Looking to increase their winning streak to three games, the Lincoln Stars will spend New Year's Eve on the road tonight when they will face off against the Waterloo Black Hawks at Young Arena. The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST.
The Stars are currently 17-8-3 (37 points), and are tied for second place with the Fargo Force in the USHL Western Conference. Lincoln has played two less games compared to Fargo, and thus have the better winning percentage (.661 to .617). Click here to view the updated USHL standings.
The Waterloo Black Hawks come into this game with a record of 18-10-0 (36 points) and are in fourth place in the USHL Western Conference. In their last eight games, Waterloo is 3-5-0 and have been outscored 33-27. The Hawks are 1-3-0 in their last four games at home.
Coming into this season, the Black Hawks were most pundits pick to win the Anderson and Clark Cup. They got all the way to the finals last season where they took the powerhouse Green Bay Gamblers to a fifth and deciding game, which they lost. Waterloo was already a young team last season, and they returned just about every key player this season. The way some were gushing about Waterloo, you'd think they were the second coming of the Edmonton Oilers team of 1984.
Surprisingly this season, the Black Hawks have a better road record (9-4-0) than their home record (9-6-0). Young Arena, where Waterloo plays their home games, is an olympic sheet of ice, meaning it's bigger than the standard USHL or NHL rink. There's more room for players to skate, which benefits teams who utilize speed and skill. Last season, the Black Hawks built their team around the philosophy that they would out-skill, and out-skate their opponent. They have a small, skilled team that isn't very physical....but it works. Well, it worked last season. The jury is still out if the Black Hawks can go as far this season.
As their win-loss record and goals against indicate, the Black Hawks have "struggled" a bit this season. I think most figured this team would roll through the western conference, but that hasn't been the case. Yes, they have the highest scoring offense in the entire USHL (4.25 goals per game on average), but they've had difficulty keeping the opposition from scoring. Through 28 games, the Hawks have given up 94 goals against....compared to only 71 goals against by the Lincoln Stars in the same amount of games. Defense, and goaltending, hasn't been Waterloo's strong suit this season.
Waterloo didn't match up well for Lincoln last season, and especially in the playoffs. It seemed like the Stars could not keep up with the race-track hockey that the Black Hawks utilized so well. Waterloo was just too fast and too skilled for the Stars to handle. There are a lot of Stars on the current roster who were around last season, and I'm sure the playoff loss to Waterloo is still fresh on their minds. A little payback tonight would be nice.