Sunday, April 29, 2012

B³ Draft Coverage: 2012 USHL Futures Draft Preview

Starting this Tuesday (5/1) evening at 6:00pm CST, the Lincoln Stars will participate in the 2012 USHL Futures Draft. This particular draft consists of six rounds, as each USHL team will select six players from the 1996 birth year age group.  Some players on the Stars roster that were drafted in prior futures drafts are Dominik Shine, Zach Frye, Brad Hawkinson, Luke Johnson, and Vinni Lettieri.  USHL teams use this particular draft to select some of the best young players in hopes that in the future they will develop into full-time players.

Here's a quote about the 2012 USHL Futures Draft from the USHL website:

May 1, 2012 will mark the first of two drafts that the USHL holds each year. This draft is called the “Futures Draft” because the players selected in this draft, while eligible, usually will not play in the USHL during the 2012-13 season. The 2012 Futures Draft restricts teams to selecting players who have a 1996 birth year. Each team will draft 6 players in the Futures Draft. These are the players each team may keep protected on an Affiliate List through the 2012-13 season while these players continue to develop at a lower level of hockey during the season.

On May 22nd, the USHL will hold its main Entry Draft where USHL teams draft a larger amount of players who are generally older than the players selected in the Futures Draft.  Click here to see the players selected by the Stars in the 2011 Futures Draft.  Click here to see the players picked by the Stars in the 2010 Futures Draft.

For the first time ever, the USHL will be broadcasting the Futures Draft live online, and you'll be able to follow along via FastHockey for free.  Click here to read more about that.  I'm really excited to see how this broadcast turns out.  In previous years, the draft was held mid-morning and there was a website that would post the draft selections.  Here's a quote from an email the USHL sent to me this morning:

The United States Hockey League will present a live online broadcast of the 2012 USHL Futures Draft on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 at 6:00 PM (CST).  The USHL and FASTHockey are partnering to present the first-ever draft show for free on USHL.com.

The live show will have the official announcement of all selections in the 2012 USHL Futures Draft and include player interviews, analysis, highlights, and much more from the USHL.  To watch the show presented by FASTHockey, viewers can simply visit USHL.com and click the USHL Futures Draft page.

I will be following the draft live as it happens on Tuesday evening, and I'll post the results here as each Stars selection is made.  Stay tuned for that.

I'll also be posting a Waterloo playoff series preview which will be published Tuesday evening, after the Futures Draft has concluded.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lincoln to face Waterloo in the USHL Western Conference Finals

Just a quick article tonight.  The Waterloo Blackhawks eliminated the Omaha Lancers from the Clark Cup playoffs with a 5-1 win tonight.  Waterloo won the series, 3-1.  That means the Stars will play the Blackhawks in the USHL Western Conference Finals.

 Click here to view the USHL Pointstreak playoff bracket.

Here is the game schedule for the best-of-five series between Lincoln and Waterloo, courtesy of the Stars' official website.

Lincoln vs. Waterloo
Wednesday, May 2nd @ Lincoln (use Game C ticket)
Friday, May 4th @ Lincoln (use Game D ticket)
Saturday, May 5th @ Waterloo
Monday, May 7th @ Waterloo, if necessary
Wednesday, May 9th @ Lincoln, if necessary

I'll post a series preview article here in the next few days.  The Stars went 2-2-0 in four regular season games against Waterloo this season.  The Blackhawks are riding a 13 game home winning streak at Young Arena in Waterloo.  Both teams are playing their best hockey of the season right now.  This should be a very good series.  More later on the B³.

Go Stars.

B³ Postgame Recap: Fargo 2, Lincoln 3 OT

Brad Hawkinson proved to be the hero tonight as he scored the overtime game-winning goal to propel the Stars to a come-from-behind win to beat the Fargo Force and help Lincoln win the series, 3 games to 1.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The Stars will now advance to the Western Conference Finals where they will face the winner of the Omaha-Waterloo series.  Waterloo leads that series two games to one.  Click here to view the Poinstreak USHL playoff bracket.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals will take place next Wednesday night (May 2nd) at the IceBox.  Buy those tickets now if you don't already have them!

Just six minutes into this game, the Stars found themselves down 1-0 thanks to the first of two shorthanded goals the Force would score on the net.  At the 6:09 mark, Nate Arentz took advantage of some sloppy play by the Stars and scored on a breakaway attempt to give Fargo the early lead.

The Stars were awarded four powerplay opportunities in the first period, and outshot Fargo 13-6 in the first twenty minutes of the game, but the good guys were unable to get any pucks past Force goaltender Zane Gothberg.

In the second period, the PP woes for the Stars continued when Fargo forward Johnny Brodzinski scored a shorthanded goal to give the Force a commanding 2-0 lead.  At this point in the game, the Stars were playing so sloppy with the man-advantage I was praying for no penalties against Fargo because Lincoln was playing so much better at even-strength.

Just like we've seen all season with this team, the Stars would answer back in a hurry to get right back into the game.  46 seconds after the Brodzinski goal, Stars forward Bob Kinne scored the biggest goal of his season when he snapped a wrister past Gothberg to pull Lincoln to within one goal.  Kinne's unassisted goal came at the 7:51 mark of the second period.

Very late in the same period, Jared Hanson would rise up once again to score a clutch goal to knot the game up at 2-2.  After an off-angle shot by Kevin Roy was saved by Zane Gothberg, the rebound squirted out into the slot where a streaking Hanson collected the puck and fired it glove-high for the game-tying goal.  Roy picked up the lone assist on Hanson's second goal of the playoffs.  What more can you say about Jared Hanson.  The bigger the game, the bigger he plays.  "Clutch" is his middle name.

Stars outshot the Force 12-5 in the second period.  It was a bit chippy in the second, as both teams combined for nine minor penalties.  Lincoln was 0-for-7 on the powerplay through the first two periods.

Both teams would go scoreless in the third period, but the Stars clearly dominated play.  Lincoln outshot Fargo 16-9, and put a lot of pressure on Gothberg.  The UND recruit and Boston Bruins draft pick was up to the task, however.  The Stars doubled up the Force on shots through three periods, outshooting them 41-20.

In the sudden-death OT period, Lincoln once again came out very strong and controlled play.  After peppering Gothberg with seven shots in the first five minutes of overtime, the Stars would finally get a puck past the Force goaltender.  Ralfs Freibergs fired a shot from just inside the blueline which was saved by Gothberg, but the rebound went right to the stick of Stars forward Brad Hawksinson who quickly shot the puck into the open net to win the game and the series.  Stars win!  Relief!

Freibergs and Matt Friese picked up the two assists on Hawkinson's memorable OT goal.  Although it was just his second goal of the season, Hawkinson came up huge with the timely game-winner.  His line of Suter-Aston-Reese-Hawkinson has been one of the best lines of the playoffs.  That entire line shows a lot of heart each and every game.  They may not put up a lot of points, but they all work tirelessly and do all the right things away from the puck.  Very solid fundamentally.

Lincoln outshot Fargo 8-0 in overtime, and 49-20 overall.  Stars went 0-for-8 on the powerplay while the Force went 0-4.  Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams stopped 18 of 20 shots on net to record his third straight win.  Zane Gothberg, who was the only reason why the Force were competitive in this series, stopped 46 of 49 shots in the loss.  Williams was hung out to dry by his teammates with the two shorthanded goals the Force scored, so you can't really blame him for that.  He played another solid game between the pipes.  CW3 went 3-1 with a 1.68 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in the series win against Fargo.  Stingy numbers for sure.

