two shorthanded goals in the first period.
Lincoln only managed two shots in the first period, and surrendered three goals. It's never a good stat to give up more goals than shots on goal. SC had a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, and a 3-0 lead going into the first intermission.
USHL referee Kevin Curtis is a guy who is universally hated by a lot of Stars fans, and I may be in the minority with the following statement, but I didn't think he was that bad last night. There were some calls missed (on both sides) for sure. But for the most part, I thought most of the penalties called against the Stars last night were deserved. In my opinion, Curtis is still the most inconsistent ref in the league, but the Stars can't blame this lose on him.
There have been some games this season that when the Stars get behind, they tend to lose control of their emotions which in turn puts them into the penalty box. It is what it is, I guess. Unfortunately, the Stars were not able to dig themselves out of the first period hole.
Lincoln outscored the Muskies 2-1 in the second period, thanks to goals from Jared Hanson, and a shorthanded effort from Mike McKee. Lincoln outshot Sioux City 9-8 in the second period. Muskies took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.
Kevin Roy scored his 47th goal of the season early in the third period, which cut the Sioux City lead to 4-3. Suddenly, the Stars were right back in the game and the crowd was also. Roy's 47th goal tied the Stars' all-time record for goals in a season set by Brandon Bochenski back in 2000-01. Kevin has seven remaining regular season games to break the record, which I'm sure he'll do. Roy is on pace to finish the season with 53 goals scored, and 102 points.
So with the score 4-3 Sioux City early in the third period, the Stars were looking like they might rally to get back into the game. However, the Muskies answered with a goal of their own less than three minutes after Roy's goal to increase their lead to 5-3. That particular goal really seemed to take the wind out of the Stars' sail. The Muskies would score a meaningless empty-net goal late in the third period to seal the victory.
Stars outshot Sioux City overall, 25-22. Goaltender Charles Williams stopped 2 of 5 shots before he was pulled in the first period. Coming into this game, Williams had won five in a row. I'm sure this is a game Charles would want back. Jackson Teichroeb relieved Williams in net and stopped 14 of 16 shots. Sioux City goaltender Matt Skoff stopped 22 of 25 shots to record the win.
Stars finished 1-for-7 on the powerplay, and gave up the two shorthanded goals. Sioux City went 1-for-6 on the powerplay. Muskies definitely won the special teams war last night. Lincoln's powerplay was unorganized, and giving up two shorthanded goals in one period put the team in a hole they couldn't crawl out of.
Brent Tate picked up a major and misconduct penalty for "contact to the head" last night, which more than likely will result in a one or two game suspension. Not good considering the two games coming up next weekend against Omaha.
The Stars finished with a record of 5-3-0 in eight regular season game against Sioux City Musketeers this season. We'll have to see what happens in the post season, but there is a good chance these two teams might face one another in the playoffs.
Considering what was on the line, I really thought Lincoln would have played a lot smarter last night. Give credit to Sioux City for wanting it more. If the Stars would have won, they would have leapfrogged Omaha into first place in the West. Lincoln really needs to figure out a way to avoid the first period blues. In their last four games, the Stars have been outscored 7-1 in the first period. Luckily, the Stars finished 3-1 in those four games but the slow starts have to be fixed if this team wants to make any noise in the playoffs.
Next weekend the Stars play three games, two against the Omaha Lancers. On Friday the Stars will host the Lancers at the IceBox in Lincoln. On Saturday, the Stars will face the Lancers at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha. On Sunday, the Stars will play a late afternoon game in Waterloo against the Blackhawks. Omaha is in first place with 71 points, Lincoln is in second place with 70 points. Clash of the Titans. Should be a knock-down, drag-out fight. Depending on the outcome, these games could determine who wins the western conference regular season title.