Saturday, September 29, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Sioux Falls vs. Lincoln 9/28

Big thanks go out to Starstruck and Jeff White for being kind and allowing me to share their great photos from the game last night.  Make sure you check out Starstruck's "Shooting Star Photo" Facebook page, and Jeff White's "Depicted Image" Facebook page.  If you're on Facebook, make sure you sauce them a "Like" so you can be updated throughout this season with their work.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the snapshots in this series.

Postgame salute to the fans

Friday, September 28, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 9/28: Sioux Falls 1, Lincoln 5

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
After a sluggish start, the Lincoln Stars scored five unanswered goals in front of a sellout crowd tonight at the IceBox to beat the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede by a score of 5-1.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

I'm not sure if it was a case of pregame jitters, but the Stars started the first period a little sluggish and the visiting Stampede controlled play for most of the first ten minutes.  Considering the pregame festivities, the light show, and a sellout crowd of 4,000+, I don't blame the players if some were a little nervous.  Hell, I was nervous and I wasn't out there on the ice playing the game.

Sioux Falls got on the scoreboard first when Kyle Schempp scored at the 7:03 mark of the first period to give the 'Pede their only lead (and goal) of the game.  Stampede forward Tony Calderone set up the play nicely by bringing into the Stars zone along the boards before centering a pass to a breaking Schempp who deflected a shot past Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb.

I think that early Sioux Falls goal helped the Stars to break out of the fog that they were in mentally, and they seemed to play much better after that.

With Vinni Lettieri in the penalty box, Stars captain Dominik Shine would score Lincoln's first goal of the 2012-13 season.  Shine brought the puck into the Sioux Falls zone on a shorthanded rush before snapping a laser past 'Pede goaltender Charlie Lindgren to knot the game up at 1-1.  It was a filthy, nasty shot.  Zach Aston-Reese and Jackson Teichroeb earned the assists on Shine's shorthanded tally.

Shine's goal was a big one, and it gave the Stars new life going into the first intermission.  Shots were even at 10-10 after the first period.

In the second period, it was all Lincoln.  Just 52 seconds into the period, Shine would once again find the back of the net to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead.  I was making my way to my seat when Shine scored, so I missed this one completely.  I was told later that Shine batted in a rebound right out front of Lindgren for the goal.  Justin Woods and Eric Scheid collected the assists on Shine's second goal of the game.

Throughout the second stanza, the Stars would pepper Lindgren with shot after shot before Jake Wood found the back of the net late in the period.  Stars forward Will Suter initiated the play by skating hard into the Sioux Falls zone, skating behind the net, before passing it to Wood who one-timed it glove-high past Lindgren.  Suter and Paul LaDue picked up the assists on Wood's even-strength goal which gave Lincoln a 3-1 lead.

Blog reader "Johnny" was lucky enough to capture Jake Wood's goal on video, and I'll post that at the end of this article.  Thanks to Johnny for allowing me to share it will all of you.

Stars outshot the Stampede in the second period 16-6, and 26-16 through two periods.

In the third period, the Stars continued to outplay the Stampede and would net two more goals to complete the scoring.  First at the 12:26 mark of the third, Daniel Willett skated into the Sioux Falls zone before backhanding a very nice pass to a streaking Eric Scheid in the slot who buried the puck past Lindgren to give Lincoln a commanding 4-1 lead.  Willett and Paul LaDue picked up the assists on Scheid's even-strength goal.

Down three goals late in the game, Stampede head coach Cary Eades pulled Lindgren for the extra attacker, however it was the Stars who took advantage of the empty net.  With a little over one minute remaining in the third, Brad Hawkinson scored an empty-net goal to seal the 5-1 home opener victory.  Daniel Willett and Garrett Brossart earned the assists on Hawkinson's even-strength goal.

Stars outshot the Stampede 36-24 overall.  Lincoln went 0-for-5 on the powerplay, while the Stampede went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Jackson Teichroeb gave up a goal in the first period I'm sure he'd want back, but the important thing is that he bounced back and shut the door on the Stampede for the remainder of the game.  Teichroeb stopped 23 of 24 shots to record the win.  Stampede goaltender Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 of 35 shots in the loss.

Despite going 0-5 on the powerplay, I was really impressed with how the Stars' PP unit performed last night.  They were able to keep the puck in the Stampede zone for the most part, and put a lot of pressure on Lindgren.  They very rarely look unorganized, which is a good sign considering it was the first game of the season.

Considering the amount of Stars players missing from this game, I thought the team played pretty darn well.  Scratched was Michael Bunn (injured), David Parrottino (injured), Max Coatta, Zack Pittman, Ross Olsson, and Luke Johnson.  Olsson and Johnson missed the game due to their participation in the  CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, which is being held tonight in Buffalo, NY.  Click here to read more about the prospects game, and how you can watch it live tonight online for free.  Puck drops at 6:00pm EST if you're interested in watching.

Great to see the boys bounce back after a slow start and take control of the game last night.  Lincoln was certainly the better team in the second and third periods.  I think once the players shed their pregame jitters, took a deep breath and calmed down, they fed off the crowd and played very, very well.

The Stars will take the rest of this weekend off, but will return to the IceBox next Friday night to take on the Des Moines Buccaneers.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.  More on that matchup later next week.

Please leave a comment below!  I'd love to hear your opinions on the game!

Go Stars.

P.S. - Here's the video of Jake Wood's second period goal, courtesy of blog reader "Johnny."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

B³ Pregame Report: Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Lincoln Stars 9/28

The Lincoln Stars will open the 2012-13 USHL regular season schedule this Friday night at the IceBox against the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede.  Faceoff is at 7:05pm.   If you're not lucky enough to be one of the 4,000+ screaming lunatics in attendance Friday evening, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.  The Stars will only play the lone Friday night game on this opening USHL weekend.

The visiting Stampede are a team looking to rebound after a disastrous 2011-12 campaign in which they finished dead last in the USHL with a 17-36-7 record.  The Stampede rostered a very young team last season that had a lot of problems putting the puck in the net.  Through 60 regular season games, the 'Pede scored a total of 127 goals, which is an average of 2.12 goals per game (last in the USHL).  In comparison, the Stars scored a total of 214 goals in 60 regular season games last season (average of 3.57 goals per game).

Long-time Stampede head coach Kevin Hartzell was fired at the end of the season, which came as a surprise to many, despite their abysmal record.  Hartzell had done very well in Sioux Falls over the course of seven seasons (apart from the one bad season), including winning the Clark Cup in 2006-07.  After new management took over at the end of the 2011-12 season, Hartzell as let go and former University of North Dakota assistant Cary Eades was hired.  Eades had been an assistant at UND for the last eight season before his contact was not extended.  Previously to his time at UND, Eades was a head coach for the USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints from 1991-93.

It's tough to know what style of hockey Eades is going to employ in Sioux Falls.  They struggled a bit in the preseason this past month going 1-3-0 in four games, including 0-3-0 at the Fall Classic.  Eades has made some trades to bring in some quality players over the offseason, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes them to buy into Eades' system.

