Thursday, March 7, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Muskegon and Fargo

The Lincoln Stars will face an unfamiliar foe, and a very familiar foe this weekend when they battle the Muskegon Lumberjacks at the IceBox on Friday, and the Fargo Force at Sheels Arena on Saturday.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

Follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars are currently 29-19-3 (61 points), and are tied with the Waterloo Blackhawks for third place in the UHL Western Conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.  Lincoln, Waterloo, and Omaha are all fighting for two playoff spots in the west.

First up for the black and blue this weekend will be the Muskegon Lumberjacks, who sport a record of 27-15-10 (64 points) and are in second place in the USHL Eastern Conference.  This will be the only time the Stars and 'Jacks play one another in the 2012-13 regular season.

Amazingly, this will only be the second time that the Muskegon Lumberjacks will have played at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Their last visit to the IceBox came way back on April 1st, 2011.  In that particular game, Stars forward John McCarron scored two goals (including the game winner) and one assist to power Lincoln to a 5-4 win over Muskegon.

The 'Jacks finished the 2010-11 season in fifth place (their first season in the USHL), and finished in eighth place at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.  Despite their struggles the past few seasons, Muskegon is playing very well this year and are one of the top teams in the eastern conference.  They were a rough and tumble team during their first two seasons in the league, finishing with 1591 penalty minutes in 2010-11 (tops in the USHL), and 1394 penalty minutes in 2011-12 (second most in the USHL).

This season, the 'Jacks stopped playing undisciplined hockey and started winning games.  Funny how that can happen.  Their team MVP has been without a doubt overager goaltender Kevin Lindskoug.  The '92 import from Sweden has an impressive record of 21-11-6 with a 2.32 goals against average and a .928% save percentage.  His 21 wins ranks as fourth best in the USHL, his 2.32 goals against is second best, and his .928% save percentage is tops in the league.

On Saturday, the Stars will have to get back on the bus for a quick road game in Fargo against the Force.  Fargo is currently in second place in the USHL Western Conference with a record of 31-16-5 (67 points).  Lincoln is 3-3-0 in six games against the Force this season.  Lincoln will play the Saturday night game in Fargo, and then will return to Scheels Arena for their last regular season meeting next Tuesday (3/12).  In their last meeting last Saturday (3/2), the Stars beat the Force by a score of 3-2.

Lincoln is coming off an disappointing 6-2 home loss to the Sioux City Musketeers this past Tuesday.  The Stars couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that lopsided loss, and surrendered three PP goals to the Muskies.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the next seven games will be a huge test for the Stars.   Lincoln will play Muskegon, Fargo (x2), Waterloo, Green Bay, Sioux Falls, and Omaha in the next seven games.  Those teams have a combined record of 180-101-23.  This Stars squad has shown throughout this season that they have the talent to beat the top teams in the USHL.  Hopefully we can see that Stars team very frequently the next couple of weeks.

On a side note, the BlueLine Booster Club still has spots available on the bus that will be going up to Sioux City, IA for the Friday 3/29/13 game against the Musketeers. This will be game #1,000 in Lincoln Stars franchise history. You may have heard Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye talking about this recently on air.  Melbye really wants to get as many Stars fans up there for this historic game.

The cost to ride the BlueLine Booster Club bus to Sioux City on 3/29 is $25, and if you get a ticket through the club, it will cost an additional $10.  If you don't want to ride in the bus but you still want to go to the game, you can buy just the tickets from the BLBC booth.  It sounds like two full buses will be making the trip up there.  There aren't a lot of seats still available from what I've been told, so make sure you stop by the BLBC booth Friday night to sign up.

Go Stars.

P.S. Just a friendly reminder for those of you planning on attending the Stars game Friday night at the IceBox. The NE boys state high school basketball tournament is being played at the Devaney Center, so the area around the IceBox will be a parking nightmare tomorrow. Give yourself plenty of time. Watch out for those out of town drivers, too.

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