Thursday, March 14, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Waterloo and Green Bay

The Lincoln Stars will certainly have their hands full this weekend when they take on the Waterloo Blackhawks on the road on Friday, and the Green Bay Gamblers at the IceBox on Saturday.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for both contests.

You can 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 31-20-3 (65 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 (one point behind the Stars and Blackhawks) are all fighting for two playoff spots in the west.

First up for the good guys this weekend will be the Waterloo Blackhawks, who sport a record of 31-19-3 (65 points) and as mentioned above, are tied with the Stars for third place in the USHL Western Conference.  This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and 'Hawks play one another in the 2012-13 regular season.  Lincoln is 2-1-0 in the three prior games against Waterloo this season.

You only have to glance at the standings to understand how important this game is.  If Lincoln can get the two points, they'll be all alone in third place and will have won the season series against Waterloo.  If the Stars and 'Hawks are tied at the end of the season, the tie-breaker is the head-to-head regular season record.  So this is a huge, huge game.

The last time Lincoln took on the Blackhawks at Young Arena in Waterloo, IA, the Stars were blown out by a score of 10-2 on New Year's Eve.  Thanks to Tommy Albindia, the Blackhawks were awarded a whopping 15 powerplay opportunities, and scored on 8 of them.  Let's hope "Tommy Boy" isn't officiating the game fight night in Waterloo.

Saturday evening, the Stars will be back at the IceBox to face the Green Bay Gamblers who sport a record of 32-17-3 (67 points).  Like the Muskegon Lumberjacks who visited the IceBox last Friday, the Gamblers will play the Stars only one time in the 2012-13 season.

The Gamblers have dominated the USHL the past 4 season or so.  Green Bay has won the Anderson Cup (top regular season record) three of the last four seasons, and are the reigning Clark Cup champions.  The Gamblers won the Clark Cup in 2009-10, also.

While the Dubuque Fighting Saints have gotten all the hype and publicity in the eastern conference this season, the Gamblers have quietly put together a solid season. However, the 2012-13 campaign didn't start well for GB.  They stumbled out of the gate with a lackluster 1-7-2 record in their first 10 games this season.  For the first month of the season, they occupied last place in the east.  They have really turned it around since and have to be considered one of the top 3 or 5 teams in the entire league.

Four points up for grabs this weekend against two very good hockey clubs.  Getting two points is a must to stay relevant in the playoff race, in my opinion.  Finishing the weekend with 3-4 points would be ideal, but that won't be easy.  The Stars will have to find a way to stay out of the penalty box in both games, but especially in Waterloo since the Blackhawks' PP unit is deadlier than smallpox in the middle ages.  Staying out of the box in Waterloo might be easier said than done depending on the officiating crew.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Per the Lincoln Stars' Twitter account, the team has hired former AHL and NHL netminder Chris Holt as its new goaltending coach.  Click here to read the tweet.  Click here to view Chris Holts' Wikipedia page.  This news certainly came out of left field, but it's nice to see the team hire a goaltending coach.  The timing of the hiring is a bit strange, coming at the end of this season.  Holt spent the 2012-13 season playing in Russia for a KHL team.  Assuming his season is over, which I think it is, the timing of this hire makes a little more sense.  Chris does have a Nebraska connection as he played for UNO from 2003-05.

Here's a video of some analysis Chris Holt did back in December after watching some Stars games:

Here's a video of an interview Chris Holt did a few years ago while playing in the KHL:

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