Credit the Stars for really putting the clamps on the Force and never allowing them to score more than two goals in any of the four games in the series.  Even more impressive is the defensive effort against Fargo's top line of Colton Hargrove-Bryn Chyzyk-Austin Farley.  In 8 regular season games against the Stars, that line terrorized Lincoln and scored a total of 19 points (13g, 6a).  In the 4 playoff games against Lincoln, that line combined for a total of 0 points and were a combined -11.  Think about that for a second.  Fargo's top line was held scoreless for ALL FOUR GAMES.  Incredible defensive effort by the Stars.  Lincoln gets a lot of publicity for scoring goals, but when this team plays quality defensive hockey, they are nearly unbeatable.

Really proud of the way this team battles back, regardless of the obstacles in front of them.  Down two goals tonight, they scored three straight to win it.  Down one game in this series, they won three in a row to move onto the Western Conference Finals.  There's no quit at all with this bunch.  They deserve everything that they've earned so far.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Postgame article and quotes from the Stars here, courtesy of Ryan S. Clark of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Fargo 1

w00t!

The Lincoln Stars took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Clark Cup playoff series against the Fargo Force tonight with a well-earned 3-1 road victory.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.


The Stars now have an opportunity to close out the series this Friday evening in Fargo with a win.  If the Stars are unable to win Friday night, game five will be played this Saturday evening in Lincoln at the IceBox.  Click here to view the Pointstreak USHL playoff bracket.

I went to the Stars watch party at Qdoba tonight and viewed the game with approximately 50-75 other rabid Lincoln hockey fans.  I think we all had a good time, even if the advertised "big screen" wasn't a big screen at all, and we were unable to listen to the silky sounds of Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye.  Regardless, I think the fans in attendance tonight had a blast, and I want to thank the Stars organization for hosting it.  Here's a suggestion for the next watch party: open up the IceBox and broadcast the game up in the Galaxy Club area.  Hell, have a cover charge if you want.  I know I, and many other Stars fans, would show up and pay.  Just a thought.

Anyway, back to the game.  Lincoln got on the scoreboard first when Paul LaDue fired a shot from just inside the blueline that got past Fargo goaltender Zane Gothberg and into the net.  LaDue's goal came on the powerplay, with the lone assist going to Brent Tate.  It appeared that Gothberg may have been screened on the play, and may not have seen the puck.

The Stars would strike again before the conclusion of the first period when Kevin Roy scored his second goal of the playoffs to give Lincoln a commanding 2-0 lead.  Roy's goal, which came at the 16:42 mark of the first period, was assisted by Paul LaDue.  Roy skated in on an odd-man rush, and looked to me like he beat Gothberg with a wrister that went underneath his arm.  Mike Melbye said  that the puck went five-hole, but I didn't have the best view watching it on the TV.

Stars took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission.  Fargo outshot Lincoln 8-6 in the first period.

The Force would get their only goal of the game in the second period while on the powerplay when Gabe Guertler wristed the puck stick-side past Stars goaltender Charles Williams.  I thought Fargo played much better in the second period compared to the first, and Lincoln played "not to lose" and didn't show enough aggressiveness with the puck.  Fargo outshot Lincoln 11-9 in the second period.

In the third, Lincoln played one of their better periods of the playoffs thus far and limited the Force to only four shots on goal.  Instead of playing "not to lose," I thought the Stars controlled play and dominated the Force in all facets.  Even when the Force pulled goaltender Zane Gothberg late in the third, the Stars continued to hold a blanket down on Fargo and smothered any offense chances they tried to develop.  Charles Williams really never had to work that hard in the third period, which is a credit to his teammates in front of him.

Kevin Roy would score the empty-netter to put the game away with only 13 seconds remaining.  Roy's third playoff goal was unassisted.  Stars win it convincingly, 3-1.  Stars outshot Fargo 12-4 in the third period and overall, 28-23.  Both teams went 1-for-3 on the powerplay.

Great team effort tonight, especially on the defensive side.  To only allow the Force 23 shots on goal through 60 minutes, in their own rink, is a testament to how well the team played as a unit.  Charles Williams was steady and dependable once again, stopping 22 of 23 shots on goal for the win.  Just a solid, solid victory over a damn good Fargo team.

The Stars and Force will be back in action again this Friday night for game four of their series.  I just saw on the Stars' Facebook page that the organization will be holding yet another watch party at Qdoba on Friday night for game four.  I'm sure the crowd be even larger.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Click here to view some video highlights of the game, courtesy of KOLN/KGIN 10/11.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Stars Watch Party" at Qdoba this Wednesday

You may already heard about this, but the Lincoln Stars are having a watch party for Game 3 of the Stars-Force series at Qdoba Mexican Grill this Wednesday evening.  This event will be held at the downtown Qdoba location, which is at 211 North 12th Street in Lincoln.

Here's the quote from the Lincoln Stars website:

Join us at Qdoba downtown (12th & P Street) for a "Stars Watch Party" on Wednesday, April 25 when the Stars travel to Fargo for Game 3 vs. the Force. We'll be on the patio with the game on the big screen starting at 6:45pm. The puck drops at 7:05pm.

Personally, I think it's really nice to see the Stars organization reach out to the fans with this event.  Last year about this time I blogged about why a watch party for a Stars road playoff game would be a great idea.  So you can probably guess that I was pretty pumped to first hear about this watch party when it was announced at the IceBox this past weekend.

I've never been to this Qdoba location in downtown Lincoln, but I've heard a lot of good things about the food and the environment (especially the outdoors patio area where the watch party will be held).  I believe they do serve bottled beer at this location, but I'm not 100% sure about that.

I hope to see a lot of other Stars fans there this Wednesday evening.  The weather looks like it will cooperate (highs in the upper 80's), so there's no excuse not to be there.  I think a big crowd would also be a great way to show the Stars organization that future watch parties would be a good idea as well.  So be there and root on the Stars!

Snapshots of the Game: Fargo vs. Lincoln 4/21

Thanks to blog readers Brandon Anderson and "Starstruck" for allowing me to share some of their photos from the Fargo game this past Saturday night.  Click here to check out BA's Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Kevin Roy (foreground) and the Stars bench

Snapshots of the Game: Fargo vs. Lincoln 4/20

Thanks to blog readers "Starstruck" and Brandon Anderson for allowing me to share some of their photos from the Fargo game this past Friday night.  Click here to check out BA's Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Pregame huddle

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Congrats to Charles Williams!

Per the Lincoln Stars twitter account, goaltender Charles Williams III has committed to play college hockey for Ferris State University, starting the fall of 2012.  Click here to read the tweet.

Charles appeared in 32 regular season games for the Stars this season and put up some very impressive numbers.  CW3 sported a record of 20-4-3, four shutouts, a 2.61 goals against average, and a .907 save percentage.  In two playoff games for Lincoln, Chuck is 1-1-1 with a 1.91 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.  Charles was named "USHL Goaltender of the Week" in early October of 2011.