What Sioux Falls returns in Charlie Lindgren is one of the better goaltenders in the USHL Western Conference, in my opinion.  The '93 native of Lakeville, MN went 9-19-3 last season with a 3.33 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.  Although his win-loss record wasn't pretty last season, don't forget he played on a VERY bad Sioux Falls team with an equally anemic offense.  His .907 save percentage was damn good considering how bad the team was in front of him.

Lindgren has committed to play for St. Cloud State University after his USHL career.  There's no doubt in my mind we'll see Lindgren between the pipes Friday night at the IceBox for the 'Pede.  Lindgren only faced the Stars twice last season, and both games were in Sioux Falls.  Lindgren has never started a game at the IceBox, so make sure you're extra loud tomorrow night and make him feel at home.  ;)

While the Stars start the new season without Mr. Kevin Roy in the lineup, there is a lot to be excited about in the capital city.  Before I get to the guys up front, let's just say right off the bat that you DO NOT replace a guy like Kevin Roy.  What he did last season in Lincoln was unheard of, and will probably not happen again at the USHL level in many, many years.....maybe never again.  He was a freak of nature, a comet that only appears every 25+ years, and we should all feel grateful we had the opportunity to witness his inhuman skills and abilities  You can't expect to replace 54 goals and 50 assists with one incoming player.  Not going to happen.

On offense, Lincoln will be led by veterans such as Dominik Shine, Will Suter, Zach Aston-Reese, Luke Johnson, Tommy Schutt, Brad Hawkinson, and Jimmy DeVito.  Right behind those seven are a group of talented youngsters ready to be the next "Stars" in black and blue.  Like last season, I think the Stars will be a quick bunch up front, with lots of speed and skill.  This is will be a FUN group to watch, and I think they have the ability to score a lot of goals this season.  

On defense, the Stars are big, mean, and extremely talented.  Did I mention "big"?  Of the seven defensemen protected by Lincoln going into the home opener, six are 6'1" or taller.  Those group of seven have an average weight of 197lbs.  I'm really, really excited to see what this defensive corps can do.  Fans will certainly notice rookie d-man Daniel Willett right away, mainly because he's the only defensemen under 6 feet tall.  In fact, Willett is the smallest player on the team at 5'6", 150 pounds.  Don't let his size deceive you, though.  Willett is dynamite with the puck, and should be a main-stay on the Stars' powerplay unit.  When he's paired with "Big" Mike McKee, Willett gives up about 1 foot, and 100 pounds to McKee.

The Stars may be the most deep at the goaltending position.  Returning is Jackson Teichroeb, who went 18-14-1 last season with a 2.67 goals against average, a .896 save percentage and 3 shutouts.  Teichroeb looked great at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June, and has played well during the preseason.  Having a goaltender on the roster with USHL experience, and in Teichroeb's case, two season's worth, is invaluable.

The new goaltender is Michael Chance Bitzer, who was Lincoln's first pick in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft.  Bitzer won the Frank Brimsek Award last season, given to the top senior goaltender in Minnesota State high school.  Bitzer went 22-8-0 with a 1.80 goals against average, .933 save percentage, and seven shutouts for Moorhead High School last season.  Everything I'd read or heard about Bitzer has been extremely positive.  I've been told his glove hand is really, really quick.  It will be very interesting to see which goaltender starts tomorrow night.  I believe both can be starters in the USHL.

Luke Johnson and Ross Olsson will not be in the lineup this Friday night because they both will be participating in the the 2012 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, which will be held on Saturday, September 29th at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.  Tough break to lose both players to the prospects game, but they will be participating in a highly scouted contest full of players who should be selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Per the Lincoln Stars Twitter account, there are less than 400 tickets available as of 5pm on Thursday, so if you don't have tickets yet, give Micki a call at the ticket office at 474-STAR extension 1.  You will not want to miss the home opener.

Are there two better words in the lexicon of Lincoln Stars hockey than "home opener"?  I'm not sure how much work I'll get done at my job tomorrow because I'll be thinking of the game all day long.  

Before I end this rambling mess, please take a minute and think about how hard these young men have worked to get to this point in their hockey careers.  I pretty much said the same thing last season before the first game, but I think it bears repeating.  Well over 100+ players tried out for the Lincoln Stars way back in June at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, MN.  The players on this team have sacrificed so much, and have worked their asses off to earn a spot on the roster.  So cheer a little louder tomorrow night in honor of these young men who are here to play for your entertainment.  They deserve our praise and recognition.

See you all at the IceBox.  Go Stars.

B³ "Meet the Stars" 2012-13 Edition

We've done this here at the B³ for the past couple of seasons, so I thought we'd do it again for the fans out there who might not know a lot about this team and want to learn a little more.  Some folks out there were not able to make it to the "Meet the Stars" even last night, so I thought they might appreciate this.  It's also nice to put a face to the names and numbers the fans see on the backs of jerseys.

This is a little off topic, but I thought I'd bring it up here.  One thing fans will notice about the players on this team is that the majority of them will be wearing clear, 3/4 visors instead of the wire cage (birdcage).  A new rule in the USHL this season allows players under the age of 18 to wear the 3/4 clear visor, instead of being required to wear the full birdcage, or a full clear "fishbowl."  I believe the only players not wearing a 3/4 clear visor (other than the goaltenders, obviously) are forwards Eric Scheid and Max Coatta.  Before this season, every USHL player under the age of 18 were required to wear a full face shield or cage.

The result is that fans in the stands will be able to see the faces of the Stars much easier when they are on the ice.  I know our local photographers are pretty happy about this.  Much easier to see facial expressions, emotions, trash-talking, etc. with the visors as opposed to the full birdcage.  Anyway, just thought I'd point that out.

This is a super long article with a lot of pictures, so click the "Read more" link below to read the entire article.  Thanks to the Lincoln Stars website for the player pictures.

Here we go!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Your Captains!

Per multiple sources, the Lincoln Stars have announced the alternate captains and captains for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Defenseman Paul LaDue (top left) and forward Will Suter (bottom left) are the two alternate captains, and both will wear the "A."  The two co-captains are going to be defenseman Mike McKee (top right), and forward Dominik Shine (bottom right).  They'll wear the "C."

Outstanding choices, in my opinion.  Oodles and oodles of leadership from all four guys.  Each player is the type to leave it all on the ice, which is a good example for the younger players to follow.

Same four players that I predicted in my "Guess the Captains" article a few weeks ago.  You just can't go wrong with these four.

Don't forget to attend the "Meet the Stars" event tonight at The NoWhere Bar and Grill.  Click here to read more about that.  I'll be posting our own "Meet the Stars" article tomorrow morning on the blog, so keep an eye out for that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Meet the Stars" event at NoWhere Bar and Grill

Just a reminder for all the fans out there, the BlueLine Booster Club's annual "Meet the Stars" event will be held this Wednesday, September 26th at The NoWhere Bar and Grill in Lincoln, NE from 6:45pm-8:00pm.  The NoWhere Bar and Grill is located at 2050 Cornhusker Highway.  Click here for a Google Maps image of The Nowhere Bar and Grill if you need directions.

