Tuesday, April 30, 2013

B³ Prospect Watch - Part I

The 2012-13 season ended a little too soon for all of us, but it's time for me to look ahead to next season and the players that could make a difference in 2013-14.

The purpose of this particular blog article is to highlight a group of younger players the Stars have previously drafted and are protected on their affiliate list.

This is the first update of two that I will post during the next couple of months, leading up Lincoln's next tryout camp in June of 2013.

Although some of these names might not be familiar to most fans, the players listed here will most likely be playing for Lincoln sometime in the next season or two.  So get familiar with them, because you will see them soon at the IceBox.  In fact, some of the players mentioned below have already worn a Stars uniform.

If you have additional information about any of the players listed below that you would like me to add to the article, or if I have posted inaccurate info, please send me an email at lincolnstarshockey@gmail.com.

Fourteen of the fifteen players listed below were on Lincoln's protected roster which was released in July of 2012.  One player noted below, defenseman William Scherer, was added to Lincoln's protected roster this past fall.

This is kind of a long article, so make sure you click the "Read more" link below to check it out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

B³ Lincoln Stars 2012-13 Season Recap

The season may be over, but I thought I'd take a few minutes and try to recap the 2012-13 Lincoln Stars campaign the best that I could.

I'll also highlight each of the players on the roster, and where they will be playing hockey in 2013-14.

As always, I would appreciate any comments left by readers out there.  What were some of the high points for you as a fan?

This is a very long article, so click the "Read more" link below to check it out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 0, Sioux Falls 2

The 2012-13 season came to a close for the Lincoln Stars Tuesday night in Sioux Falls as the Stampede pitched a 2-0 shutout in Game 5 to win the best-of-five series, 3-2.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

The Stampede will now advance to the USHL Western Finals where they will face the winner of the Fargo-Waterloo series.  The Force and Blackhawks are tied up at two games a piece in their best-of-five first round series.

Tough way to end the season by being shutout, but the Stars battled all game long and should be very proud of their effort tonight, and in this series.

Not a ton of highlights to cover in this article.  The Stars came out to start the first period very sluggish, similar to how they played the majority of Game 4 in Lincoln last Saturday night.  The Stampede controlled play, and put a ton of shots on Michael Bitzer.

Sioux Falls outshot Lincoln 15-5 in the first twenty minutes, but Bitzer stood tall and blanked the 'Pede.  The five shots the Stars put on SF goaltender Charlie Lindgren in the first period hardly tested him.

I'm not sure what happened in the Stars' locker room in between the first and second period, but the good guys came out very, very strong in the middle period.  For the first 16 minutes of the second, Lincoln absolutely dominated the period.  At one point in the second, they had outshot Sioux Falls 19-3.  But like Bitzer, Charlie Lindgren stood on his head and stymied very Lincoln scoring attempt.

Sioux Falls finally broke out of their slump in the last four minutes of the second, but they also were kept off the scoreboard.  Through the first two periods of this game, shots were even at 24-24.  Both Bitzer and Lindgren were battling back and forth in a classic goaltender's duel.

The team that scored first in Games 1-4 won that particular game, so going into the third, I think most thought that if a goal was to be scored in the final period, it would probably end up being the game-winner.  Unfortunately for the Stars, that proved to be true.

Just 1:19 into the third, Stampede forward Ryan Siiro carried the puck into the Lincoln zone and attempted to send a shot on net, but it was blocked by Stars defenseman Mike McKee.  Puck luck had the rebound bounce off McKee and go right back on the stick of Siiro who fired it again.  This time, the puck went high stick-side past Bitzer to give the Stampede a 1-0 lead.  That's all Sioux Falls would need to win this game, and the series.

Lincoln had plenty of chances in the third period to tie the game, with three different powerplay opportunities, but the 'Pede and Lindgren held the Stars scoreless.  Despite have three PP chances in the third, the Stampede still outshot Lincoln 18-10 in the third period.