Chuck is originally from Canton, Michigan which is about three hours away from the Ferris State University campus in Big Rapids, Michigan.  I'm sure he is excited to be playing close to home so his family and friends can watch him live.

I was a big CW3 fan going back to the Stars' tryout camp last June in Minneapolis.  I didn't know much about him at the time (he was a free-agent invite), but he stood on his head and was by far the best goaltender at camp.  I believe he gave up only one goal during the entire camp.  He's battled for playing time this season with goaltender Jackson Teichroeb, but Charles has really elevated his game the past month or so and seems to be Lincoln's clear cut #1 goaltender in the playoffs.

Congrats to Charles!  I'm really happy that he'll be moving on to such a great hockey program.  Ferris State got all the way to the NCAA national championship game just a few weeks ago where they lost to powerhouse Boston College.  The Stars fan in me was hoping that Chuck might be back with the Stars next season, but I'm excited to see him move on to the next level and prove himself there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap: Fargo 2, Lincoln 3

The Lincoln Stars played a full 60 minutes Saturday night to beat the Fargo Force by a score of 3-2 at the IceBox, and evened up their series at 1-1.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



The five game series between the Force and the Stars is now a three game series.  The next two games will be played in Fargo, ND.  If the series requires a fifth and deciding game, it will be played in Lincoln on Saturday, April 28th.  Click here to view the Pointstreak playoff bracket.

Game two didn't start too well for the Stars as the Force scored just four minutes into the game to grab an early lead.  Gabe Guertler of the Force scored his second goal at the playoffs at the 4:14 mark.  However, the Stars would answer less than a minute laster.

Stars defenseman Dax Lauwers ripped a shot from just inside the blueline which found the back of the net after it deflected off the glove of Force goaltender Zane Gothberg.  The goal was Dax's first career USHL in  116 games played for Lincoln.  Chad Johnson mentioned this after the game, but you had to figure that Dax's first USHL would be a big one, and it certainly was last night.  Really happy to see Dax score that goal in front of the home crowd, and it came at such a crucial time in the game.  Brent Tate and Jared Hanson assisted on Dax's goal.

The Stars weren't done scoring in the first period.  At the 12:44 mark, Kevin Roy picked up a Force turnover just outside the offensive zone, skated in on a two-on-one, and buried a stick-side wrister past Gothberg to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead.  Roy really made it look too easy, and Gothberg didn't have a chance on the laser shot by Kevin.  Brent Tate collected the only assist on Roy's first USHL playoff goal.  Lincoln took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission.  Stars outshot Fargo 9-5 in the opening period.

In the second period, both teams would score one goal a piece.  Just like in the first period, the Force would score first and the Stars would answer less than a minute later.  Early in the second, the Stars were unable to clear the puck out of their zone and the Force took advantage of a tired Lincoln squad with a goal scored by Neil Goff.  As the Force were celebrating tying the game at 2-2, the Stars struck just 42 seconds later.

Stars forward Brad Hawkinson picked the pocket of Force defenseman Justin Wade behind the Fargo net, and then passed the puck to a streaking Zach Aston-Reese who beat Gothberg to give the Stars the lead again, this time at 3-2.  ZAR's goal, hist first career USHL playoff tally, would turn out to be the game-winning goal.  Brad Hawkinson picked up the lone assist.  Stars outshot Fargo 12-10 in the second period.

Instead of playing not to lose like on Friday night, I thought the Stars came out very strong in the third period Saturday night and played much better with the lead.  Try as they might, the Force had some very good chances in the third to tie the game, but Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams was up to the task.  CW3 made some huge saves throughout the game, including a Fargo breakaway in the second period, and a Force three-on-one in the third period.  Lincoln outshot Fargo 12-9 in the third period, and overall, 33-24.

Both teams were held scoreless on the powerplay.  Fargo went 0-for-3 while the Stars went 0-for-4.  Charles Williams stopped 22 of 24 shots on goal to record his first career USHL playoff win.  Zane Gothberg stopped 30 of 33 in the loss.

Swagger.  The Stars played with swagger they didn't have the night before. They also did a good job of getting into Fargo's head with some physicality. Lincoln plays their best when they can intimidate teams, and I think that happened last night. Two evenly matched teams, though. I'd be very surprised if this series doesn't go the distance.

Nice to finally get that first playoff win against Fargo and get the monkey off their back.  The Stars and Force will meet for game three of this series on Wednesday, April 25th in Fargo, ND.  The Stars will be having a watch party for the Wednesday game at Qdoba in downtown Lincoln.  I'm hoping the Stars post more info about this event soon.  As soon as they do, I'll post it here as well.  It's been awhile since the Stars did a watch party for a road game, and I'm really looking forward to this event.

Go Stars.

Edit:  I wanted to quickly mention that I was recently interviewed by Ryan S. Clark, reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper.  Ryan asked me about the atmosphere at the IceBox.  Click here to read the article.  Thanks again to Ryan for reaching out.  Ryan does a great job of following the Force, and the USHL in general.  If you're on Twitter, make sure you give him a follow.

B³ Postgame Recap: Fargo 2, Lincoln 1 OT

The Lincoln Stars fell to to the visiting Fargo Force last night at the IceBox in the opening game of their second round Clark Cup playoff series, losing 2-1 in overtime.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The Stars have now lost six straight playoff games, and all of those six losses have come against the Fargo Force.  Click here to view the Pointstreak playoff bracket.

Right off the bat last night, the Stars looked like they were going to cruise to another home victory.  Just 50 seconds into the game, Kevin Roy found Jared Hanson wide open in front of the Fargo net and Hanson buried a one-timer to give the Stars an early 1-0 lead.  Roy's pass from near the boards along the goal line was a thing of beauty.  Matt Friese also assisted on the only Stars goal of the night.

I thought Lincoln dominated play in the first period, and played with a sense of purpose I didn't see in the second and third periods.  Fargo goaltender Zane Gothberg made a number of big saves in that first period to keep his team in the game.

Late in the third period, Fargo defenseman Brian Cooper scored on a seeing-eye dribbler from the blueline that got past Stars goaltender Charles Williams and into the net.  It wasn't pretty, but Cooper's goal seemed to jump-start the Force.  At the first intermission the scored was knotted up at 1-1.  Lincoln outshot Fargo 13-8 in the first period.

Neither team would find the back of the net in the second and third periods.  I thought Fargo was clearly the better team in both of those periods.  Whatever energy the Stars had in the first period vanished in the second and third periods.  Give credit also to the Force for clogging up the neutral zone and limiting the number of quality chances the Stars had against Gothberg.

A little over 5 minutes into the sudden death overtime period, Force forward Gabe Guertler took advantage of a Stars turnover deep in their zone, and drove hard to the net before passing it across the top of the crease to a wide open Alex Iafallo.  Iafallo one-timed the puck into the open net for the win.  There wasn't much Charles Williams could do on the play.

In a rarity, the Stars were outshot at home, 28-26.  Charles Williams stopped 26 of 28 shots on goal in the loss.  I thought Chuck played a heck of the game, and made some huge saves in the second and third periods when his teammates were asleep.  You aren't going to win to many games when you only score one goal at home, and Charles did his part to keep the Stars in the game.  Fargo goaltender Zane Gothberg, who really wasn't tested much in the second and third periods, stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win.

