Thursday, October 4, 2012

B³ Pregame Report: Des Moines Buccaneers vs. Lincoln Stars 10/5

The Lincoln Stars will return to action this Friday night when they will face off against the Des Moines Buccaneers at the IceBox.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST.  The Stars are 1-0-0 on the young season, and are currently tied for second place in the USHL Western Conference.  If you can't make it to the friendly confines of the IceBox this Friday evening, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreaklisten to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.  For the second straight weekend, the Stars will only play the lone Friday night game, and will not play on Saturday (10/6).

The Bucs enter this game with a 0-1-1 record after losing two games on the road last weekend.  Last Friday night, the Bucs traveled to Ann Arbor, MI and were spanked by the Team USA U-17 squad by a score of 6-1.  In that particular game, the Bucs put a whopping 42 shots on Team USA goaltender Thatcher Demko (who played for the Omaha Lancers last season), but they could not solve him.  Meanwhile, the U-17's also put 42 shots on net but were successful in scoring six goals on Bucs goaltender Billy Christopoulos.

The next night (Saturday), the Bucs traveled to Youngstown, OH to take on the Youngstown Phantoms.  In that matchup, the Bucs got out to a strong start and had a 3-1 lead with one minute remaining in the game, yet lost a heart breaker in overtime.  With their goalie pulled for the extra attacker, the Phantoms were able to score two goals in the final minute of regulation to send the game to overtime, and eventually win by a score of 4-3.  In terms of tough losses, this was a big one for the Bucs.  Des Moines goaltender Nick Ellis stopped 25 of 29 Youngstown shots in the OT loss.

The Bucs are very similar to the team the Stars played last Friday night at the IceBox, the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Like the 'Pede, the Bucs are coming off a disappointing 2011-12 USHL regular season which saw them finish second to last in the western conference with a dismal record of 20-33-7.  Also like the Stampede, the Bucs fired their head coach (Regg Simon) and have since hired Jon Rogger, who was an assistant with the Green Bay Gamblers the past four seasons.  The Bucs are a young team still searching for an identity with Rogger at the helm.

It will be interesting to see which goaltender the Bucs start tomorrow night at the IceBox.  Both Christopoulos and Ellis are very young (both born in 1994), and neither had USHL experience heading into this season.  Suffice it to say, neither netminder has played in arena like the IceBox, and neither have experienced the atmosphere the IceBox and Stars fans provide.  If the Bucs want to stay in this game early on, it's imperative that Christopoulos or Ellis stand on their head, keep their composure, and make some big saves early on to keep the Bucs from falling behind early.  

The Bucs are led on offense by players such as Zach Saar, Axel (don't call me Rose) Wemmenborn, and Luke Voltin.  Saar leads the Bucs in points with 3 points (1g, 2a) in two games.  Saar is easy to spot, coming in at 6'4" and 210 pounds.  Wemmenborn, who is originally from Sweden and is a USHL rookie overager (born in 1992), has scored two goals in two games and is +2.  Voltin, who played 11 games with the Team USA U-17 team last season, has one assist and 14 penalty minutes in two games.  Voltin has committed to play hockey at the University of North Dakota, like current Stars Luke Johnson and Paul LaDue.

Speaking of Luke Johnson, he'll be back in the lineup against the Bucs after missing the home opener last weekend because he, along with rookie Stars forward Ross Olsson, was participating in the  2012 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, which was played last Saturday, September 29th in Buffalo, New York.  Both Johnson and Olsson are considered by many NHL scouts to be potential high draft selections in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  The Stars are a better team with those two in the lineup, so it will be good to see them on the ice against the Bucs.

As for the Lincoln Stars, they are coming off an impressive 5-1 victory over the Sioux Falls Stampede last Friday night at the IceBox.  Co-Captain Dominik Shine was Lincoln's best player on the ice, scoring the first two goals of the game.  Dom first scored to tie the game at 1-1 before adding his second goal which turned out to be the game-winning goal.  Speaking of Shine, one of the local news channels (Channel 8) interviewed Dom recently, so click here to watch that video if you missed it the first time.

As far as I know, the Stars are pretty healthy right now, save for forwards Michael Bunn and David Parrottino who started the season on the 45-day IR.  Both Bunn and Parrottino really impressed me at tryout camp, so the Stars will get even better when those two are healthy and back in the lineup.

Which goaltender for the Stars gets the lone start this weekend?  Will it be Jackson Teichroeb, who looked pretty solid in net last Friday net against the Stampede, stopping 23 of 24 shots for the win....or will it be rookie sensation Michael Bitzer, who was Lincoln's first draft pick in the 2012 USHL Entry Draft.  I've always been the type of person who thinks a coach should ride a hot goaltender until they're not hot anymore, so maybe the coaches will stick with Teichroeb in net.  However, I know that Bitzer is a guy the team thinks a lot of, and I'm sure the Lincoln coaches will want to give Bitzer some ice time very soon.

I'm really looking forward to another Friday night at the IceBox!  See you all there.

Go Stars.

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