The Stars pulled Bitzer late in the game for the extra attacker, but they were unable to get that crucial game-tying goal.  With 41 seconds remaining, the Stampede scored an empty-net goal to seal the 3-2 series win.

Stampede outshot the Stars 42-34 overall.  Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay, while Sioux Falls went 0-1 with the man advantage.  I want to give big props to Lincoln's PK unit.  Sioux Falls went 0-for-14 on the PP in this series.  I said before this series started that Lincoln would need to improve on the PP and the PK to have a chance to win.  The PK unit looked great.  The PP unit, however, was a bit schizophrenic.  They looked good at times (Game 3), and ugly at times (Games 4 and 5).

Tough way to lose the series, especially after the Stars were up 2-1 after three games.  Game 4 in Lincoln last Saturday night was a lost opportunity to use home ice advantage to their favor.

What more can you say about Michael Bitzer in the series against Sioux Falls.  He finished with a 2-2 record, and a 1.01 goals against average along with a .972 save percentage.  Incredible numbers for a goaltender on the losing end.  He was the main reason why the Stars still had an opportunity to win this series late in Game 5.

Amazingly, the Stars were only shutout one time this season...and it was this game.  A total of 69 games (regular season and playoffs), and only shutout once.  Crazy.  I couldn't believe it when I looked it up.

After the game, I was looking forward to Chad Johnson talking about each player like he and Jimmy have normally done in years past, but his postgame radio interview was brief and seemed rushed.  Not sure what the deal was there.  Normally, the coach will take a good amount of time after the season ends to mention each player on the roster, how they improved, and what they brought to the team.  Also, I was hoping Chad would talk about which players are coming back next season, but he seemed to dodge that question for some reason.  Not sure why.  If you missed the postgame radio interview, click here to listen to it.

Just a quick note for all of the players who wore the Lincoln Stars uniform this past season.  Thank you very much for providing us with great hockey all season long.  We are very appreciative of all of the blood, sweat, and tears you shed over the course of 64+ games for our entertainment.

For all of the parents who read this blog, thank you so much for sending your sons to Lincoln.  It was an honor watching them play.

I will type out a 2012-13 season recap article sometime this weekend.  I'll talk about the season that just wrapped up, and also what's ahead.  Even though the season is over, I will still be busy here at the B³.  The USHL Futures and Entry drafts are on May 6th and 7th, and then Lincoln will hold its tryout camp at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis from June 6th-9th.  There's a lot to review, so stay tuned for that article.

As always, thanks for reading.

Go Stars.

Video "highlights" are posted blow.

Lincoln Stars Game 5 Preview from Channel 8

Quick little video below from KLKN Channel 8 here in Lincoln.  Click play below to check it out.

Do or die time!  I'll be watching from home this evening and will post live updates on Twitter, and on the blog's Facebook page.  Sending good vibes to the Stars in SF!  End this series tonight with a big win!
  News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Sunday, April 21, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Sioux Falls 2, Lincoln 1

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Sioux Falls Stampede put in a solid effort Saturday night at the IceBox to beat the Lincoln Stars by a score of 2-1, and even their best-of-five series, 2-2.

Game 5 will be held in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, April 23rd.  The winner of that game will advance to the USHL Western Conference Finals to face the winner of the Fargo-Waterloo series.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

As good as the Stars started Game 3 on Friday night, it was pretty much the opposite in Game 4 on Saturday night.  Lincoln looked very sluggish, while the Stampede came out with their hair on fire and dominated the first period.

Luckily for the Stars, goaltender Michael Bitzer was up to the task.  If not for Bitzer bailing out his teammates, the score could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0 after one period.  However, neither team would score in the opening twenty minutes.  Sioux Falls outshot Lincoln 8-5 in the first, but from my seat it seemed like the shot disparity was much higher in SF's favor.

