|Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos|
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With the loss, the Stars dropped to 33-21-3 (69 points) but they are still in sole possession of third place in the USHL Western Conference.
The Stars are now three points ahead of the fourth place Waterloo Blackhawks (66 points), who lost in OT last night to the second place Fargo Force (75 points). Click here to view the current USHL standings.
Sioux Falls extended their winning streak to six games overall, and seven in a row on the road.
It looked good early on for the Lincoln Stars in this game. They came out very aggressive and peppered Stampede goaltender Charlie Lindgren with shot after shot. Lincoln's effort was rewarded when Riley Bourbonnais batted a loose puck up and over Lindgren at the 2:31 mark of the first period to give the Stars an early 1-0 lead. Paul LaDue and Phil Marinaccio picked up the assists on Riley's 24th goal of the season.
Little did the fans in attendance know that the Bourbonnais goal would be the only one scored by the Stars that night. Lindgren stood on his head the rest of the game and led his team to victory.
Lincoln outshot Sioux Falls 14-9 in the first period, and took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Stampede tied the game up at 1-1 just 44 seconds into the second period when Thomas Forgione scored on a quick one-timer right out in front of Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer. In his last four games against the Lincoln Stars, Forgione has scored 6 points (4g, 2a).
For the most part, I thought the Stampede controlled the play in the second period, which was opposite of the first period. The Stars did have a great opportunity to tie the game in the second half of the second period when SF's Dennis Kravchenko picked up a double minor for high-sticking.
Unfortunately for the Stars, their powerplay woes continued tonight and they were barely able to put a shot on goal for most of the four-minute powerplay. Give some credit to the Stampede for playing very aggressive on the penalty-kill, and not allowing the Stars to get the puck into the dirty areas in front of the net. Most of the shots that came on the extended powerplay were from the perimeter, and were not high quality shots.
The dagger came with only 41 seconds remaining in the second period when Kravchenko scored the eventual game-winner for the Stampede. Sioux Falls quieted the crowd and took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission. The 'Pede outshot Lincoln 12-8 in the second period.
In the third period, both teams put 10 shots on goal, but neither squad would find the back of the net. The Stars pulled Michael Bitzer for the extra attacker very late in the game in hopes of scoring that game-tying goal, but Lindgren (as he did all game long) shut the door.
Stars outshot the Stampede 32-31 overall. Michael Bitzer stopped 29 of 31 in the loss, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 of 32 for the win. Deservedly so, Lindgren was named the #1 star of the game.
It's not very often that the Stars have more powerplay opportunities in a game compared to their opponent, but that's what happened last night. The Stars went 0-for-5 on the PP, while the Stampede went 0-for-3.
Overall, I didn't think the Stars played that bad in this game. Other than the two hiccups in the second period, I thought Lincoln played a very solid game. Yes, the powerplay looked pretty bad at times, but what's new. Sioux Falls is a very, very good team (best in the USHL, in my opinion), so losing a close one to the Stampede isn't anything the Stars should hang their heads over.
The Stars brought up affiliate defenseman Parker Reno to play last night, which was a bit of a surprise in my opinion. Reno was a draft pick of the Lincoln Stars in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft. Reno just completed his senior season at Edina High School (MN), where his team won the state 2A championship. Parker has committed to RPI (same as Riley Bourbonnais, Jimmy DeVito, and Jake Wood). Reno was a finalist for Minnesota's "Mr. Hockey Award," given to the state's top senior high school hockey player.
Everything I've heard is that Reno will attend RPI this upcoming fall, so I was surprised that the Stars would bring up a player from their affiliate list who isn't planning on coming to Lincoln next season. Last weekend, the Stars brought up affiliate forward/defenseman Tyler Nanne, who just happens to play for the same Edina team as Reno. Nanne should be playing in Lincoln next season. I figured that Reno wasn't interested in playing in Lincoln since he committed to RPI for this fall. Chad Johnson stated on the radio that they are working on getting Reno to report to Lincoln this fall, so we'll have to wait and see how that plays out. Reno is a big, rangy defenseman which a ton of upside. He'd be a great addition to the team next season if he decides to defer his commitment to RPI until 2014.
Stars are back at the IceBox tonight for an even bigger tilt against the Omaha Lancers, who haven't played a game since last Friday, March 15th. Hopefully they'll be a little rusty tonight. The key for Lincoln in this game is to stay out of the penalty box. Omaha has done very well on the PP against the Stars this season. Lincoln can't afford to give up too many PP opportunities to the Lancers tonight and still expect to win. If the Stars can play as disciplined tonight as they did against the Stampede, I think they'll be ok.
Note: Here are the totals from the jersey auction last night. The picture posted above shows the specially designed jerseys by Stars trainer Corey Courtney. The Lincoln Stars raised a total of $44,650 for the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life." Awesome! We truly do have the best fans in the USHL!
Eric Schurhamer: $1500
Garrett Brossart: $1200
Riley Bourbonnais: $1600
Max Humitz: $1000
Daniel Willett: $1350
Zack Pittman: $1200
Phil Marinaccio: $1150
Jake Wood: $2100
Jackson Teichroeb: $1200
Michael Bitzer: $2300
Justin Woods: $1800
Zach Frye: $1950
Jimmy DeVito: $3500
Zach Aston-Reese: $1300
Brad Hawkinson: $1600
Vinni Lettieri: $1900
Luke Johnson: $1900
Tommy Schutt: $1400
Eric Scheid: $1500
Will Suter: $1500
Dominik Shine: $4200
Mike McKee: $3000
Paul LaDue: $2200
Team Jersey: $2300