Overall, just a poor effort by the Stars last night.  I expected a lot more energy through the 60 minutes that I only saw in the first 20 minutes.  They definitely weren't physical enough either.  I hate to say it, but at times they looked scared.  It seemed like some players were on auto-pilot during the second and third periods.  Gotta give props to the Fargo coaches and players.  They outcoached and outplayed the Stars in what was their fifth game in eight days.  They certainly didn't look tired last night, and the Stars had no excuse for looking lethargic.

Needless to say, the game tonight (Saturday) at the IceBox is a "must win."  Lincoln does not want to go down 0-2  heading up to Fargo for the two games in their rink.

Go Stars.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

B³ Clark Cup Playoff Preview: Fargo Force

The Lincoln Stars will open play in the 2012 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs against the Fargo Force this weekend in their second round series matchup.

Click here to view the Pointstreak playoff bracket.

This will be a best-of-five series (first team to win three games wins).  Here are the particulars of each game:

Game 1: Friday, April 20th, 7:05 PM – Fargo @ Lincoln
Game 2: Saturday, April 21st, 7:05 PM – Fargo @ Lincoln
Game 3: Wednesday, April 25th, 7:05 PM – Lincoln @ Fargo
Game 4: Friday, April 27th, 7:35 PM – Lincoln @ Fargo (if necessary)
Game 5: Saturday, April 28th, 7:05 PM – Fargo @ Lincoln (if necessary)

The Force earned the right to play the Stars thanks to a two-game sweep of the Sioux City Musketeers in the first round of the Clark Cup playoffs.  Fargo outscored Sioux City 7-2 in the two wins.  Force goaltender Zane Gothberg stopped 53 of 55 shots in the series win.

The Stars and Force met eight times in the 2011-12 USHL regular season with Lincoln going 5-3-0 in those 8 contests.  Lincoln went 2-2-0 at the IceBox against the Force and went 3-1-0 in four games on the road in Fargo.

The Stars will try to win their first playoff game in three years this Friday night.  Yes, three years.  Back on April 17th, 2009, the Stars beat the Sioux Falls Stampede 6-1 to win their first round playoff series.  In the second round, the Stars were swept by the Fargo Force, three games to zero.

After not making the playoffs in 2010, the Stars faced the Fargo Force again in the 2011 playoffs and were swept in two games.  So the Stars are 0-5 in their last five playoffs games and each of those losses have come against Fargo. So here we are in 2012, and the Stars will face the Force yet again.  Lets hope for better results.

This should be one heck of a series.  Although the Stars won five of eight games against Fargo in the regular season, this is a new beginning and I really don't think either team will be thinking of those eight games.  For Lincoln, I think it's important they come out strong Friday night and take the play to the Force.  I thought the Stars did a very good job crashing the net last Friday night in Lincoln's 4-2 win over Fargo.

From my seat, it looked like the Stars got into the head of Force goaltender Zane Gothberg in that game last Friday at the IceBox.  Gothberg is arguably one of the top goaltenders in the USHL.  He's a NHL draft pick of the Boston Bruins, and will play college hockey at the University of North Dakota this fall.  I think he's the key for Fargo in this series.  He's more than capable of stealing games.  As Gothberg goes, so do the Force.

For Lincoln, I expect Charles Williams to start Friday night at the IceBox.  He's earned the #1 starter position for Lincoln, in my opinion.  CW3 is playing is best hockey of the season, and looked great last Friday at the IceBox in the win over the Force.

Personally, I think the Stars matchup pretty well against Fargo.  I like Lincoln's depth on offense, and I think the hulks we have on defense can wear down the smaller Force forwards over the course of a five game series.  Put 'em in a meat grinder, and start cranking.  Wear them down, and let Roy and Company put pucks on Gothberg.  I'm not sure how the refs will call games in the playoffs, but traditionally less calls are made which will benefit Lincoln.  Still, the Stars must play smart hockey.  No retaliatory, or just plain stupid penalties.  Play physical, in-your-face hockey, but play smart.

The Stars worked hard all season long, especially as of late, to earn home ice for the playoffs.  Now it's time for us to do our part and make the IceBox an intimidating place to play.  Drag all the friends and family you can to both games this weekend.  Believe in Black and Blue!  Be LOUD!

Go Stars.

Lincoln Stars announce 2012 tryout camp

The Lincoln Stars today announced the date and location of the 2012 tryout camp.

For the second straight year, the Stars will hold their 2012 tryout camp at Ridder Arena (pictured on the left), on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The dates of the camp are June 7th-10th, and the exact times of the scrimmages will be announced at a later date.  Click here to read the official announcement from the Stars website.  Here's the press release in its entirety:
The Lincoln Stars announced today that their 2012 tryout camp will be held June 7th - 10th at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  Invitations will be sent out to prospective players shortly after the USHL Entry Draft on May 22, 2012.  Players invited to the camp typically include returning players from the Stars current roster, their affiliate list of players chosen in previous Futures Drafts, and prospective players that are not protected by other USHL teams.
Check back at lincolnstars.com for details related to player registration, hotels and other information.
Click here to read some background information about Ridder Arena, which is where the University of Minnesota womens hockey team plays their home games.  Mariucci Arena, where the mens University of Minnesota team plays, is located right next to Ridder Arena.  Click here to view a Google maps view of the area.  Minneapolis is about a 7 hour drive from Lincoln, NE.

Just like the past four seasons, I will be at the tryout camp once again and will report back to the blog with numerous articles throughout.  Last year, I thought the tryout camp was huge hit.  I talked with numerous player parents who said they probably would have not brought their son to a camp held in Omaha because it was just easier and more convenient to get to Minneapolis.  Click here to read my glowing review of the 2011 tryout camp.  I'd argue that the camp helped the Stars bring in more talented players, and that helped them have the season they had in 2011-12.

I have to say, the University of Minnesota campus is beautiful.  The campus is very close to downtown, but not too busy.  The Mall of America isn't too far away, and there are plenty of food options near the rink in between scrimmages.  The only negative is lack of on-street parking around Ridder Arena.  

This is my favorite offseason event of the season, so I can't wait to get up there and watch four days of hockey.  It's pretty much heaven for a hockey nerd like myself.

I'd like to hear from all the fans out there now.  Anyone else planning on attending?  Thoughts on the camp being held in Minnesota?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bleach Blonde Stars

I mentioned this yesterday on the B³ Twitter account, but the Stars are showing some team unity and going blonde for the playoffs.  Here's a video from KOLN/KGIN 10-11 News.  Click play below to check it out.

Lincoln Stars to face the Fargo Force in second round of playoffs

Just a quick article to mention that the Lincoln Stars will open the 2012 Clark Cup Playoffs this Friday night at the IceBox against the Fargo Force.  Click here to view the Pointstreak playoff bracket.

The Force won their first round series 2-0 against the Sioux City Musketeers.  The other western conference second round playoff series will pit the Omaha Lancers against the Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to see the USHL announcement of the second round schedule.

Click here to read the announcement released by the Lincoln Stars yesterday.  The playoff schedule for the Stars-Force series is below.

Friday, April 20 @ Lincoln (use Game A ticket)
Saturday, April 21 @ Lincoln (use Game B ticket)
Wednesday, April 25 @ Fargo
Friday, April 27 @ Fargo, if necessary
Saturday, April 28 @ Lincoln, if necessary

I'll post another article on Thursday which will go more in depth with this upcoming series.