A former Lincoln Stars defenseman got on the scoreboard first for the Stampede, as Vincent Muto scored early on in the second period at the 1:28 mark to give SF a 1-0 lead.  The 'Pede played very strong again in the middle stanza.  One thing they do very, very well is play very aggressive on the forecheck.  It's comparable to a full-court press in basketball.  They will send two forwards into the Lincoln zone when the Stars have the puck, and they will disrupt passes and generally cause havoc.  For the majority of the game, the Stars had no answer for the pressure SF was putting on them.

Sioux Falls took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission, but again, the score could have been much worse that this point of the game.  Stampede outshot the Stars 17-11 through the first two periods.

In the third, the dagger came at the 8:24 mark when Sam Rothstein scored for the Stampede to give his team a commanding 2-0 lead.  When the score was 1-0 Stampede, I told a few friends sitting around me that the next goal would be huge.  With the way the Stampede were playing, I though that if they were able to score the next goal to make it 2-0, the game would most likely be over.  But if the Stars could someone get the next goal, it would be a 1-1 game and all momentum would be on Lincoln's side.

Down 2-0, the Stars seemed to finally kick it into an extra gear and outplayed Sioux Falls for the rest of the period.  However, it was too little, too late.  Paul LaDue scored Lincoln's only goal of the night at the 13:57 mark, while shorthanded, to pull the Stars to within one goal.

Lincoln put 12 shots on goal in the third period, and put some good pressure on Sioux Falls goaltender Charlie Lindgren and the Stampede, but they could not get the game-tying goal.

Bitzer stopped 22 of 24 shots in the loss, but should be commended for keeping his team in it.  In my opinion, he's the only reason why the Stars had an opportunity to tie this game late in the third period.  Charlie Lindgren stopped 22 of 23 shots for the Stampede.

Lincoln went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the Stampede went 0-for-4.

As good as the Stars' powerplay looked Friday night, it took two steps backwards Saturday night.  Give credit to Sioux Falls again for forechecking like demons, and creating more chances shorthanded than the Stars had PP chances.  Lincoln's PP unit looked disorganized and were unable to truly test Lindgren.  One positive in regards to special teams is that the Stars continued to play well on the penalty kill.  The Stampede are 0-for-13 on the PP through four games in this series.

This is now a one-game series, with momentum seemingly on Sioux Falls' side as they head back to their home rink.  However, the Stars have generally played well at Sioux Falls Arena, despite the small ice surface.  Who wants it more?  We'll find out Tuesday night!

Go Stars

Edit:  Video highlights from Game 4 are below.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Sioux Falls 1, Lincoln 4

ZAR (middle) celebrates his 1st goal of the game
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars scored three powerplay goals Friday night at the IceBox in route to a dominating 4-1 victory over the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede.  With the win, the Stars now lead the best-of-five series against the Stampede, 2-1.

If Lincoln can win game four, which is tonight (Saturday) at the IceBox, they will upset Sioux Falls and win the first round series.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

It was very important that the Stars came out strong and established control of the game, and that's exactly what they did in the first period.  Lincoln spent the majority of the period on the attack, while the Stampede barely were able to clear the puck out of their own zone.

The Stars were rewarded by their great play in the first period at the 8:23 mark when Vinni Lettieri scored Lincoln's first PP goal on a rebound to give the good guys a 1-0 lead.  Riley Bourbonnais and Phil Marinaccio collected the assists on Vinni's first goal of the playoffs.

Although Lincoln took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission, it could have been a lot worse for the Stampede.  SF goaltender Charlie Lindgren did a good job in the opening period keeping his team in the game.  Stars outshot the Stampede 19-7 in the first twenty minutes.

Sioux Falls regained their composure in the second period and played much better.  'Pede forward Zeb Knutson collected a loose puck in the slot at the 2:34 mark and fired a shot that got past Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer to even the game at 1-1.  From my seat, it looked like Bitzer may have been screened on the play and did not see the puck.

This was a pivotal time in the game.  Although the Stars had outplayed Sioux Falls up until this point, the Stampede were able to tie the game up and tried to use the momentum from Knutson's goal to take control of the game.  However, it was defenseman Mike McKee and forward Zach Aston-Reese who combined on the next Stars goal to take the wind out of the Stampede's sails.

