The Lincoln Stars will play a rare Wednesday game this week when they travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to take on the Roughriders. The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST at Cedar Rapids Arena.
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 on FASTHockey for a fee. The Stars are currently 14-6-1 (29 points), and are in third place in the USHL Western Conference. Despite being in third place, Lincoln's winning percentage is .690%, which is tops in the western conference.
The Cedar Rapids Roughriders have a record of 8-11-3 (19 points), and are in sixth place in the USHL Eastern Conference. This will be the second of two regular season games the Stars and the Roughriders will play against one another. In their previous matchup back on 11/9/12 at the IceBox, the Stars put a hurting on the Roughriders by a score of 5-0. In my opinion, the shutout win against Cedar Rapids was Lincoln's best effort at home so far this season. It was a dominating win.
Since that 5-0 loss to the Stars at the IceBox, the Roughriders have a record of 2-8-1 and have struggled to stay relevant in the tightly contested USHL Eastern Conference. 'Riders head coach Mike Carlson has turned his roster into a revolving door as of late trying to shake up his team, trading away five players who were in the lineup on 11/9 against the Stars. Sam Wolfe (traded to team in NAHL), Gavin Bayreuther (traded to Fargo), Eetu Karvinen (traded to Sioux City), Riley Bourbonnais (traded to Sioux City), and Landon Smith (traded Chicago) played against Lincoln just last month, but were casualties in Carlson's roster reorganization.
The 'Riders are 1-6-1 in their last eight games, so the results of all the player trading haven't been positive so far for Carlson and his team. They recently brought in goaltender Steve Michalek to help shore up their goaltending, but that hasn't helped much. Michalek started the season playing college hockey for Harvard, but dropped out of school and was picked up by the 'Riders. Michalek is a 2011 NHL draft pick of the Minnesota Wild. In four games with the Roughriders since leaving Harvard, Michalek has a record of 1-2-1, a goals against average of 4.17, and an abysmal save percentage of .852%. Cedar Rapids fans are hoping Michalek can break out of his slump and backstop the 'Riders to more victories in the second half of the USHL regular season.
Despite their recent troubles, this is a team that historically have had little trouble beating the Stars on their home ice. The Roughriders sport a 8-3-0 record against Lincoln at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.
Lincoln will be without the services of defenseman Mike McKee who was once again suspended by the USHL. This time, the league suspended McKee for two games due to his actions this past Saturday night in Lincoln's 4-3 loss to Omaha. I believe McKee's suspension is due to the fighting major he picked up in that Omaha game, which was his sixth fighting major of the season. The USHL is really trying to crack down on fighting this season, and will be handing out suspensions to players who earn a certain amount of fighting majors. I believe the league starts suspending players when they get to six fighting majors. That's my guess, anyway. I could be wrong. Unfortunately, the league doesn't do a very good job explaining why players get suspensions.
Staying on the suspension topic, Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb will sit this game out as well, as he will be serving the fifth and final game of his five-game suspension the USHL handed out a few weeks ago. So that means Michael Bitzer will be in net for the Stars against the Roughriders. Teichroeb will be available this weekend when the Stars have back-to-back games at the IceBox.
I'm planning on listening to this game on the radio instead of watching it on FASTHockey. Seems like the last few times I watched the Stars play on FASTHockey, they've lost. So in my warped, superstitious mind, it's better off if I just listen to the radio broadcast this time. :)