Sunday, September 23, 2012

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.

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