While in the defensive zone, McKee fired the puck up the ice on a clearing attempt that seemed like at the time that it would be called for icing.  However, ZAR turned on his jets and beat two Stampede players to the puck.  Zach quickly skated in on Lindgren on a min-breakaway and fired the puck past the SF goaltender to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead.  ZAR's first goal of the game would turn out to be the eventual game-winner.

Shots were 26-20 in favor of Lincoln through the first two periods.  Stars took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Like in the opening twenty minutes, the third period was completely owned by the Lincoln Stars.  What helped Lincoln's cause to win this game was Sioux Falls' lack of discipline and a total team meltdown in the third.  The Stars had only two powerplay opportunities in the first two periods, but thanks to SF's meltdown late in the game, Lincoln ended up with six PP opportunities in the third period alone.

What was impressive as a fan watching from the stands was the fact that the Stars kept their composure and did not retaliate after the Stampede tried to goon it up in the third period.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but it was awesome.  The Stars knew they had the lead, and they let the Stampede beat themselves with stupid penalty after stupid penalty.

The Stars scored two goals in the final period to increase their lead to 4-1, and both goals came on the powerplay.  ZAR scored his second goal of the game at the 7:25 mark, with an assist to Dominik Shine, to give the Stars a 3-1 lead.

Eric Scheid capped the scoring for the Stars with a PP goal at the 15:45 mark after he wristed the puck through the five-hole of Charlie Lindgren.  ZAR and Paul LaDue picked up the assists on Scheid first goal of the playoffs, and his first goal in 10 games.

Stars went 3-for-8 on the powerplay, while the Stampede went 0-for-2.  Through the first three games of this series, the Stampede are 0-for-10 on the powerplay.  Meanwhile, the Stars are 3-for-12 with the man advantage.  So far, special teams has helped the Stars take the 2-1 series lead.  Good to see.

Once again, Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer had a very strong game.  Bitzer stopped 32 of 33 shots in the game two win over the Stampede.  In the last two games against the 'Pede, Michael Bitzer has stopped 75 of 76 shots.  He's been cool, calm, and composed.

ZAR was named the #1 star of the game, and rightly so.  As good as Vinni Lettieri has played for the Lincoln Stars the past couple of months, Zach Aston-Reese has played just as well.  He's driving hard to the net, scoring big goals, and playing physical hockey.  He's a prototype power forward.

Tonight's game at the IceBox should be a dandy.  You have to figure the 'Pede will come out very, very strong because they know it's do or die.  I'm sure the Stars will come out strong as well since they want to wrap this series up tonight....in front of the home fans at the IceBox.

Can't wait!  Let's finish 'em off!

Go Stars.

Edit:  Video highlights from Game 3 are below.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Sioux Falls 0

Will Suter scored two goals, and Michael Bitzer stopped all 43 shots he faced to propel the Lincoln Stars to a 4-0 shutout win over the Sioux Falls Stampede tonight in game two of their first-round playoff series.  The win tonight evened the series at 1-1, and ensured the Stars will play games four and five at the IceBox this Friday and Saturday night.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

I've got to get some sleep, so this recap will be very brief.  I will try to update it tomorrow (Thu) when I have more time.  If you'd like to leave a comment, please do so below.

Scoring for the Stars tonight was Will Suter (two goals including the game-winner), Justin Woods, and Zach Aston-Reese.  Sioux Falls gave all three stars of the game to Lincoln players: Michael Bitzer (1st star), Will Suter (2nd star), ZAR (3rd star).

The Stars came out very flat in this game, but Bitzer kept the team in it with some timely saves.  Lincoln played much better in the second and third periods and were able to solve Stampede Charlie Lindgren in a big way.

Shots were 43-33 in favor of the Stampede.  Lincoln played great on the PK as Sioux Falls was blanked on the PP, going 0-for-6.

