With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 15-8-3 (33 points) and are in fourth place in the USHL Western Conference. The Stars are now 4-0-0 in four games against the Storm this season and have outscored them 12-4. Click here to view the updated USHL standings.
I was able to catch this matchup on FASTHockey tonight, so I'll post my thoughts below.
This game was the very definition of the term, "goaltending duel." The Stars and Storm combined for 91 shots on goal, but only three goals found the back of the net. Storm netminder Johan Mattson and Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer were definitely the two best players on the ice tonight.
Neither team would light the lamp in the first twenty minutes, but it certainly wasn't for lack of effort. Lincoln put a whopping 20 shots on Mattson in the first period while the Storm put 12 shots on Bitzer. Tons of scoring chances, great goaltending, but very little defense. That would be a common theme throughout the game.
I thought the Stars looked very, very good in the first period. I didn't see the holiday hangover that I thought I might see a little of. Lincoln had the better scoring chances in the first period compared to Tri-City, but Mattson stood tall for the Storm.
Late in the second period, the Storm gave up a costly turnover in their own zone and Stars defenseman Travis Maxwell took full advantage. Maxwell collected the turnover, skated into the open slot area and wristed the puck past Mattson to give Lincoln a 1-0 lead. Maxwell's unassisted, even-strength goal was his first as a member of the Lincoln Stars.
Tri-City outplayed Lincoln in the second period, but they could not solve Bitzer. Tri-City outshot Lincoln 19-10 in the second stanza, thanks mostly to three powerplay opportunities compared to only one for Lincoln.
Lincoln started the third period with a 1-0 lead, but that didn't last long. After not being able to clear the puck out of their own zone, the Stars allowed Storm forward Tim Bonner to walk right through the defense before putting a low, glove-side shot past Bitzer to knot the contest up at 1-1. Bitzer was left hanging by his teammates on the goal, and I can't fault him for a nice shot by Bonner (who has scored four goals in his last two games). The Storm goal came just four minutes into the third period. At the time, I worried that the Stars would give away yet another third period lead....but that didn't happen.
Lincoln peppered Mattson with 18 shots on goal in the third period, compared to only 9 for Tri-City, but neither team would score in regulation. Shots on goal were 48-40 in favor of Lincoln through three periods.
In the five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime period, the Stars would wait until the 4:08 mark to provide the game-winning goal. Forward Eric Scheid worked the puck along the boards in the Storm zone before finding a wide open Mike McKee just inside the blueline. McKee, with his head up all the time, faked a shot before threading a beautiful saucer pass to a wide-open Paul LaDue who was located just to the left of Mattson. LaDue collected the pass from McKee before wristing the puck past an outstretched Mattson to win the game. Just a great play overall.
Stars outshot Tri-City 50-41 overall. Lincoln went 0-for-2 on the powerplay while the Storm went 0-for-3 with the man advantage. It was a very clean game for the most part, which contributed a bit to the high shots totals. Very new whistles. It was race-track hockey for sure.
Bitzer stopped 40 of 41 shots on goal to record his 8th win of the season. Mattson stopped 48 of 50 shots in the loss. Hard to fault Mattson at all in this game. Both he and Bitzer played unbelievable in net.
I was told tonight that forward Brent Wold is not longer on the team, and will be going back to Canada to play hockey. Best of luck to Brent wherever he ends up. Wold's departure opens up an import spot on the roster if the coaches decided to go that route. Each USHL team can roster only four "import" players this season. Mike McKee, Jackson Teichroeb, Jake Wood, are Lincoln's three imports right now.
The Stars will be back in action tomorrow night at the IceBox where they will face-off against the Sioux City Musketeers, who won big tonight over the Waterloo Blackhawks by a score of 4-2. The Muskies are an improving team, and will give the Stars all they can handle Saturday night.