The Lincoln Stars will look to get back in the win column this weekend when they face off against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders on Friday night at the IceBox, and the Sioux Falls Stampede on Saturday evening in Sioux Falls, SD. The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST both nights.
If you can't make it to any of the games this weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game on FASTHockey for a fee. The Stars are currently 10-1-0 (20 points), and are tied for first place in the USHL Western Conference with the Waterloo Blackhawks who are 10-2-0. Lincoln's winning percentage is .909 which is tops in the entire USHL. Click here to view the updated USHL standings
Lincoln's first opponent this weekend, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, have a record of 6-3-2 (14 points), and are in fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference. This will be the first of two regular season games the Stars and the Roughriders will play against one another. Both teams will meet on Wednesday, December 12th in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to complete the two-game series.
Historically, the Roughriders have not been a team the Stars have had much success against. Unbelievably, Cedar Rapids has won seven straight games at the IceBox, dating back to the 2007-08 season. That's an amazing statistic considering how well the Stars normally play in front of the home fans here in Lincoln.
Going back to the start of the 2007-08 season, the Stars and Roughriders have met a total of 16 times. The Stars have an disappointing record of 3-11-2 in those sixteen regular season games against the 'Riders. Simply put, this is a club that has had the Stars' number throughout the years. Hopefully that seven-game winning streak for the Roughriders at the IceBox comes to an end Friday night.
This season the Roughriders have another talented, quick, high-scoring offense. Nothing new about that. However, they've given up 36 goals through 11 games, an average of 3.27 per game. Much like Lincoln's other opponent this weekend (Sioux Falls), the Cedar Rapids Roughriders have scored a lot of goals but have given up a lot of goals also. Neither of the two Cedar Rapids goaltenders have save percentages about .900%, which is a must in this league.
With new head coach Cary Eades at the helm, the Sioux Falls Stampede are out to a fantastic start, winning 8 eight of their first 12 games and leading the league in attendance. I think most USHL pundits and fans expected the 'Pede to struggle a bit at first this season, considering the team was coming off a disastrous 2011-12 campaign, and with a brand new head coach and new system in 2012-13. That hasn't been the case.
In eight games at Sioux Falls Arena so far this season, the Stampede have an impressive 7-1-0 home record. In those 8 home contests, the Stampede have scored 38 goals, which is an average of 4.75 per game. In those same 8 home games, the 'Pede have surrendered 25 goals against, which is on average 3.13 per game. They've given up quite a few goals at home this season, but it hasn't mattered much because the offense is very, very potent in their own barn
Leading the way on offense for the 'Pede is forward Todd Skirving, who has won the USHL Offensive Player of the Week award for the past two weeks. Skirving is riding a four-game goal scoring streak, and has scored a whopping 8 goals in his last four games played. In his first 8 games of the season, Skirving only scored one goal, so he's definitely red hot right now.
The Stars will continue to be without three key players this weekend as Luke Johnson, Justin Woods, and Michael Bitzer will be competing for Team USA in the 2012 World Junior A challenge. The good news is that defenseman Mike McKee will be back in the lineup for the Stars after serving a three-game suspension handed down by the league.
The next three games will be a good litmus test for the Stars because they will be facing some of the top teams in both conferences. After this weekend, the Stars will play one game next week, a Friday night home game against the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The Roughriders, Stampede, and Fighting Saints have a combined record of 24-8-3. Two of the three games will be played at the IceBox, so that should help the Stars earn as many points as possible.