The last time a Stars goaltender pitched a shutout in the playoffs was way back on April 8th, 2006 when Bryan Hogan stopped all 41 shots to beat the Omaha Lancers by a score of 1-0.

More tomorrow when I have more time!  If you don't already have them, buy those tickets for Friday and Saturday night.  The Stars need every advantage they can get from the home crowd at the IceBox.  Time to step up and be loud for the boys!

Go Stars.

Edit:  Video highlights from game two are posted below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 2, Sioux Falls 3 OT

Sioux Falls forward Tony Calderone scored 81 seconds into overtime to beat the Lincoln Stars by a score of 3-2 tonight in game one of their first round playoff series.  The Stampede took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

I was able to catch this game on FASTHockey, so I will share my thoughts below.  If you were watching at home, or lucky enough to be at the game, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.  Please leave a comment below.

Lincoln outshot SF 15-12 in the opening period, but trailed 1-0 going into the first intermission.

On the SF scoring play in the first period, the Stampede skated into the Lincoln zone on a 2-on-1 rush.  Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb made the initial save on the first Stampede shot on goal, but he was out of position for the rebound that Calderone (trailing on the play) tapped into the open net. 

The Stars were able to test SF goaltender Charlie Lindgren with some good chances in the first twenty minutes, but nothing got by him. Overall, it was a pretty good showing for both squads in the first period. 

The 'Pede got out to a 2-0 lead in the second period thanks to a bang-bang play by CJ Franklin and Zeb Knutson. The Stars were unable to get the puck out of their zone and the Stampede wore them down before capitalizing.  Franklin was left alone behind the Lincoln net before centering the puck to a wide open Knutson in the slot who one-timed the puck past Teichroeb.

Will Suter answered for the Stars just 33 seconds after Knutson's goal after a rebound was backhanded past Lindgren.  Riley Bourbonnais and Eric Scheid collected the assists on Suter's even strength second period goal.  Great play by Suter to slide the backhand by Lindgren while a Stampede player was draped all over him.

After two periods in Sioux Falls, the Stampede led 2-1.  Shots were 25-21 in favor of Lincoln through forty minutes.  I thought the Stars were the better team in the second period but Lindgren stood tall.  Surprisingly, only one minor penalty was called through the first two periods. 

Trailing by one goal going into the final period, the Stars knotted the score at 2-2 about 5 minutes in.  It started with a great shift by Mike McKee who killed a ton of time on SF's PP....before blocking a shot and skating the puck up the ice before passing it to Dominik Shine.  Shine ripped a shot glove high past Lindgren.  It was an absolute bomb. 

The score would remain tied at 2-2 after regulation.  Shots were even at 29-29 through 60 minutes.

As stated above, it wouldn't take long for the 'Pede to win this one in the 20-minute OT period.  Just 81 seconds in, the Stampede won a faceoff in the Lincoln zone and Calderone ripped a wrister past Teichroeb, who acted like he didn't see the puck.  Teichs acted like he was screened on the play.

Stars finished 0-for-1 on the powerplay while the 'Pede went 0-for-2 with the man advantage.  Jackson Teichroeb was solid in net despite the loss, as he stopped 30 of 33 shots on goal.  Charlie Lindgren stopped 28 of 30 in the win.  I suppose you could call this one a goaltenders duel.  Both netminders played very well and kept their teams in it.

Tough loss for sure, but I'm really proud of how the boys played.  They proved without a doubt they can beat the mighty Stampede on their home ice.  A few lucky bounces here or there, and the Stars would have won this game in regulation.  However, give credit to the Stampede for taking full advantage of their scoring opportunities.

Needless to say, game two Wednesday night in Sioux Falls is a must win for Lincoln.  They cannot afford to go down 0-2 to the Stampede.  The good news is that the Stars played very, very well in game one and have a lot to be positive about going into game two.  Just keep firing those pucks on goal and drive hard to the net.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Video highlights are below.

Monday, April 15, 2013

B³ Clark Cup Playoffs Preview: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede

The Lincoln Stars will open play in the 2013 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs against the Sioux Falls Stampede this Tuesday evening in their first round series matchup.

