Thursday, March 22, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Dubuque and Sioux City

The IceBox will host the final Friday-Saturday homestand of the 2011-12 regular season this weekend when the Lincoln Stars take on an unfamiliar, and familiar foe from the state of Iowa.  On Friday night, the Stars will take on the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  On Saturday, Lincoln will face the Sioux City Musketeers.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for both games.

If you can't make to the games this weekend in Lincoln, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this home weekend with a record of 32-15-4 (68 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only three points behind the first place Omaha Lancers with three games in hand.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

First up for the black and blue this weekend will be the Dubuque Fighting Saints (30-18-4, 64 points, fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  This will be the second, and final time the Stars and Saints play one another.  The only other way these two teams would face each other this season would be if they met in the Clark Cup finals.  In their lone previous matchup, the Stars lost 5-4 in Dubuque to the Fighting Saints back on 12/16/11.  In that particular game, the Saints outscored the Stars 4-2 in the first period and held on despite a third period comeback attempt by Lincoln.

Since re-entering the USHL in 2010-11, the Fighting Saints have played the Stars three times and all have been wins for Dubuque.  However, each Dubuque win has been by one goal so these teams have played each other tough.  The Saints have one of the most talked about NHL-draft eligible players in forward Zemgus Girgensons.  The native of Riga, Latvia (same hometown and country of Stars d-man Ralfs Freibergs) is considered by many scouts to be one of the top USHL players eligible for the upcoming NHL draft.  Girgensons has size, speed, and skill.  He should be a first round NHL draft pick.

The Saints are 2-5-1 in their last eight games, and are 13-13-1 on the road this season.  Dubuque has the 6th best powerplay unit, and #1 ranked penalty kill unit in the USHL.

Saturday evening at the IceBox, the Stars will battle the Sioux City Musketeers (23-28-1, 47 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the eighth, and final time the Stars and Muskies play one another in the regular season.  The Stars hold a 5-2-0 record against Sioux City in their seven previous meetings.  Lincoln has won the last three games against the Muskies, outscoring them 14-6.

The Stars and Muskies faced each other last Friday night and it was Lincoln that came away with a 5-2 win in Sioux City.  That particular game saw a number of penalties from both sides, which could carry over into the game Saturday night at the IceBox.  Sioux City had a 2-0 lead last Friday but watched it fade away as the Stars took control of the game and scored five unanswered goals to seal the victory.  After the game, Muskies head coach Brett Larson was very critical of the officiating.

The Musketeers do not play Friday night so they will be rested (and hopefully rusty) for the game against the Stars on Saturday at the IceBox.

I'm running out of time to get this article up, so I'm going to wrap it up.  The Lancers only play one game this weekend, so the two home games at the IceBox could be a great opportunity for the Stars to gain a little ground on Omaha.  Dubuque especially will be a tough opponent for the Stars as the Saints are one of the top teams in the East.  The Muskies are fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the west so they have a lot riding on their lone game this weekend.

Four points up for grabs.  Let's do this, Lincoln!  Start strong, finish stronger!

Go Stars.

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