BlueLine Booster Club members are allowed in at 6:45pm, and will be given a free team poster for the players to sign.  Non-members will be allowed in at 7:15pm.  Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Prizes will be given away from the Lincoln Stars, the BlueLine Booster Club, 104.1 FM "The Blaze" radio station, and The NoWhere Bar and Grill.

Hope to see you all there!  This is a great way to start the hockey season, and fun way for the fans to interact with all of the players.  For more info about how you can join the BlueLine Booster Club, please click here to visit their website.

Nebraska, USHL Hockey Rivals Create "Good Life Cup"

Well, this was definitely something that caught my eye this morning.

Per the USHL's Twitter account, starting this upcoming season, the three USHL teams in the state of Nebraska will come for a regular season trophy, called the "Good Life Cup."

Click here to read an article posted today on the USHL website.  I'm going to post an excerpt from the article below:

The Omaha Lancers, in conjunction with the Lincoln Stars, Tri-City Storm and the United States Hockey League (USHL), are pleased to announce the creation of the Good Life Cup, a traveling trophy awarded to the franchise with the highest winning percentage in games between the three Nebraska teams.

The Good Life Cup winner will be the team with the highest winning percentage in games played against in-state competition.  The USHL’s Western Conference standings are not a factor in deciding the winner, as separate standings will track head-to-head games between Omaha, Lincoln and Tri-City.

A traveling trophy - designed with input from all three teams -will be awarded to Nebraska’s top USHL team and stay with that organization until the end of the following season.  The inaugural Good Life Cup will be displayed at each team’s rink at different times throughout the upcoming 2012-2013 season.

What do you think?  Personally, I think it's pretty cool.  Why not create a trophy for bragging rights?  Nice way to ramp up the rivalries even more between the Stars and the Storm and Lancers.  It will be interesting to see what this "Good Life Cup" is going to look like.  Just my opinion, but I really hope they don't incorporate corn anywhere in the trophy.  Yes, we all know we have lots of corn in Nebraska.  No reason to put it on a trophy.  /soapbox

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Lincoln vs. Muskegon 9/22

Once again, thanks go out to blog reader "Starstruck" for allowing me to share the pictures below from the Lincoln-Muskegon game yesterday.  Starstruck has a new Facebook "Shooting Star Photos" page which you can see by clicking here.  If you're on Facebook, make sure you head over there and "like" the page so you'll be updated later with other photos from the Fall Classic and throughout this upcoming season.

If you'd like to see photos taken by Stars photographer Brandon Anderson, you can click here to view those.

Click the "Read More" link underneath the photo below to see all of the snapshots in this series.

Starting lineup (L-R): Mike McKee, Daniel Willett, Eric Scheid, Jake Wood, Luke Johnson

B³ Postgame Recap 9/22: Lincoln 3, Muskegon 1

Stars celebrate after the 3-1 win
The Lincoln Stars wrapped up the 2012 USHL Fall Classic with a workmanlike 3-1 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks yesterday in Sioux City, Iowa.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore. 

Lincoln finished the four-day Fall Classic tournament with a 2-1-0 record. The Stars outscored their Fall Classic opponents 11-6 in three games. Overall, the Stars finished with a 3-2-0 record in five preseason games.

I made the trek up to Sioux City to watch this game in person, so I'll include my thoughts and opinions below.  As always, the Fall Classic is a very fun event to witness in person and I had a blast watching four straight USHL preseason games.  Met some blog readers as well which is always good.

The Stars did not start this game very well, as they looked sluggish and a bit out of it during the first 10 minutes of the game.  The Lumberjacks controlled play, but was unable to get any shots past Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb.  About halfway through the first period, everything started to click for Lincoln and they took over control of the game.

There was no scoring in the first period, and Lincoln outshot Muskegon 14-6.  Most of those 14 shots for Lincoln came during the last half of the period.

In the second period, the Lumberjacks scored their only goal of the game thanks to a powerplay tally by forward Frederik Tiffels with roughly five minutes remaining in the period.  On that particular play, Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer, who entered the game halfway through the second period, was screened by a Lumberjacks player and did not see Tiffels' shot from just outside the faceoff circle which beat him stick side.

Just when it looked like the 'Jacks might take a 1-0 lead into the second intermission, Stars forward Tommy Schutt scored a nice powerplay goal with 1:27 remining in the second period.  Ross Olsson and Mike McKee earned the assists on Schutt's PP goal.

At the end of the second period, the score was knotted up at 1-1.  Lincoln had outshot Muskegon 23-15 through two periods.

It didn't take long for Lincoln to take the lead for the first time in this game in the third period as forward Max Humitz scored less than two minutes in to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.  Lincoln forward Jimmy DeVito initiated the play by skating the puck into the Muskegon defensive zone and ripping a shot that was saved by 'Jacks goaltender Hayden Stewart.  However, Stewart kicked the save right to a wide open Max Humitz who one-timed the puck into the open net.  DeVito earned the only assist on Humitz's even-strength goal, which turned out to be the eventual game-winner.

Later in the third period, Lincoln would get their insurance goal thanks to another big goal by Tommy Schutt.  Schutt's second goal of the game, which came at the 12:58 mark of the third, was set up nicely by Max Humitz who earned the only assist on the play.

Stars win this one by a score of 3-1 that could have easily been 5-1 or 6-1 if it wasn't for Muskegon goaltender Hayden Stewart, who played very well.  Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb, who played the first half of the game, stopped all 9 shots he faced.  Michael Bitzer, who played the second half, stopped 14 of 15.  Bitzer came up big in the third period when he stopped a penalty shot attempt by Muskegon's Riley Alferd.  Alferd faked a forehand shot before trying to score on his backhand but Bitzer denied him.

Stars forward Jake Wood started this game, but was injured early on and did not return.  It appeared to me that Wood caught an elbow to his face/head area while attempting to check a Muskegon player early in the first period.  Wood tried to get up but looked very woozy.  He was helped to the bench and did not return.  I'm hoping this injury isn't something that's going to linger because Wood has been one of Lincoln's best players in the preseason.  I think the fans are really going to love watching this kid play.  He's a bit on the small side, but he's fearless with or without the puck.  He's got great speed and good hands, but he's also not afraid to throw his body around looking for the big hit.

I continue to be impressed with the young talent on this team, especially with players such as Daniel Willett, Zack Pittman, and Max Humitz.  Those three are the youngest players on the team, so you'd expect them to have some growing pains getting acclimated to the speed and physicality of the USHL.  However, from what I've seen so far this preseason, all three appear to be well adept at performing well at the USHL level.  The future is certainly bright with these three youngsters.

Speaking of Max Humitz, he finished as Lincoln's top point scorer at the USHL Fall Classic with 4 points (2g, 2a) in three games.  Humitz was also +5, and his two goals were both game winners.  Along with Tommy Schutt and Jimmy DeVito, Humitz was one of Lincoln's top forwards in this game.

Considering this team really hasn't had a lot of practice time, I thought they played very, very well at the Fall Classic.  Because they start practicing a bit late compared to most other USHL teams, the Stars have traditionally been a slow-starting team.  That could still happen this year but I'd be willing to bet against it.  There's a lot of talent on this club at every position .