Click here to view the Pointstreak playoff bracket.

This will be a best-of-five series (first team to win three games moves on to the next round).  Here are the particulars of each game:

#1 Sioux Falls Stampede vs. #4 Lincoln Stars
Game 1: Tuesday, April 16th, 7:05pm CST – Lincoln @ Sioux Falls
Game 2: Wednesday, April 17th, 7:05pm CST – Lincoln @ Sioux Falls
Game 3: Friday, April 19th, 7:05pm CST – Sioux Falls @ Lincoln
Game 4: Saturday, April 20th, 7:05pm CST – Sioux Falls @ Lincoln (if necessary)
Game 5: Tuesday, April 23rd, 7:05pm CST – Lincoln @ Sioux Falls (if necessary)

The Stars and Stampede met eight times during the 2012-13 USHL regular season with Lincoln going 3-4-1 in those eight contests.  Lincoln went 1-2-1 in the four games at the IceBox and 2-2-0 in the four games in Sioux Falls.

Both the Stars and the Stampede are playing their best hockey of the season right now.  Each squad is 10-3-0 in their last thirteen games played.

This should be one heck of a series.  Although the Stampede won five of eight games against Lincoln in the regular season, the playoffs are a brand new season and I really don't think either team will be thinking of what happened in those 8 previous contest.  For Lincoln, I think it's important they come out strong Tuesday night and take the play to the Stampede.

Stating the obvious here, but it's vital that the Stars win one of the two games in Sioux Falls.  Now, winning both games in Sioux Falls would be great and the Stars are certainly capable of that.  But the main goal for the Stars should be coming back to the IceBox Friday night with at least one win.  That way the Stars could possibly win the series with two home victories on Friday and Saturday night.  Gotta think positive.

What you don't want to see as a Stars fan is Lincoln losing both games in Sioux Falls and having to win three straight games to win the series.  Winning three in a row against SF is possible, but unlikely.  They didn't finish in first place in the west as a fluke.  In my opinion, the Stampede were the best team I saw in person during the regular season.

The Stampede have one of the top goaltenders in the USHL in Charlie Lindgren, who should get every start in this series.  Lingren went 35-14-2 in 52 games for the Stampede this season, and started every game against Lincoln.  He has been Sioux Falls' workhorse between the pipes.  The 'Pede will live and die by how well Lindgren plays in this series.

For Lincoln, I have no clue who the coaches will start in net on Tuesday night.  Both Jackson Teichroeb and Michael Bitzer are playing great right now.  Teichroeb has won 7 of his last 8 starts, while Bitzer has won 7 of his last 10 stars.  Both goaltenders had very similar stats against the Stampede during the regular season.  Do you start Bitzer because he's coming off a win in Lincoln last game, or do you start Teichroeb who has received the majority of the starts the last month?  I honestly have no clue.  It's a coin flip, in my opinion.

Personally, I think the Stars match up pretty well against the Stampede.  Both teams have great depth at the forward position, and play a very similar aggressive style.  While Sioux Falls might have a little more talent at forward, I think Lincoln has better talent on the blueline.  The Stampede may have the goaltending edge, but if Teichroeb or Bitzer gets hot, that could change.

I'm not sure how the refs will call games in the playoffs, but traditionally, less calls are made which will benefit Lincoln.  Still, the Stars must play smart hockey.  No retaliatory, or just plain stupid penalties.  Play physical, in-your-face hockey, but play smart.  They've been doing a great job of that in the last month or so and that has equaled wins.  I don't think it's a coincidence at all that the Stars are 10-3-0 in their last 13 games while playing much smarter than they did earlier in the regular season.  I hope that same style of play continues.

I will be watching the game Tuesday night on FASTHockey and will provide live updates on the blog's Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The Stars worked hard all season long, especially as of late, to earn a spot in the playoffs.  Regarding games three and four, it's time for us to do our part and make the IceBox an intimidating place to play this weekend.  Drag all the friends and family you can to both games this Friday and Saturday night.  Believe in Black and Blue!  Be LOUD!