Go Stars.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brandon Bollig scores first NHL goal (and point) in playoff game

Lost in the excitement of the Stars winning the west last night was the news of former Lincoln fan favorite Brandon Bollig scoring his first NHL goal (and point) in the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 OT playoff victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.  I was watching this game live when it happened, and Mrs. Yeti and myself really got a kick out of Brandon's expression after his goal.  Huge smile!  Bollig's goal was an important one, as it knotted the game up at 2-2 in the second period.  What a shot, too!  Nasty wrister from Bollig.

Anyway, click play below to watch the video.  I'm also going to post a couple of before and after photos of his goal, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.




Saturday, April 14, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 4/14: Lincoln 2, Fargo 1

Stars win the West!

The Lincoln Stars captured the USHL Western Conference regular season title with a 2-1 road victory over the Force in Fargo, ND tonight.  Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

The Stars won their last four regular season games to finish the season with a record of 38-18-4 (80 points).  The 38 regular season wins is the most by a Stars team in 10 years (the 2001-02 Lincoln Stars netted 43 wins).

Although the two teams (Omaha, Waterloo) below Lincoln the standings also won both of their games this weekend, the Stars took care of business to end the season as the western conference champs.  Click here to view the final USHL regular season standings.

I was only able to catch the game tonight on the radio, so this recap will be brief.  If any of our blog readers watched it on FastHockey, or were lucky enough to be in Fargo, please leave a comment below with your thoughts.  We'd love to hear from you.

Surprisingly, Stars forward Kevin Roy was a healthy scratch tonight, along with Teemu Tiitinen and Logan Smith.  It sounded like the coaches wanted to give Roy and a few others some rest.  That means Kevin Roy finished the 2011-12 regular season with a total of 104 points (54g, 50a) in 59 games played.

Roy's season totals of 54 goals, 50 assists, +44 ranking, and 305 shots on goal were the most by any player in the entire USHL.  His 14 powerplay goals and 7 game-winning goals were second best in the USHL.  Click here to view the final Pointstreak stats by all of the scoring leaders in the USHL.

Stars defenseman Ralfs Freibergs finished as the top scoring defenseman in the league with 43 points (8g, 35a) in 60 games played.  Ralfs also was +24 on the season, and scored 17 powerplay points during the 2011-12 campaign.  When was the last time the Stars had the top scoring forward and defenseman in the USHL?

Lincoln got on the scoreboard first tonight when Vinni Lettieri scored his fourth goal of the season at the 6:38 mark of the opening period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.  Jared Hanson and Dax Lauwers collected the assists.

Both teams exchanged goals in the second period, with Lincoln scoring first at the 6:46 mark thanks to Luke Johnson's powerplay tally.  Brent Tate and Jared Hanson picked up the assists on Johnson's 20th goal of the season.

Fargo would answer at the 12:29 mark of the period when Force forward Austin Farley scored a breakaway goal on Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb to pull to within one goal.  However, the Stars (and Teichroeb) would put up the brick wall after that and shutout the Force for the remainder of the second period, and all of the third.

Teichroeb, who hasn't played his best hockey as of late, really came through tonight with a strong effort against the Force.  Jackson stopped 19 of 20 shots to record his 18th win of the season and helped the Stars clinch the western conference title.

Really proud of all of the players and coaches for finishing the season strong and on top of the western conference standings.  This is just the first step, however!  The Clark Cup playoffs loom ahead.  Time to rest up and let the other teams below them in the standings beat each other up in the first round of the playoffs.

Lincoln will be back at the IceBox next Friday, and Saturday night to open the second round of the playoffs against a yet to be determined foe.  If you haven't bought those playoffs tickets yet, what are you waiting for? This is the best hockey you'll see all season long.  The Stars busted their asses to earn home ice in the playoffs, so lets do our part as fans and pack the IceBox and get LOUD!

Go Stars.

Snapshots of the Game: Fargo vs. Lincoln 4/13

Thanks to Brandon Anderson for allowing me to share some of his photos from the Fargo game last night.  Click here and here to view BA's website and Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Pregame lightshow

Friday, April 13, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 4/13: Fargo 2, Lincoln 4

Courtesy of BA Photos
The Lincoln Stars earned a first-round bye in the opening round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs tonight with a hard fought 4-2 victory over the Fargo Force in front of 4,000+ fans at the IceBox.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 37-18-4 (78 points) and are still in sole possession of first place in the USHL Western Conference.  The second place Omaha Lancers (77 points) beat the lowly Des Moines Buccaneers tonight in overtime by a score of 4-3.  If Lincoln can beat the Force tomorrow night in Fargo, the Stars will finish in first place and win the western conference regular season championship.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.



The Stars will open up the second round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs at the IceBox next Friday and Saturday nights (4/20 and 4/21), so buy those tickets now if you don't already have them!

Kevin Roy scored four points tonight (2g, 2a), and now has 104 points (54g, 50a) on the season with one regular season game left to play.  The last USHL player to score more than 100 points in a season was Peter Fregoe of the Des Moines Buccaneers who scored 103 points in 56 games during the 1998-99 season.  The all-time points record in a season is 135 points scored by Tim Ferguson of the Sioux City Musketeers way back in 1985-86 (before Kevin Roy was born).  Roy also is riding a 15-game point scoring streak, which is the most by any player in the USHL this season.

Dominik Shine and Jared Hanson scored the other two goals for the Stars tonight.  Charles Williams cemented his position as the team's #1 goaltender by stopping 29 of 31 shots for his 20th win of the season.  Lincoln went 1-for-3 on the powerplay, while Fargo went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  Lincoln outshot Fargo overall 32-31.

Great effort tonight!  I thought the boys played a solid 60 minutes of hockey.  Nice to get those two points and the first round bye in the playoffs, but I'm sure the team still wants one more win to finish in first place and win the western conference regular season championship.

I'll try to update this article tomorrow with more info.  Enjoy the win tonight, folks!

Go Stars.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo Force (and the playoff push)

The Lincoln Stars will conclude the 2011-12 USHL regular season with two very important games against the Fargo Force this weekend.

 On Friday night, the Stars will host the Force at the IceBox.  On Saturday evening, the Force will host Lincoln at Scheels Arena in Fargo, ND.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for the two contests.

To follow the team this weekend you can check out the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln currently has a record of 36-18-4 (76 points) and are in sole possession of first place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to see the up to date USHL standings.  I will take a closer look at the teams below the Stars in the standings and the potential playoff matchups later in this article.

The Force enter these last two games with a record of 31-21-6 (68 points) and are in fourth place in the western conference.  This will be the seventh, and eighth times Lincoln and Fargo will meet this season.  The Stars are 3-3-0 in six regular season games against Fargo.  Lincoln is 1-2-0 in three games against Fargo at the IceBox and 2-1-0 in three games in Fargo against the Force.  Each team has scored 20 goals in the six regular season contests.

Fargo is on a riding a bit of a hot streak right now with a record of 5-1-1 in their last seven games.  As you can see from the win-loss records above, the Force have done pretty well against the Stars in Lincoln this season, having won two of three games at the IceBox.  However, the Stars have done just as well against the Force in Fargo.  These two teams have played just about as even against each other as you can get.