The Stars outshot their opponents 90-65 in three games at the USHL Fall Classic, and never gave up more than 23 shots in any of those games.  Lincoln went 3-for-13 on the powerplay at the Fall Classic, which is a goal percentage of 20%.  Lincoln's penalty kill unit played well also, killing 15 of 16 powerplay chances against (93.75%)  It's a positive sign that the special teams are playing that well this early on.

Both Jackson Teichroeb and Michael Bitzer played about 90 minutes at the Fall Classic.  Teichroeb stopped 26 of 30 shots for a 2.72 goals against average and a .867 save percentage.  Bitzer stopped 33 of 35 shots for a 1.33 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.  It will be interesting to see which goaltender the coaches pick to start the home opener this Friday night at the IceBox.

That's enough babbling from me!  If you were at the Fall Classic, or watching from home via FASTHockey, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Which newcomer on the team are you the most impressed with?  If you're the coach, who would you start in net this Friday night?

Go Stars.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Lincoln vs. Cedar Rapids 9/20

Much thanks go out to blog reader "Starstruck" for allowing me to share the pictures below from the Lincoln-Cedar Rapids game yesterday.  Starstruck has a new Facebook "Shooting Star Photos" page which you can see by clicking here.  If you're on Facebook, make sure you head over there and "like" the page so you'll be updated later with other photos from the Fall Classic and throughout this upcoming season.

If you'd like to see photos taken by Stars photographer Brandon Anderson, you can click here to view those.

Click the "Read More" link underneath the photo below to see all of the snapshots in this series.

Lincoln's bench

Thursday, September 20, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 9/20: Lincoln 3, Cedar Rapids 4

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Despite outplaying Cedar Rapids for a good majority of the game, the Stars gave up a one-goal lead in the third period and lost to the Roughriders by a score of 4-3.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 2-2-0 in the preseason.  The Stars will take tomorrow (Friday) off before returning to the ice at the USHL Fall Classic on Saturday (9/22) to take on the Muskegon Lumberjacks at the Tyson Event Center.

The game against the Lumberjacks will be Lincoln's last preseason game before the home opener next Friday at the IceBox.  The puck will drop at 1:00pm CST on Saturday for Stars-Lumberjacks tilt.

I was able to watch this game on FASTHockey and I'll post my recap and opinions below.

Just like yesterday against the Fargo Force, the Stars came out strong in the first period and controlled play for the most part.  The Stars got on the scoreboard first when Luke Johnson scored a powerplay goal at the 8:30 mark to give Lincoln the early 1-0 lead.  While in the Cedar Rapids zone, Vinni Lettieri made a terrific backhand pass to Johnson who rifled the puck glove high past 'Riders goaltender Chris Birdsall.  Lettieri and Vinny Muto picked up the assists on Johnson's goal.

Despite owning the territorial edge in the first period, the Roughriders were able to even the score at 1-1 after Landon Smith's goal late at the 16:55 mark.  The play began with Michael Neville bringing the puck into the Lincoln zone, skating behind the net before centering the puck to Smith who shot the puck past Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb.  It was a very nice setup by Neville, who was recently traded by the Stars to the Roughriders.  I'm still disappointed that Neville was traded away.  He was one of the Roughriders' better players today, and I'm sure he was motivated to play well in front of the Lincoln coaches who traded him to Cedar Rapids.

At the end of the second period, the score was tied at 1-1.  Lincoln outshot Cedar Rapids 7-5 through the first 20 minutes.

In the second, it was pretty much the same for the Stars as they outplayed the 'Riders and eventually got on the scoreboard.  Stars defenseman Daniel Willett, the youngest and smallest player on Lincoln's roster, scored at the 9:55 mark to give the good guys a 2-1 lead.  Max Humitz, who collected the primary assist on Willett's goal, made a very nice pass in the 'Riders zone to a breaking Willett who buried the puck past Birdsall.  Humitz and Tommy Schutt picked up the assists on Willett's even-strength goal.

Landon Smith wasn't done with the Stars in the second as he scored his second goal of the game with two minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the period.  At the end of the second period the score was knotted up at 2-2.  Stars outshot the 'Riders 16-14 through two periods.

In the third, the Stars retook the lead for the second time the game when Vinni Lettieri sniped a short side wrister past Birdsall while the Stars were on a 5-on-3 powerplay.  Daniel Willett and Luke Johnson earned the assists on Lettieri's goal scored two minutes into the third period.

Just when it felt like the Stars would ride the one-goal lead into a well earned win, the Roughriders took advantage of the few offensive chances given to them in the third period to score two straight goals to post the 4-3 victory over Lincoln.  Gerald Mayhew scored for CR at the 10:55 mark, and then it was Landon Smith scoring his third goal of the game, and the game winner, at the 13:02 mark of the third period.

The Stars put a lot of pressure on 'Riders goaltender Chris Birdsall late in the third period, but rookie goaltender shut the door on Lincoln.  Stars outshot the Roughriders 30-22 thru the three periods, but Cedar Rapids won the game 4-3.

Birdsall stopped 27 of 30 shots in the win.  Jackson Teichroeb stopped 18 of 22 in the loss.

Scratched for Lincoln were Michael Bunn, David Parrottino, Jimmy DeVito, Justin Woods, and Jake Wood.

The Stars pretty much dominated the special teams play in this game.  Lincoln went 2-for-6 on the powerplay while the Roughriders went 0-for-8.  Lincoln spent too much time in the penalty box but the the PK unit did a great job of putting a blanket on the Cedar Rapids PP unit.

Despite the loss, I thought the Stars deserved a better fate than was dealt to them in this game.  For the most part, Lincoln dominated the play and looked to be the better team for a good portion of the game.  The Stars did take some undisciplined penalties at times, and could have done a better job defensively by eliminating some of the giveaways that led to Roughriders goals.  But overall, the Stars played pretty damn well considering they've only had a handful of practices together as a team.

I'll be in Sioux City on Saturday to watch all of the games at the Tyson Events Center so my recap article of the Lincoln-Muskegon game won't be posted until Sunday morning sometime.  If you're at the games on Saturday and you see a tall guy sporting a brace on his left leg, hobbling around on crutches, wearing a black Stars hat....feel free to stop me and say hi.  I always enjoy to meet the people who read this blog.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Snapshots of the Game: Lincoln vs. Fargo 9/19

Much thanks go out to blog reader "Starstruck" for allowing me to share the pictures below from the Lincoln-Fargo game yesterday.  Starstruck has a new Facebook "Shooting Star" photo page which you can see by clicking here.  If you're on Facebook, make sure you head over there and "like" the page so you'll be updated later with other photos from the Fall Classic and throughout this upcoming season.

If you'd like to see photos taken by Stars photographer Brandon Anderson, you can click here to view those.

Click the "Read More" link underneath the photo below to see all of the snapshots in this series.

Pregame huddle

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 9/19: Lincoln 5, Fargo 1

The Lincoln Stars used a strong 60 minute effort tonight in their opening game of the USHL Fall Classic tournament to cruise to a 5-1 victory over the Fargo Force.

 Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

I was able to watch this game on FASTHockey, so I'll include my thoughts below.

