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With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 18-9-3 (39 points) and are in fourth place in the USHL Western Conference. Lincoln is only 6 points out of first place, and have the third-best winning percentage (.650) in the west.
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All of Lincoln's three goals were scored in the first period. Tommy Schutt, Paul LaDue (PP), and Eric Scheid all found the back of the net for the good guys.
Schutt's goal came very early in the first period, at the 1:04 mark. Schutt broke in alone on Storm goaltender Johan Mattson, and roofed the puck glove-high to score his first goal in 17 games played. Nice to see Schutt get that monkey off his back with a big goal. Schutt's even-strength goal was unassisted.
A little over a minute after Schutt's goal, the Storm would knot the game up at 1-1 after an even-strength goal from John Hrabovsky.
The Stars would take the lead again later in the first period after Paul LaDue's point shot found the back of the net on the powerplay at the 9:03 mark. Justin Woods collected the lone assist on LaDue's sixth goal of the season. LaDue leads the USHL in defenseman scoring with 25 points (6g, 19a) in 30 games played.
The eventual game-winning goal would be scored by Lincoln's Eric Scheid, with a lot of help from Vinni Lettieri, at the the 14:08 mark of the first period. Lettieri did a great job on the forecheck, pressuring a Storm defenseman into losing control of the puck, and Scheid capitalized by scoring on the turnover right in front of Mattsson. Great individual effort by both Lettieri and Scheid on the goal.
The Stars took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission and never looked back, thanks to some timely saves by Lincoln goaltender Michael Bitzer. Bitz stopped 26 of 28 shots on goal to record his 10th win of the season. The Storm would score midway through the third period to make it interesting, but the Stars shut the door after that.
Lincoln outshot Tri-City overall, 29 to 28. Tri-City went 0-for-5 on the powerplay while the Stars went 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Overall, I thought the Stars played pretty well coming off the embarrassing 10-2 loss this past Monday in Waterloo to the Blackhawks. Lincoln came out strong in the first period and outplayed/outshot Tri-City. Storm goaltender Johan Mattson struggled a bit in the first period, and the Stars took advantage of that. Mattsson played well in the second and third period, but it was a little too late....the damage was already done.
What I didn't really like from last night was the Stars going into a shell in the third period and playing not to lose. I thought Lincoln could have put a boot to the throat of the Storm in the third period, but that didn't happen. They didn't seem to want to put pressure on the Storm, and instead laid back and played prevent defense. It could have turned out bad, but the Stars held on for the win. A lot of credit goes to Bitzer for making some big saves in that third period.
The Stars were without a number of key players Saturday night which included defenseman Mike McKee (suspension), Dominik Shine (team suspension?), and defenseman Zach Frye (injury). Lincoln played with only 5 d-men last night because of McKee and Frye being out of the lineup. Despite the fact that they played shorthanded, I thought Lincoln's d-corp played very, very well.
The Stars will be back in action next weekend with a Friday night road game in Sioux City against the Musketeers, and than a Saturday evening home game at the IceBox against the Youngstown Phantoms.