Go Stars.

Vinni Lettieri named USHL Forward of the Week

Congrats to Lincoln Stars forward Vinni Lettieri who was named the USHL Forward of the Week.  Click here to read the official USHL press release.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

Vinni Lettieri, F, Lincoln Stars: The Excelsior, MN native had a stellar week for the Stars, tallying five goals and leading Lincoln to a pair of wins.  On Friday, the 18-year-old recorded a hat trick, his second of the season, and tied a game high with a plus-three on-ice rating in a 5-2 win over the Tri-City Storm.  His goal in the second period held up to be the game-winner.

The University of Minnesota commit responded with a two-goal performance in the 4-3 win over the Storm on Saturday.  Lettieri finishes the regular season ranked second on the team in scoring with 56 points (28g, 28a) and leads the Stars with 28 goals.  He also ranks second on the team with a plus-29 on-ice rating.

I was very happy to see Vinni win this award as he really busted his butt this past weekend to score those five goals, and was only a few feet away from scoring an empty net goal Saturday night which would have given him hat tricks in back-to-back games.

Lettieri is a fun player to watch live as he always has a nose for the puck.  Although he lacks size, he certainly plays big and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners and in front of the net.  In my opinion, he is Lincoln's best forward right now and you could argue he has been Lincoln's MVP the last few months.

Congrats again to Vinni!  Very well deserved.  Hopefully he keeps this hot streak going into the playoffs.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lincoln Stars lead the USHL in attendance for seventh straight season

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Another season gone, another attendance record set by the Lincoln Stars.  Seems like every year about this time I'm posting an article like this.  I think it's a statistic that a lot of folks gloss over, and take for granted.  Good season, bad season, good economy, bad economy, we all show up at the IceBox and root on the best junior hockey team in the world.  I'm positive that there aren't any other USHL teams that could lead the league in attendance year in and year out, despite their record.  It's no secret we have the most committed, hardcore fans in the league.

As always, a big thanks go to Lincoln Stars Director of Ticket Operations Micki Buhrmann and her staff for being an essential part of this awesome attendance streak and always being helpful when called upon.  Micki and her staff work very hard, and they deserve a ton of positive feedback.

Historical attendance statistics (the past 11 seasons) for the Stars, courtesy of Pointstreak:

2012-13:  126,392 total;  3,949 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2011-12:  117,879 total;  3,929 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2010-11:  113,727 total;  3,790 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2009-10:  124,422 total;  4,147 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2008-09:  129,428 total;  4,314 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2007-08:  130,235 total;  4,341 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2006-07:  130,134 total;  4,337 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2005-06:  129,570 total;  4,319 per game (second overall in the USHL)
2004-05:  132,768 total;  4,425 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2003-04:  135,719 total;  4,523 per game (first overall in the USHL)
2002-03:  138,240 total;  4,608 per game (second overall in the USHL)

Here's to you, Stars Nation!  You should all be very proud of the fantastic atmosphere created at the IceBox, which is second to none in the USHL!

First round playoff schedule is finalized; Stars vs. Stampede

Just a quick article this afternoon to let everyone know who the Stars will face in the first round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

The Waterloo Blackhawks beat the Indiana Ice this afternoon by a score of 5-2, and with the two points, they leapfrogged the Lincoln Stars into third place in the USHL western conference.

Waterloo finished the regular season with 82 points, while the Stars finished with 81 points.  Click here to view the final regular season standings.

So with that decided, the Stars (as the #4 seed in the west) will face the #1 seed Sioux Falls Stampede in the first round of the playoffs.  Here is the schedule for the best-of-five series:

Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede
Game One:  Tuesday, April 16 @ Sioux Falls
Game Two:  Wednesday, April 17 @ Sioux Falls
Game Three:  Friday, April 19 @ Lincoln 
Game Four:  Saturday, April 20 @ Lincoln (if necessary)
Game Five:  Tuesday, April 23 @ Sioux Falls (if necessary)

Regardless of the outcome of the first two games in Sioux Falls, the Stars will play at the IceBox this Friday in game three of the series.  If necessary, game four would be the next night (Saturday) at the IceBox.