The Stars came out very strong and took it right to the Force in the first period of this game.  I'm not sure if the Force were still on the bus (mentally), but they just looked a bit tired and out of it.  The Stars took advantage of that and scored three goals in a six-minute span of the first period.

First goal was scored by forward Jake Wood, with the lone assist going to Garrett Brossart.  Unfortunately, my FASTHockey video feed was lost just before Wood scored so I didn't get to see it.  If anyone else out there saw it, please leave a comment below and let me know how he scored.

Jake Wood had a hand in Lincoln's second goal of the game when he took advantage of a Fargo turnover behind their own net by intercepting the puck and passing it to a wide open Max Humitz in the slot.  Humitz had plenty of time to snipe it past Fargo goaltender Tomas Sholl to give Lincoln a 2-0 lead.  Wood earned the only assist on Humitz's even-strength goal.  Humitz's goal would turn out to be the eventual game-winner.

At the 10:43 mark of the first period, Stars defenseman Justin Woods fought hard for the puck along the near boards before centering the puck towards a breaking Zach Aston-Reese who faked one way and went the other before scoring short side on Sholl.  Woods earned the only assist on Lincoln's third goal of the game.

Fargo scored their only goal of the game late in the first period to pull within one goal at 3-1.  Stars outshot the Force 10-8 through the first 20 minutes.

In the second period, it didn't take very long for the Stars to get back on the scoreboard.  After a hard point shot by Stars defenseman Daniel Willett, the puck bounced to a wide open Eric Scheid who tapped it into net to give Lincoln a 4-1 lead.  Willett picked up the only assist on Scheid's even-strength tally.

Late in the second period, the Stars would add their fifth and final goal of the game at the 17:38 mark.  Stars defenseman Mike McKee collected the puck in the neutral zone after a big hit and skated quickly into the Fargo zone.  McKee used his speed and long reach to hold onto the puck just as he was cycling behind the Force net before finding Will Suter in the slot.  Suter one-timed the puck past Fargo goaltender Aaron Nelson to give the Stars a 5-1 lead.

Stars outshot Fargo 8-7 in the second period.

Neither team would find the back of the net in the third period as Lincoln put the clamps on Fargo and outshot them 8-5 in the final stanza.

Stars outshot the Force overall, 26-20.  Both teams went 0-for-3 on the powerplay.

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer was solid in net stopping 19 of 20 Fargo shots to record the win.  Bitzer didn't have to make a lot of saves, but he came up pretty big on a number of quality Fargo offensive chances.  I assume since Bitz played today that Jackson Teichroeb will get the start against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders tomorrow.

Scratched from this game for Lincoln were Charlie Donlin (D), Vinni Lettieri (F), Michael Bunn (F), David Parrottino (F), and Brad Hawkinson (F).

Great effort tonight by the entire team.  I thought Fargo came out very sluggish while the Stars looked sharp right off the bat.  Before the Force could wake up, the Stars put up three goals in the first period and the game was pretty much over at that point.  The Force played better in the second and third periods, but the Stars wanted it more tonight and it showed.

Just a quick shout out to the FASTHockey announcer of this game, Jordan Berger.  I've been a fan of Berger for a while now.  He has done play-by-play for the Fall Classic for the past few years now and does a great job.  You can tell he does his homework ahead of time.  Jordan had some very nice things to say about this blog while he was on the air tonight, and I appreciate that.  Great job once again, Jordan.

I hope post some pictures tomorrow of this game, so stay tuned for that.  I'll post those in a separate article.

Let's do this all over again tomorrow!  I'll be watching again on FASTHockey.  If you were at the game tonight, I'd really love to hear from you!  Comments are wide open.  You do not need to register to comment.

Go Stars.

Monday, September 17, 2012

B³ Lincoln Stars 2012 Fall Classic Preview

The Lincoln Stars will continue their exhibition schedule this week when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa to participate in the 2012 USHL Fall Classic tournament.  The Stars will play a total of three games over the course of four days.  Lincoln will face off against the Fargo Force on Wednesday, September 19th, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders on Thursday, September 20th, and the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday September 22nd.  The Stars will not play a game on Friday, September 21st.  These three exhibition contests will be the final preseason games the Stars will play before they start the USHL 2012-13 regular season on Friday, September 28th at the IceBox in Lincoln against the Sioux Falls Stampede.

The Fall Classic is one of the most heavily scouted hockey tournaments in North America.  Click here to read more about that.  Every year I go to Sioux City for the Fall Classic, I'm amazed at the amount of college and pro scouts that I see.  At times they outnumber the total amount of fans in the seats.  This tournament is a great opportunity for so many players to be seen, and possibly earn a college hockey scholarship.

For those who are unaware, the USHL Fall Classic tournament is held at two different ice rinks in Sioux City:  the Tyson Events Center (TEC), and the IBP Ice Center.  The TEC is the home rink for the Sioux City Musketeers.  The IBP Ice Center is a much smaller rink.  The Muskies staff and volunteers do a great job of hosting this event.  Here is the pricing for the tickets, which can be purchased in person at the TEC or the IBP Ice Center.  

Cost: 4-Day Pass: $49 / $15 Adult / $10 Child 3-12 / $10 Evening Game

Those prices above are for only in-person purchase.  If you decide to purchase passes ahead of time on Ticketmaster (which I don't recommend you do-read below), you'll end up spending a lot more money because of Ticketmaster's hidden charges.

If you are planning on being up at the Fall Classic for all four days, then the 4-day pass is the best bargain.  If you're only going up for one or two days, then the $15 per day pass is probably the best bet.  I wouldn't worry about buying these passes ahead of time.  These games do not sellout.  In the past I've always just bought passes at either rink when I arrive.

All games, including those at the IBP Ice Center, will be broadcast live on FASTHockey. The cost of each game is roughly $7, and you can purchase games ahead of time and watch them later with FASTHockey.  For example, you can purchase one of the games the Stars will play ahead of time, and if you can't watch it live, you can log into your FASTHockey account and watch it later (on-demand) when you have time.  Click here to read a FAQ about FASTHockey.  I used FASTHockey a number of times last season and they generally do a pretty good job.

If you don't want to spend the cash on FASTHockey, you can also follow the boxscores of each game online via Pointstreak.   I do not believe any of the Fall Classic games will be available over the radio.  Okay, enough of that.  Let's get to the individual matchups.  All times listed below are CST.

                                                        6:00pm Wednesday, 9/19: Lincoln Stars vs. Fargo Force
The Fargo Force are a very familiar opponent for the Lincoln Stars.  The last time these two teams met, Stars forward Brad Hawkinson scored a clutch overtime goal to beat the Force 3-2, and bounced them out of the Clark Cup playoffs.   The Force have a 1-0-0 preseason record after a 4-2 home win over the Sioux Falls Stampede on 9/14.  Fargo returns some very good  young players from last season such as Justin Wade (D), Alex Iafallo (F), and Gabe Guertler (F).  This game will be played at the IBP Ice Center.  If you're attending this game, dress warm because the IBP is freezing inside.