Okay, enough about the Force.  Let's talk about the postseason.  Here are the six playoffs team in the west battling it out this weekend, and who they match up against:

1st:  Lincoln - 76 points (2 games remaining:  Fargo, @Fargo)
2nd:  Omaha - 75 points (2 games remaining:  @Des Moines, Sioux City)
3rd:  Waterloo - 72 points (2 games remaining:  Tri-City, Cedar Rapids)
4th:  Fargo - 68 points (2 games remaining:  @Lincoln, Lincoln)
5th:  Sioux City - 57 points (2 games remaining:  @Sioux Falls, @Omaha)
6th:  Tri-City - 51 points (2 games remaining:  @Waterloo, @Sioux Falls)

The top two teams in each conference earn a first round bye in the Clark Cup playoffs.  The first round of the playoffs start right away on Monday, April 16th with game one, and games two and three will be held on April 17th and 18th.  So the teams finishing in 3rd-6th place only get one day of rest (Sunday, April 15th) before they have to begin the playoffs.  The first round of the USHL playoffs is a best-of-three, so there is a potential for some teams to play 5 games in six days.

To top it off, the second round of the USHL playoffs begin one day after the first round concludes, on Friday, April 20th.  The second round of the playoffs is best-of-five, with the higher seeded team hosting the first two games at their rink.  A 2-2-1 format.  So if you want to look at it even closer, some teams could have to play 7 games in only nine days.  That's nuts.

And that's why it's so important the Stars finish in one of the top two spots in the west.  To ensure that, they only have to get one point this weekend.  One point.  One win, or take one game this weekend to overtime, and the Stars will be guaranteed a bye.  They'd get to rest up a bit, and then face a very tired team in the second round.

What is nice about where the Stars are right now in the standings is that they control their own destiny, unlike in past seasons where they have had to watch the scoreboard and rely on other teams to find out where they would end up in the postseason.  If the Stars win both games against Fargo this weekend, they'll finish in first place in the West no matter what.  It won't matter if Omaha or Waterloo wins both of their games this weekend.  Win both against Fargo, and the Stars will win the Western Conference regular season championship.

Worst case scenario for Lincoln is the following:  lose both games against Fargo, and the Waterloo Blackhawks win both of their home games this weekend.  If that were to happen, both teams would finish the regular season with 76 points.  Waterloo has a 2-0-2 record against Lincoln this season, while the Stars hold a 2-2-0 record.  Therefore, Waterloo would win the tiebreaker and finish in second place, bumping the Stars down to third place (and a first round playoff series against the Tri-City Storm).

Looking at the schedule for each of the top three teams, I think Waterloo has the easiest road.  Both games are at home where they are 19-6-3 on the season.  They play the Storm on Friday night, and Cedar Rapids on Saturday.  The Storm already have sixth place (and a playoff spot) wrapped up, so they really don't have anything to play for.  Similarly, the Roughriders have fifth place wrapped up in the East and are scheduled to play the Youngstown Phantoms in the first round of the playoffs.  They certainly don't have anything to play for this weekend.

Considering the fact that the teams finishing 3rd-6th place have just a day before they have to start the first round of the playoffs, I anticipate those teams resting a lot of their star players, which would make it easier for teams like Waterloo and Omaha to win their two games this weekend.  Speaking of the Lancers, they play the Des Moines Bucs (losers of 12 in a row), and Sioux City.  The Muskies are also a team that cannot go up or down in the standings, and are locked into the 5th spot in the west.  They don't have much to play for either.

Hopefully that makes sense.  Tons, and tons of scenarios this weekend but the important thing to remember is that the Stars are in total control of their destiny.  Best case scenario is win both games, win the west, and get the first round bye.  A good scenario is earning at least one point this weekend to guarantee a first round bye.  Worst case scenario is losing both games to Fargo, Omaha getting at least one point, and Waterloo winning both of their games.  In that particular scenario, the Waterloo Blackhawks would win the west (they own the tiebreaker against Omaha), the Lancers would finish in second, and the Stars would in third.  Clear as mud, right?

Anyway, enough of my babbling.  Be loud Friday night at the IceBox!  The boys need our support.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Tri-City vs. Lincoln 4/6

Okay, so I'm waaaaaay late in getting these up on the blog.  A thousand pardons.  It's just been difficult lately to devote time to the blog.  I promise to pick up the pace here in the next few days as the Stars approach what is the most important weekend of the regular season.  Anyway, thanks to Brandon Anderson, Starstruck, and Jeff White for allowing me to share some of their photos from the Tri-City Storm-Lincoln Stars game this past Friday night.  Much appreciated!

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Pregame light show at the IceBox

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Video highlights of the Stars' 4-3 OT win over the Des Moines Bucs

Much thanks go out to Scott Thompson and his "Des Moines Bucs highlights" youtube page for the video below. Scott, who is a fan of the Bucs, does a fantastic job of recording highlights from every Buccaneeers home game and editing them into a video. If you're on Twitter, make sure you follow Scott here. Click play below to watch the video.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 4/7: Lincoln 4, Des Moines 3 OT Shootout

^Stars all alone in first place!

The Des Moines Buccaneers roared back from a 0-3 deficit against the Lincoln Stars tonight to force overtime, but it was the Stars who prevailed in the shootout to win the game by a score of 4-3.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the big road win and the two points, the Stars improved to 36-18-4 (76 points) and are in sole possession of first place in the USHL Western Conference for the first time since late January of this year.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Kevin Roy scored two goals tonight (his 51st and 52nd of the season), and was the only player on either team to score in the shootout.  With the two points tonight, Roy now has a total of 100 points (52g, 48a) with two games remaining in the regular season.  Jared Hanson scored the other regulation goal for the Stars tonight.  Charles Williams earned the win tonight and went 6-0-0 against his former team this season.

I will try to update this article tomorrow with a full recap.  I'll also post video highlights from the game courtesy of Scott Thompson and his DMBucshighlights YouTube page.

Enjoy the win tonight, folks!

Go Stars.

Video of Kevin Roy's 50th goal of the season

I just ran across this article posted on the USHL website.  Here's an excerpt from the article, and video of Roy's 50th goal of the season below.  Thanks to the USHL for putting the video out there for all to see.

Lincoln Stars forward Kevin Roy scored his 50th goal of the season, which proved to be the game-winner on Friday night in the 4-1 victory over Tri-City.

Roy scored the milestone goal at 17:02 into the first period, which was his 11th goal over his last 11 games.  It was his seventh game-winning goal of the season, second most in the USHL. 

The 18-year-old is the first player to reach the 50-goal mark since it was last accomplished during the 1993-94 season by Mark Mowers (51 goals) of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Jason Blake (50 goals) of the Waterloo Black Hawks.

Roy also dished out an assist to record his 32nd multi-point game of the season.  He has 98 points (50g, 48a) through 57 games this season and needs two more points over the next three games to reach 100 points for the season.  The last USHL player to reach the 100-point mark was Peter Fregoe who put up 103 points (46g, 57a) in 56 games for the Des Moines Buccaneers during the 1998-99 season.



