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.


nutz4puckz said...

Looks Like The LJS and the lazy one, bothered to post an article previewing the game tonight and it looks like Teichroeb will be getting the start in net tonight. Guess we will see how that plays out.

Kind of shocked that they bothered to do a write-up.

Yeti said...

Thanks, nutz4puckz. In a way I'm surprised Teichroeb is starting, but also not surprised. I thought Bitzer looked better in the preseason games that I saw, but he's the returning veteran. I guess he's the #1 in the coaches eyes until Bitzer can prove he has what it takes.