                                                        4:00pm Thursday, 9/20: Lincoln Stars vs. Cedar Rapids Roughriders
The Roughriders are coming off a down season (for them) in 2011-12 when they finished with a 27-21-12 record, which was good enough for fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference.  In the 2012 playoffs, the 'Riders were swept in the first round (2-0) by the Youngstown Phantoms.  Last season, the Roughriders were hit hard with the injury bug, and that seems to be the case again already this preseason.  An acquaintance who is a CR fan recently told me they have more than a few players out injured right now.  Riley Bourbonnais (F) is CR's top returning point-scorer from last season.  This game will be played at the Tyson Events Center.

                                                        1:00pm Saturday, 9/22: Lincoln Stars vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks
The Lumberjacks are coming off a disappointing 17-35-8 season last year that saw them miss a spot in the Clark Cup Playoffs and finish with the second worst record in the USHL.  Lincoln finished the 2011-12 season with 1,424 penalty minutes, which was the most of any USHL team.  The second place PIM team?  The Muskegon Lumberjacks with 1,394.  It's safe to say that the Lumberjacks play a very physical style, but unlike the Stars, it hasn't translated very well into wins over the years.  The 'Jacks are 1-1-0 in two preseason games.  This game will be played at the Tyson Events Center.  

Like all preseason games, you really never know what to expect with these Fall Classic tilts.  Most of these teams will rest some of their better players, and will instead roster some of the younger, inexperienced players whom the coaches want to watch live during a USHL game environment.  As I've said before, these exhibition games are more for the coaches than they are for the fans.  The coaches of every USHL team have to cut down their respective rosters down to 23 players immediately after the Fall Classic.  So it's really important that they get as many players as possible into these games so they can better evaluate them before the start of the regular season.  

I've been on the injured reserve list due to a recent knee surgery, so I will not be attending most of the Fall Classic games.  However, I'm planning on driving up on Saturday the 22nd and watching the Muskegon-Lincoln game and the rest of the games at the Tyson Events Center.  I know that a lot of Lincoln Stars fans will be in Sioux City this week, and I will be leaning on them a bit in terms of their opinions of Lincoln's first two games, and hopefully some pictures as well.  So if you'll be in attendance, please come back here and share your opinions.  I'd love to hear from you. 

I will be watching Lincoln's first two Fall Classic games via FASTHockey, so I'll be able to provide thoughts and opinions on those matchups as well.  I'll be posting frequent recap articles this week after each game, so stay tuned for those.  Looking forward to it!  It's starting to feel more and more like hockey season!  Wishing safe travels to all hockey fans and player parents going to Sioux City this week.  

Sound off if you'll be at the Fall Classic!  You can leave a comment below.

Go Stars.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 9/15: Lincoln 5, Green Bay 0

It was a strong second half which propelled the Lincoln Stars to a 5-0 shutout win over the defending Clark Cup champion Green Bay Gamblers at the Clyde Iron Cup in Duluth, MN today.

Lincoln rebounded after yesterday's 3-0 shutout loss to the Tri-City Storm.  Green Bay finished the Clyde Iron Cup with a 0-2 record, while giving up 12 goals in those two games.  Tri-City went on to win the Clyde Iron Cup tournament with a 3-2 OT win over the Sioux City Musketeers today.

Pointstreak did not cover this game, so unfortunately there is no boxscore to reference.  My Twitter friend @zackfriedli was not able to attend this game, so unfortunately there were no live updates to follow on Twitter.  However, a small Duluth TV station did offer an online broadcast to watch for free.  The quality wasn't very good, and the announcers knew very little about USHL hockey, but it was better than nothing.

This game was divided into two, 25-minute halves.  I'm not sure why they decided to do that.  Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb started and played the entire game, pitching the shutout.  Lincoln's team defense did such a good job today that Teichroeb very rarely was tested.

In the first half, the only Stars goal came from defenseman Justin Woods.  My online feed at the time was not working, so I did not see Woods' goal.

In the second half, the Stars exploded for four goals, including three scored within a minute and 30 seconds span.  Defenseman Justin Woods scored his second goal of the game on a Stars' PP with a nice shot from just inside the blueline that looked to beat the Green Bay goaltender glove high.

Moments later, Stars forward Will Suter accepted a long pass at the opponent's blueline, skated in alone on the GB goaltender, and scored glove high to give Lincoln a 3-0 lead.  Seconds later, Stars forward Dominik Shine took advantage of a Gamblers turnover in their own end and rifled the puck into the net for a 4-0 lead.

Incoming Stars forward Ross Olsson completed the scoring with a nice deflection goal later in the second half of the game.

I was unable to keep track of the assists, so I only have the goal scorers.  Many times the announcers never stated who picked up the assists anyway.

From what I saw, it was a very good effort put forth by the Stars today.  Lincoln spent a lot of time in the penalty box, but Lincoln's PK unit did a great job of minimizing the shots that got through to Jackson Teichroeb.  By my count, Lincoln was whistled for 13 minor penalties, while Green Bay was whistled for 7 minor penalties.

I think the Stars have to feel pretty good about only giving up two goals over the past two games.  Yes, Tri-City scored three goals yesterday, but their last goal was an empty-netter so I'm not going to count that one.  Goaltending and team defense was strong today and yesterday, while the offense warmed up today with the five goals scored.

The Stars will return to Lincoln for a few days before jumping back on the bus and making the trek north to Sioux City, IA for the USHL Fall Classic next week.  Click here to read more about the Fall Classic.  Stars will play first on Wednesday 9/19 against the Fargo Force.  Second game at the Fall Classic will be on Thursday 9/20 against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  Lincoln's third, and final game at the Fall Classic will take place on Saturday 9/22 against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

I'll post a Fall Classic preview article here on the blog either on Monday or Tuesday so keep an eye out for that.  I'll take a closer look at Lincoln's three opponents at the Fall Classic.

Go Stars.

Friday, September 14, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 9/14: Tri-City 3, Lincoln 0

The Lincoln Stars opened up the preseason with a 3-0 shutout loss to the Tri-City Storm this afternoon at the Clyde Iron Cup tournament in Duluth, MN.  This game was not broadcast over the radio, or on FASTHockey.  Pointstreak also did not provide live updates, so this "recap" will be very brief.

Just about all of the updates I received from the game were thanks to Zack Friedli, who lives in the Duluth area and is a writer for @hockeyhub, @chnews, and @umdbulldogs contributor.  Zack was in attendance this afternoon and was providing live updates thoroughout the game via his Twitter account.  Much thanks to Zack for helping us all out.  Without his assistance, we'd all be left in the dark.  TC Storm fan Rob McArdle also helped out with some tweets from the game.

At the end of the first period, the score was 0-0.  Shots were 10-7 in favor of the Tri-City Storm after the first 20 minutes.

In the second period, the Storm got on the scoreboard with a goal from Trevor Moore on a 2-on-1 situation. Shots were 21-19 in favor of the Stars after the second period.  The Storm held onto the 1-0 lead at the second intermission.

In the third period, the Storm netted two goals to complete the scoring.  Joel L'Esperance of the Storm scored on a powerplay to make it 2-0 Tri-City.  Late in the period with Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer pulled for the extra attacker, Storm forward Tim Lappin scored an empty net goal to finish out the goals.