The quality of the video isn't the greatest, but that's what you get from the IceBox. Probably the worst camera angle of any USHL rink, but it's better than nothing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 4/6: Tri-City 1, Lincoln 4

The Lincoln Stars played a strong 60 minutes tonight in front of 4,263 fans at the IceBox and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Tri-City Storm.  Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 35-18-4 (74 points) and are still only one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (75 points).  The Lancers beat the SC Musketeers tonight by a score of 3-1, but Omaha does not play tomorrow night.  That means if the Stars can beat the Buccaneers in Des Moines tomorrow night, they'll be all alone in first place in the western conference.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

Unfortunately, I missed three of the four goals scored by the Stars tonight, so this recap will be short.  I had to work the BlueLine Booster Club booth tonight, and I was either on my way to open the booth, or actually in the booth when the first three Stars goals were scored tonight.  I'm not very happy about missing Kevin Roy's historic 50th goal of the season. :(

Scoring for the Stars tonight was Matt Friese (shorthanded), Kevin Roy (his 50th of the season), Jared Hanson (powerplay), and Will Suter (empty net).  As you can see, the Stars scored just about every way tonight:  shorthanded, powerplay, even-strength, and the empty-netter.

Ralfs Freibergs added three assists tonight, and now has 42 points (8g, 34a) on the season, which is the most by any defenseman in the USHL.  Kevin Roy scored two points (1g, 1a), and his 50th of the season turned out to be the game-winning goal.  Roy extended his point-scoring streak to 13 games with the two points tonight.  During those 13 games, Kevin has scored  25 points (12g, 13a).

Before Roy, the last 50 goal scorer in the USHL was Jason Blake of the Waterloo Blackhawks, waaaay back in 1993-94.  Blake scored 50 goals in 47 games that season.  Roy's 50 goals is the most scored in the USHL since the league was awarded Tier 1 status at the start of the 2002-03 season.  Kevin now has a total of 98 points (50g, 48a) through 57 games played.  He only needs to score two points in the final three regular season games to get to the century mark.  The last 100 point scorer in the USHL was Peter Fregoe of the Des Moines Buccaneers during the 1998-99 season.  Fregoe scored 103 points (46g, 57a) in 56 games played.

Stars outshot Tri-City tonight, 44-16.  As you can see by the shot total, this was a one-sided game.  Stars showed up and played 60 minutes, while the Storm never got off the bus.  Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams stopped 15 of 16 shots on goal to record his 18th win of the season.  CW3 wasn't very busy tonight, but he had to make some key saves to keep the Stars in the game.

If any of our blog readers saw the first three goals and would like to leave a comment, please do so.  Like I said, I missed all but the Will Suter empty-netter.

Great game tonight!  It was nice to see the team bounce back after the two losses last weekend with a solid 60-minute effort against the Storm.  Win tomorrow against the Bucs, and the Stars are all alone in first place!

Go Stars.

B³ Weekend Preview: Tri-City and Des Moines

The Lincoln Stars will continue their push for one of the top two spots in the western conference standings this weekend when they take on the Tri-City Storm, and the Des Moines Buccaneers.  The Stars will host the Storm tonight at the IceBox.  Saturday evening, the Stars will be in Des Moines to battle the Bucs.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm for both games this weekend.

If you are unable to make it any of the games this weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars currently sport a record of 34-18-4 (72 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Lincoln is only one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (35-19-3, 73 points) and the Stars have one game in hand..  Although the Lancers are in first place for now, the Stars (.643) have a better winning percentage than Omaha (.640).  The Third place Waterloo Blackhawks (71 points) are only points behind Lincoln, and three points out of first place.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

First up for the Black and Blue this weekend will be the Tri-City Storm (25-31-0, 50 points, sixth place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the eighth and final time these two teams face each other.  The Stars hold a 4-1-2 record in seven regular season games against the Storm this season.  In three games against Tri-City at the IceBox, the Stars are 2-0-1 and have outscored the Storm 15-6 in those three contests.  However, the Storm have won two of the last three meetings against Lincoln.

Although the Storm are firmly in sixth place, they have yet to clinch a playoff spot.  They are five points ahead of the Des Moines Buccaneers for that last playoff seed in the west, so the Storm still have a lot to play for.  They have who I think is the best goaltender in the Western Conference in Adam Wilcox.  Wilcox is capable enough to stand on his head and win games for the Storm that they have no reason winning.  Wilcox is 3-3-0 in six games against Lincoln this season, with a 3.29 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.

On Saturday, the Stars will travel east to Des Moines, Iowa to take on the Buccaneers (20-31-5, 45 points, seventh place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the sixth and final time the Bucs and Stars will play one another this season.  The Stars will be going for the season sweep Saturday night, as they hold a 5-0-0 record against Des Moines this season.  At Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines, the Stars are 2-0-0, and have outscored the Bucs 12-8 in those two games.  The Stars have scored at least five goals in every game they've played against the Buccaneers this season.

Stars goaltender Charles Williams, who played for the Bucs in the 2009-10 season, is 5-0-0 against his former team this season, with a 2.36 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.  Judging by his numbers, Charles must really enjoy showing the Bucs that they made a bad decision by letting him go.

The Bucs recently fired head coach Regg Simon after the team struggled this season down the stretch, losing seven in a row.  Click here to read more about Simon's dismissal from the team.  Since the firing, the Bucs are 0-2-1, and are quickly falling out of contention for that last playoff spot in the western conference.  This team is struggling mightily, and all indications point to an early exit and no postseason play.

These two games this weekend are a great opportunity for the Stars to get four points and potentially move into first place in the west.  Lincoln also needs to create more breathing room between them and the rising Waterloo Blackhawks.  The Stars have a combined record of 9-1-2 against Tri-City and Des Moines, so going from prior history, you'd think Lincoln would have a pretty good chance at wrapping up four points.  However, both teams are still fighting for that last playoff spot in the west, so they can be dangerous.

Four games remaining in the regular season!  Time to shine!

Go Stars.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Omaha (3/30, 3/31), Waterloo (4/1)

I want to apologize for not getting these up sooner.  It's been kinda hectic in the real world as of late, and I just haven't had a lot of time to devote to the blog.

Instead of posting three different articles with pictures from the three games last weekend, I'm going to combine everything into one neat (I think) post.

Click the links below to view all of the photos from Jeff White, Brandon Anderson, and Carl Kacvinsky. Thanks to those three for allowing to share their work.

Omaha Lancers vs. Lincoln Stars (3/30)
Click here to view photos from Jeff White (Depicted Image Photography)
Click here to view photos from Brandon Anderson (BA Photography)
Click here to view photos from Carl Kacvinsky (CK Photography)

Lincoln Stars vs. Omaha Lancers (3/31)
Click here to view photos from Jeff White (Depicted Image Photography)
Click here to view photos from Brandon Anderson (BA Photography)
Click here to view photos from Carl Kacvinsky (CK Photography)

Lincoln Stars vs. Waterloo Blackhawks (4/1)
Click here to view photos from Brandon Anderson (BA Photography)

I normally post the upcoming weekend preview articles on Thursday nights, but that's not going to happen this week.  I hope to get that article up tomorrow (Friday) morning sometime, so keep an eye out for that.  Thanks.

Go Stars.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 4/1: Lincoln 1, Waterloo 4

The Waterloo Blackhawks used a strong second, and third periods to propel them to a 4-1 victory over the Lincoln Stars Sunday afternoon at Young Arena in Waterloo, IA.  The loss snapped Lincoln's six-game road winning streak.

 Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 34-18-4 (72 points) and are still in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  There's quite a log jam at the top of the western conference standings.  Here are the four teams battling it out for the top two spots in the west.  A reminder, the two teams who finish first and second in each conference get a first round bye.  So that's why it's very beneficial to finish in one of the top two spots to get that week off to rest, and get healthy before the second round of playoff games.

Omaha - 73 points (3 games remaining; @Sioux City, @Des Moines, Sioux City)
Lincoln - 72 points (4 games remaining; Tri-City, @Des Moines, Fargo, @Fargo)
Waterloo - 70 points (4 games remaining; @Green Bay, @Dubuque, Tri-City, Cedar Rapids)
Fargo - 65 points (4 games remaining; Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls, @Lincoln, Lincoln)

Getting back to the game yesterday afternoon, the Blackhawks got on the scoreboard first at the 6:48 mark with a redirection goal past Stars goaltender Charles Williams for a 1-0 lead.  The Stars answered less than three minutes later when Kevin Roy notched his 49th goal of the season to tie the contest up at 1-1.  Matt Friese collected the lone assist on Roy's goal.  Roy scored the goal on what looked like a pass across the front of the net.  Roy's pass appeared to deflect off a stick or a skate, and got past 'Loo goaltender Stephon Williams.

I thought Waterloo outplayed Lincoln in the first ten minutes of the first period, but Lincoln came back and played much better in the second half of the period.  Stars outshot the Blackhawks 13-6 through the first twenty minutes.

For the most part, the Blackhawks controlled play in most of the second and third periods and outscored Lincoln 3-0 to cruise to the 4-1 victory, their 8th win in their last 9 games.  Waterloo scored one goal in the second, and two goals in the third period.  The last goal scored by Waterloo late in the third period came with Charles Williams pulled for the extra attacker.

Stars outshot Waterloo overall, 29-22.  Lincoln went 0-for-1 on the powerplay, while the Blackhawks went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.  In terms of penalty minutes, it was a relatively quiet game compared to the first two games of the weekend against Omaha.

Waterloo is a very quick team, but a bit on the small side.  I thought they had a little more jump in their skating yesterday, while the Stars looked a bit sluggish.  It seemed as the game went on, more Lincoln shots came from the perimeter, and not enough players were crashing the net.  Waterloo goaltender Stephon Williams was giving up rebounds left and right, but the Stars weren't down low to capitalize.

Defenseman Mike McKee and head coach Chad Johnson were both suspended for one game after the Saturday night game in Omaha, so they did not participate in the Waterloo loss.  McKee picked up two fighting majors and two misconducts against the Lancers on Saturday, while Chad Johnson picked up an "Abuse of Officials" misconduct after the conclusion of the second period against Omaha.

Stars were able to pick up only two points out of six possible this weekend with the three games.  Lincoln has lost three of their last four games.  Gotta pick up the pace for these last four regular season games, especially if the team wants to finish in one of the top two spots and get that first round bye

I've been slacking with the "Snapshots of the Game" from the last three contests, so I'll post those sometime tomorrow.  I'll post photos from all three of the games this past weekend.

Go Stars.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/31: Lincoln 5, Omaha 4

The Lincoln Stars snapped their six-game losing streak to the Lancers tonight with a dramatic come from behind victory at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha by a score of 5-4.  The heroes of the game were Matt Friese who scored three goals for the hat trick, and Kevin Roy, who broke a 4-4 tie late in the third period with his 48th goal of the season, which is a new franchise record.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 34-17-4 (72 points) and are now only one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (73 points) in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars still have two games in hand over the Lancers, and have a better winning percentage (.655 for Lincoln to .640 for Omaha). Click here to view the updated USHL standings.

I watched the game on FastHockey tonight, but I regret now not being one of the many Stars fans who made the trip to the Civic.  If you were in attendance tonight, please leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear from you.

Lincoln came out very strong tonight, and scored two quick goals early on to take a 2-0 lead in the first period.  Luke Johnson scored first, his 19th of the season, at the 2 2:29 mark with the lone assist going to Ralfs Freibergs.  It was a nice play by Freibergs who stepped up to intercept an Omaha clearing attempt, and then passed it to a wide open Johnson who buried a shot stick side on Lancers goaltender Alex Lyon.

About two minutes after Johnson's goal, Matt Friese drove hard to the net and scored his 10th goal of the season on a juicy rebound left by Lyon.  Jared Hanson and Zach Frye collected the assists.

Omaha started to take back control of the game late in the first period and were rewarded for their good play with a pretty goal scored by Tanner Lane.  Lane fake out a Stars defenseman and then beat goaltender Charles Williams to pull Omaha to within one goal.  Stars outshot the Lancers 11-4 in the first period.

In the second, the Lancers took advantage of some questionable calls by referee Christopher Pitoscia to outscore the Stars 3-1 in the period.  For the most part, the Stars played the entire period with at least one player in the penalty box.  Two of the three Omaha goals scored in the 2nd came on the powerplay, and both were 5-on-3 PP goals.  It was ugly, for sure.  Matt Friese scored the lone Stars goal in the second period, with an assist going to Kevin Roy.

Because of some of the questionable calls made by Pitoscia, Lincoln associate head coach Jimmy McGroarty picked up an "abuse of officials" bench minor, and head coach Chad Johnson picked up an "abuse of officials" misconduct and was forced to leave the bench after the second period concluded.

Down 4-3 going into the third period, the Stars could have rolled over on their backs and let the Lancers skate to another win.  However, Matt Friese answered the call early in the third period with a PP goal to knot the game up at 4-4.  Friese's goal, his third of the game, was assisted by Kevin Roy and Luke Johnson.

Wit the score tied up at 4-4 halfway through the second period, the USHL's leading scorer provided the fireworks and the late heroics.  Kevin Roy intercepted a lazy Omaha pass at the blueline, outskated a defenseman, and broke in alone on Alex Lyon.  Roy put a quick deke on Lyon, went to the backhand, and then roofed the puck to score his 48th goal of the season, which is a new Stars franchise record for most goals in a season.  The previous record was held by Brandon Bochenski, who scored 47 goals in 2000-01 for the Stars.

What more can you say about this kid.  The franchise record 48th goal turns out to be the game-winner against Omaha, in their barn, to snap a six-game losing streak to the Lancers.  Clutch.

Stars outshot Omaha overall, 32-24.  Lancers went 2-for-9 on the powerplay, while the Stars were fortunate enough to be granted four PP opportunities, and scored on one.  Charles Williams stopped 20 of 24 shots to record his 17th win of the season.

The Stars took a bus to Des Moines, IA tonight where they will sleep for the night before driving on to Waterloo to face the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon.  The puck will drop at 3:05pm for that game.  If Lincoln can win tomorrow, they will leapfrog the Lancers and be in first place in the west.  The Waterloo Blackhawks are only four points behind the Stars, so they have a lot riding on this game as well.

I really loved the never say die effort tonight, especially in that third period.  Despite the calls, the Stars really pushed the play and wanted it more than the Lancers in the third period.  They certainly deserved the win.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Carl Kacvinski of CK Photography got some great shots of Roy scoring the game-winner tonight.  I thought I'd share them with all of you.  Enjoy!  The shot above is the celebration after Roy's goal.  Thanks, Carl!