The Lincoln Stars will hop on the bus and spend Thanksgiving weekend on the road as they face the Chicago Steel on Friday, and the Dubuque Fighting Saints on Saturday. The puck will drop at 7:30pm CST Friday night in Chicago, IL, and at 7:05pm CST Saturday night in Dubuque, IA.
If you'd like to follow the road games this weekend, you can check out 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 11-3-1 (23 points), and are third place in the USHL Western Conference. After spending most of the season in first or second place, the Stars have dropped down to third place after losing three of their last four games. Despite dropping to third place, Lincoln's winning percentage of .767% is still tops in the western conference. Click here to view the updated USHL standings.
The Steel have a record of 8-6-1 (17 points), and are in fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, this will be the only time the Steel and the Stars will play against each other this season. The Steel will not make an appearance at the IceBox this season. The Stars get the Omaha Lancers 10 times in 2012-13, and certain eastern conference teams only once. There's something really wrong about that.
The Steel will be missing some key players from this game due to suspension. Last Saturday, the Steel faceoff against Team USA U-18, and the game turned into a gong-show in the third period. Click here to view the boxscore from that game, and check out the penalties called in the third period. Wow. A total of 198 penalty minutes were called, and multiple suspensions were handed out by the league afterwards. So the Steel will be without defenseman Joel Benson, and forwards Tyler Hill and Christian Heil (Chicago's leading goal scorer).
Like prior seasons, the 2012-13 edition of the Chicago Steel is a team that can score a lot of goals, but can give up a lot of goals. The Steel are giving up about 3.5 goals per game on average, and scoring about 3.3 per game. Chicago is also giving up a large amount of shots per game, over 38 on average. Conversely, the Stars are only giving up an average of 28 shots on goal per game. So unless something changes dramatically, the Stars should get plenty of chances tonight to put the puck into the net.
The Fighting Saints have a record of 15-2-1 (31 points), and are in first place in the USHL Eastern Conference. This will be the last time the Stars and Fighting Saints will play against one another this season. In their only other meeting, the Saints beat the Stars by a score of 3-2 at the IceBox a week ago on 11/16. In that game, the Saints took advantage of a fluke bounce in the third period to score the eventual game-winning goal. Lincoln played very well in the loss that night, and probably deserved at least one point.
The Saints are considered by many to be the best team in the USHL right now, and their winning percentage of .861% is proof of that. They are very, very strong at every position and play better team defense than any club in the USHL. Beating this team in Dubuque will be very tough, especially considering the Saints are undefeated (8-0-0) in eight home games this season. Unfortunately for the Stars, the Saints do not play Friday night, so they will be plenty rested for the tilt on Saturday night in Dubuque.
As far as I know, the Stars are pretty healthy right now and will not have any players out of the lineup due to suspension. Stars captain Dominik Shine served his one-game suspension this past Wednesday at the IceBox in Lincoln's 4-3 OT loss, so he'll be back in the lineup this weekend. Stars forward Jimmy DeVito, a Chicago native, will be going back home this Friday night to face his former team. DeVito played two seasons for the Steel, so I'm sure he's pumped to face his former team and prove to them they never should have traded him to Lincoln.
I plan on watching both of these games on FASTHockey, so I'll report back here with my thoughts.