Storm goaltenders Michael Santaguida and Marcus Due-Boje combined for the shutout.  Santaguida, who was a free agent invite at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June, started the first half of the game.  Due-Boje played the second half.

Shots were even at 28-28 a piece.  There was one fight in this game: Ross Olsson (LNK) vs. Brian Ward (TC).

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer started and played the entire game for Lincoln, stopping 25 of 27 shots.  According to Zack, Bitzer was Lincoln's best player on the ice.  If you go back and read his tweets from the game, you'll see that Bitzer stood on his head and made a number of highlight reel saves to keep the Stars in the game.

Here are the line combinations for the forwards:  Olsson-Schutt-Coatta, Humitz-Wold-Lettieri, Brossart-Scheid-Johnson, Aston Reese-Hawkinson-Suter, Wood/Devito extra forwards

Here are the line combinations for the defensemen:  Woods-Muto, Frye-Willett, Pittman-Donlin

Scratches for Lincoln were:  Paul LaDue (D), Mike McKee (D), Dominik Shine (F), Michael Bunn (F), and David Parrottino (F).  Bunn and Parrottino are recovering from injuries.  Bunn had knee surgery over the summer to repair a torn ACL which occurred during Lincoln's tryout camp in June.  Bunn will likely miss the first few months of the season.  Parrottino is recovering from minor shoulder surgery and should be back in the lineup in the next month.

The Stars will be back in action tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon when they play the loser of the Sioux City-Green Bay game which is being played tonight.  Lincoln's game tomorrow will begin at 11:30am.  Make sure you follow the B³ Twitter account tomorrow afternoon for live updates.

Edit:  The Green Bay Gamblers lost to the Sioux City Musketeers tonight by a score of 7-5, so the Stars will face the Gamblers tomorrow at 11:30am CST for their final game at the Clyde Iron Cup.  There's a chance this game could be broadcast online here.  More later when I get confirmation.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Much thanks to some very nice blog readers from Colorado for sending me the picture above, and the picture below from the game this afternoon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Clyde Iron Cup Preview

The 2012-13 edition of the Lincoln Stars will take to the ice for the first time this weekend when they participate in the Clyde Iron Cup Tournament, which will be held at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center in Duluth, MN from September 14-15th.  Click here to read the official announcement from the USHL.

The Stars are one of four USHL teams that will be in action at this particular preseason tournament.  The other three USHL teams participating are the Tri-City Storm, the Sioux City Musketeers, and the Green Bay Gamblers.

The Stars (and each of the other three USHL teams) will play a total of two games over the course of September 14th and 15th.  Here's the schedule for the first day of the tournament:

Friday, September 14th at 3:00pm CST
Lincoln Stars vs. Tri-City Storm

Friday, September 14th at 8:00pm CST
Green Bay Gamblers vs. Sioux City Musketeers

The winning teams from each of the two games I listed above will meet in the Clyde Iron Cup "championship" game on Saturday, September 15th at 2:00pm CST.  The two losing teams will meet in the consolation game to take place also on September 15th, at 11:30am CST.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that as fans we'll be able to follow this tournament very well.  The Stars have stated that they are not sending radio announcer Mike Melbye to Duluth, MN.  I imagine that the other three USHL clubs are also not planning on broadcasting this game over the radio.

The USHL has also said that will not be broadcasting any of the tournament games online, which is really unfortunate.  I'm unaware of any Stars fans who are making the 9.5 hour north to Duluth to watch the Stars, and if there are any out there who are, I'd love to hear from them.  I think really could have made some good money by broadcasting the four games this weekend since Duluth, MN isn't really close to any of the four cities sending USHL teams.

So my fellow Stars fans, it appears that the only way we'll be able to follow this tournament is by following the Pointstreak boxscore.  Click here to view the USHL Pointstreak page.  As you can see, the Lincoln vs. Tri-City game is listed, so I hope that means they will be providing live updates.  It's as good as it gets at this point.

These preseason games are mostly for the coaches on each team to evaluate the talent they have on their roster as all USHL clubs will need to cut down to 23 players before the start of the 2012-13 regular season. So this is an opportunity for those players on the proverbial bubble to impress their coaches and hopefully win a spot on the team.  Because of that, you normally see a lot of the veteran players held out of these preseason games because they already have a roster spot sewed up.  The coaches will want to observe how those first-year players acclimate to the speed and physicality of the USHL game.

Even though the majority of Stars fans will not be able to attend either of these two games, I think it's a great idea to go on a road trip this early on in the preseason to give the players on the team some time to gel and get to know one another.  The team just started practicing together this past Monday, and will most likely have only three on-ice practices at the IceBox before jumping on the bus and making the 9.5 hour drive to Duluth, MN.

I will be following these two Stars games as best as I can and will provide updates on the B³ Twitter Page, and also here on the blog with recap articles after each game.

Hockey season is here!  Can you believe it?  I'm super excited, even if it is just a preseason tournament.

Go Stars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Josh Berge Added to Coaching Staff

USHL Images
Just announced by the Lincoln Stars is the addition of former Stars forward Josh Berge to the coaching staff.  Click here to read the official release from the team.  Berge is a name very familiar to hockey fans in this city.  Here's an excerpt from the article linked above:

Josh Berge is the newest member of the Stars coaching staff, assuming the position of Assistant Coach for the team.  Berge, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, played for the Stars during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, and wore the "C" for the Stars before concussion injuries ended his playing career.  

"Josh has always had a great mind for the game, and it was obvious as a player that he saw things from a coach's perspective," said Head Coach Chad Johnson.  "He's been a captain on every team he's been on, which says a lot about his character, and will translate well as he transitions to coaching in the USHL."

"Obviously, I'm excited to be working with Chad, Jimmy and the rest of the Stars staff," said Berge.  "Hockey has been such a huge part of my life, so I'm thankful for the opportunity to stay involved in the sport that has meant so much to me."

What's not stated above is that Josh Berge was the head coach of the Lincoln Jr. Stars the last few years, I believe.  For those of us who remember Berge as a player, I'm sure he'll fit in very well with Chad Johnson and Jimmy McGroarty.  Berge wasn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he had a huge heart and led by example with his gutsy play.  He had a great work ethic and a motor that would never quit.  As the youngest coach on the team, I'm sure he'll be able to relate to the incoming players, and even the veterans, very well.

I always felt kind of sorry for Josh because of the issues with concussions that he was faced with as a player.  There's no doubt in my mind Josh could have went on to have a very fulfilling hockey career as a player if it had not been cut short by the concussions.  I'm just happy to see him stay in the game as a coach.

Great addition to the team, in my opinion.  Looking forward to seeing Josh behind the Lincoln bench once again.

Edit:  I forgot to mention that Josh's older brother Mick Berge, who also played for the Lincoln Stars (2002-05), is an assistant head coach for the Minot (ND) Minotauros of the North American Hockey League (NAHL)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Help support USA Floor Hockey in the 2013 Special Olympics

I received an email from a blog reader today about a cause that has nothing to do with the Lincoln Stars or the USHL, but I thought it was important enough to devote an article to.

I'm lucky enough to get a lot of hits on this blog, and I think it's only right to try to give back at times and do what I can to highlight certain causes that I believe deserve the attention.  It's the least that I can do.

