|Stars mob Riley Bourbonnais after the OT winner|
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Bringing back the train!
Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.
The win and the two points improved Lincoln's record to 27-17-3 (57 points) and they are still in fifth place in the USHL Western Conference, one point behind the fourth-place Omaha Lancers (58 points). The Waterloo Blackhawks, who were extremely lucky to escape Lincoln with a point, are in third place with 59 points. The Stars have two games in hand over Omaha, and one game in hand over Waterloo. Click here to view the current USHL standings.
The Stars came out with their hair on fire in this game and took it right to the Waterloo Blackhawks with a nasty combination of speed and hitting. Right from puck drop, Lincoln dominated this game but it was Waterloo that struck first for the only goal scored in the first period. At the 8:01 mark, Justin Kloos of Waterloo fired a shot that got past Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.
Despite outplaying and outshooting (18-7) Waterloo in the first twenty minutes, the Stars were down 1-0 going into the first intermission.
In the second period, the bounces didn't go Lincoln's way early on when Zach Stepan scored at the 5:08 mark to give Waterloo a 2-0 lead. As a fan, it was a little frustrating to watch the Stars completely dominate a team like they did, yet they were down two goals. But like many in attendance last night, I just had a feeling that if the Stars kept plugging away, the goals would come. And they did.
Less than two minutes after Stepan's goal, Stars forward Garrett Brossart batted a clearing attempt from 'Loo goaltender Eamon McAdamn down, and while on his stomach, passed the puck across the crease to a wide open Zach Aston-Reese who tapped it into the open net for Lincoln's first goal of the game. Gutsy effort by Brossart on the play to get the puck to ZAR.
Waterloo scored the next goal, a PP tally late in the second period, to take a 3-1 lead. I'm going to dissect this goal a little bit to help Stars fans better understand what happened. At the 10:42 mark of the second period, Zach Aston-Reese picked up a major penalty for elbowing, and was ejected from the game. Even though ZAR was ejected, the Stars coaches should have sent one player over to the penalty box to serve ZAR's five-minute major. That didn't happen. So when the Stars killed the entire five-minute major, which really energized the crowd, the coaches sent a player off the bench to make it 5-on-5.
Rightly so, the referee called a two-minute minor for "illegal substitution." I saw a lot of confused looks last night from Stars fans after this penalty was whistled, but it was definitely the right call. The Stars had just busted their butts to kill the five-minute major, and now they had to go right back on the penalty kill for two minutes. Unfortunately for the Stars, Taylor Cammarata scored on that ensuing PP to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead.
Cammarata can thank the Lincoln coaches for that goal because that all falls back on them. It was a careless mistake, and one the Stars paid for. Who knows, if the coaches remember to put a body in the penalty box, maybe the Blackhawks don't score that third goal, Lincoln wins in regulation, and the Blackhawks don't get the bonus point. You'd think by this point in the season the coaches would remember something as simple as this, but apparently not.
Dominik Shine responded with a goal less than a minute after Cammarata's to pull the Stars back to within one goal, at 3-2. Shine's goal was huge, and it gave the Stars the momentum they needed to start the third period.
In that last twenty minutes, Lincoln played probably their best period of hockey I've seen this entire season. They outshot Waterloo 15-2 in the third and outscored them 1-0. Riley Bourbonnais' goal at the 9:15 mark of the third period was one of the prettiest goals I've seen in a long time. I hope to get video of his goal and post it here later. Bourbonnais turned a Waterloo defenseman inside out before roofing the puck past McAdam to knot the game up at 3-3. Needless to say, the IceBox went nuts. We had a tied game.
Try as they might, the Stars threw everything but the kitchen sink at Waterloo goaltender Eamon McAdam after the tying goal, but they could not find the back of the net. This game would go into extra time.
At the 2:03 mark of the OT period, Riley Bourbonnais stepped up to be the hero with a laser shot into the top right corner, past McAdam's glove, to win it for the Stars. Lincoln scored three unanswered goals to win it. What. A. Game. Easily one of the top 10 games I've been to at the IceBox. The atmosphere was amazing.
Lincoln outshot Waterloo overall, 42-17. That's complete domination. As I stated above, the Blackhawks should feel very lucky to get a point last night. They let the Stars roll right over them, and if not for a number of big saves by McAdam, they would have lost this game easily in regulation.
Lincoln went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, and Waterloo went 1-for-5. Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 14 of 17 for the win, his 16th of the season.
Great effort by all of the players last night. They should all be very proud of the way they performed as a team. It was very fun to watch as a fan. When the game was tied up at 3-3 in the third period, I turned to a friend and said "we're going to get the next goal." I'm sure others in attendance could feel it also. The way the Stars were playing, and the energy given off by the fans, you could sense a game-winning Stars goal was coming.
Lincoln will play the next three games on the road, starting this Tuesday in Sioux City against the Musketeers. On Friday and Saturday, the Stars will be in Fargo to take on the Force in back-to-back games. More on those games later.