I'm going to post a quote from an email that I received from Tyler this morning about the cause he is championing:

The unified floor hockey team from South Sioux City will be representing Nebraska Special Olympics and the United States at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea. We are also going to a week long training camp the start of December in Lake Placid, NY. In order to be able to go on this trip, our team has to raise half of the cost, which is $28,000. We have currently raised over $18,000 of that goal.

I'm going to post some links below that I hope my readers will check out.  Please find it in your heart to help out this group and assist them in their drive to a goal of $28,000.  I know Tyler and the organizers at SiouxLand USA Floor Hockey would appreciate your support.  Click here to learn how your or your company can help donate to this cause.

More information can be found below.

Official USA Floor Hockey Team Website
USA Floor Hockey Facebook Page
USA Floor Hockey Twitter Account

I'm also going to post a permanent link on the right hand portion of the blog to help generate interest.  Thanks for reading.

High Heel Relay Supports Good Cause

Thanks to the blog reader who sent me this link today.  I thought I'd share it with everyone out there.

Some members of the Lincoln Stars volunteered their time yesterday to help raise money towards the Lincoln Junior League.  I'm going to post a video below from 10/11 News of highlights from the "High Heel Relay," held yesterday at Southpointe Pavilion.  Click here to view the article.  Text from the article is below:

Local runners wore some really uncomfortable shoes to make a difference Sunday.

The Lincoln Junior League held its inaugural High Heel Relay at Southpointe Pavilion this morning.

Fifteen teams of both men and women strapped on stilettos to raise money for a good cause.

The League donates money and time to local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Matt Talbot Kitchen.

Besides men's and women's heats, there was also a celebrity race.

Lincoln Stars hockey player Zach Aston-Reese won it in a pair of black strappy wedges, claiming the coveted green heel trophy.

At the :39 mark of the video, you can see Stars forward Dominik Shine sporting a very stylish pair of leopard print high heels.  And starting at the 1:08 mark of the video, you can see Stars forward Zach Aston-Reese winning the celebrity race in a pair of "black strappy wedges."  Who knew our favorite hockey players looked so good in high heels. :)  I found out later that Will Suter also participated in this event.

In all seriousness, this is a good glimpse at only one activity of many these players do throughout the season to give back to the local community.  Good on them.

Edit:  Here's another video from KLKN News.  More footage of Zach-Aston Reese winning his event, and holding his trophy!  Click the link below to watch the video.

High Heel Relay Race For Charity

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Michael Bitzer's Mask

Much thanks to the person close to Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer for contacting me with this picture.  For those fans who might not know a lot about Lincoln's new goaltender, Bitzer had a record of 22-8-0 (including 7 shutouts) for his hometown Moorhead (MN) Spuds high school team last season before being the Stars' first selection in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft.  After completing his senior season at Moorhead, Bitzer went 3-0-1 in four games with the Alexandria Blizzard of the NAHL.  Michael will team up with returning Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb for the 2012-13 season here in Lincoln.

You should be able to click on the picture below to make it a little bigger so you can see some of the smaller detail, including a great rendering of the Lincoln skyline on Bitzer's left cheek (right side of the helmet).  There is a Stars logo on the forehead, and Michael's nickname "Bitz" on the chin area.  Very cool!  Again, thanks to the person who contacted me today with this picture.   I knew that a lot of Stars fans out there would appreciate seeing this a little early!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guess the Captains

I thought this might be a good topic to blog about since we are getting closer and closer to the start of the 2012-13 USHL season.  A reminder, the Stars will play their first preseason game on Friday, September 14th (10 days away!) against the Tri-City Storm at the "Clyde Iron Cup" tournament which will be held in Duluth, MN.  Click here to read more about that.  The Stars will play two games that weekend.  I'll post a Clyde Iron Cup preview article next week, so keep an eye out for that.

Soon after the Clyde Iron Cup, the Lincoln Stars will participate in the USHL's Fall Classic, held again in Sioux City, Iowa.  In that particular preseason tournament, the Stars will play three opponents in four days.  Click here to read more about that.

So with that said, this blog will start to get a lot more busy in the next month or so.  Sadly, my vacation from the blog is coming to and end but I'm not too bummed because I know that hockey season is just around the corner.  Best time of the year, by far.

Okay, now to the topic at hand.  I thought it might be a good idea to see what the fans think in regards to the captains next season.  Stars head coach Chad Johnson lets the players vote on captains, so the final decision is up to those players.  Last year, the Stars had two captains (Brent Tate, Dax Lauwers) and two alternate captains (Dominik Shine, Teemu Tiitinen).  I assume the Stars will do that same thing this next season, but there's a chance they could go back to the more traditional system of one captain, and two alternate captains.

Returning "vets" from last season are:

D-Paul LaDue
D-Zach Frye
D-Mike McKee
F-Tommy Schutt
F-Vinnie Lettieri
F-Will Suter
F-Zach Aston-Reese
F-Dominik Shine
F-Brad Hawkinson
F-Luke Johnson
F-Eric Scheid (played for Lincoln in 2010-11)

I suppose there's always a chance that a first-year player is given a letter to wear on his jersey, but in my opinion I don't think it will happen this season.

So looking at the returning players from last season, who would you guess is given the captain, and alternate captain titles?  Pick two captains, and two alternate captains.  You can leave your guesses below.  I'd also appreciate if you'd comment as to why you think your guesses are deserving.

Here are my guesses:

Captain:  Dominik Shine
Alternate captain from last season, and will be entering his fourth season with the Stars.  Dom has played nearly 150 games in a Lincoln Stars uniform.  Due to a knee injury suffered early on in the 2011-12 season, Shine missed nearly 30 games yet still scored 32 points (11g, 21a) in 32 games played.  In my opinion, I think Shine is a lock to be a captain.

Captain:  Paul LaDue
Played 64 games (regular season and playoffs) for the Stars last season, scoring 37 points (10g, 27a) and was +38.  Paul will be one of four overagers (players born in 1992) on the roster next season.  If you are to utilize a two captain system, I think it's important to have one captain from the forwards, and one captain from the defensemen.

Alternate Captain:  Mike McKee
"Big" Mike McKee played 67 games last season for the Stars last season, scoring 19 points (2g, 17a) along with 281 total penalty minutes.  More than willing to drop the gloves to protect his teammates.  Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings this past spring during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  Definitely a fan favorite, also.

Alternate Captain:  Will Suter
I admit, I'm a big Will Suter fan so this is pretty biased.  Will played a total of 58 games for the Stars last season, scoring 24 points (9g, 15a) along with 29 penalty minutes.  Outstanding work ethic with a non-stop motor.  He may not score a ton of points but his intangibles (especially away from the puck) make him invaluable.  Definitely a guy you want on your penalty-kill unit.  Like LaDue, Suter will be an overager next season.

So those are my predictions.  If the Stars decide to go to a one captain, two alternate captain system, I'd predict Shine as captain, and LaDue/McKee as the alternate captains.

Now I'd like to hear from the readers out there.  Which players are your team captains?  Please leave a comment below.  You do not need to register to leave a comment.  Thanks!