Since the first two games of this series are on a weekday, I assume it will be difficult for most of "Stars Nation" to attend those contests in Sioux Falls, SD.  However, I hope to see a packed and rowdy IceBox Friday night.

I've had a few Stars fans email me and ask if  the Stars are going to hold a watch party for games one and two, but I have no clue.  Last year, the Stars held a watch party at Qdoba restaurant in downtown Lincoln for the series against Fargo.  There was a great turnout, but the TV was too small and the audio wasn't the greatest.  We'll find out soon enough if the Stars have any plans for a playoff watch party.

I will post an Sioux Falls playoff preview article sometime on Monday or early Tuesday, so keep an eye out for that.

Go Stars.

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Tri-City 3

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars finished the 2012-13 regular season on a high note with a 4-3 road win over the Tri-City Storm in Kearney on Saturday night.  The Stars completed an undefeated record against the Storm this season with a 9-0-0 record in nine games.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win, the Stars wrapped up the regular season with a record of 39-22-3 (81 points) and a .633 winning percentage through 64 games.  Click here to view the current USHL standings

The Stars finished the regular season much like how they started it....red hot.  In their first thirteen games of the regular season, Lincoln had a 11-2-0 record.  In their last thirteen games of the regular season, Lincoln went 10-3-0.

The Stars still do not not know who they will face in the first round of the playoffs, but that will be decided this afternoon.  The fourth place Waterloo Blackhawks, who are one point behind the Stars, take on the Indiana Ice at 2:05pm CST.  If Waterloo wins in regulation or in OT, they'll finish in third place and the Stars will face the Sioux Falls Stampede in the first round. If Waterloo loses in regulation or in OT, they'll finish in fourth place and the Stars will face the Fargo Force in the first round.

Personally, I think the proposed playoff schedule against the Sioux Falls is more favorable for the Stars compared to the schedule against the Fargo Force, so I hope the Blackhawks win their game this afternoon. Fargo and Sioux Falls are both very good teams, so the Stars will have their hands full regardless of who they play.

Back to the game last night in Kearney, both teams traded PP goals in the first period with Luke Johnson scoring Lincoln's tally at the 9:50 mark of the first period thanks to a beautiful pass from Phil Marinaccio.  Phil brought the puck in from the blueline, attracted all of the attention to him, before sliding a pinpoint backhand pass to Luke Johnson who one-time the puck past Storm goaltender Justin Quale.

The Storm added a PP goal of their own at the 16:08 mark of the period to knot the score at 1-1 going into the first intermission.  The Stars outshot Tri-City 15-11 in the first twenty minutes.

In the second period, just like in the first, each team would score one goal a piece.  Vinni Lettieri continued his hot streak with a goal scored at the 15:22 mark of the second before the Storm answered with only 55 seconds remaining in the middle period to tie the game at 2-2.  Zach Aston-Reese picked up the lone assist on Vinni's goal.  The Stars had three powerplay opportunities in the second period, but they were not able to score with the man advantage.  Lincoln outshot Tri-City 28-21 through the first two periods.

The Storm came out very quickly in the third period and peppered Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer with shot after shot, but it was Lincoln that got on the scoreboard first to break the 2-2 tie.  Vinni Lettieri scored his second goal of the game on a one-timer blast at the 13:04 mark to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.  It was another great setup by Phil Marinaccio with the secondary assist going to Eric Schurhamer.

The dagger came with 3:25 remaining in the third period when Stars forward Brad Hawkinson ripped a glove-high snipe past Quale to give Lincoln the insurance goal at 4-2.  Hawkinson tally was his 12th of the season, and it was unassisted.

Very late in the game, with the Storm on the powerplay, TC pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and scored a 6-on-4 PP goal with 45 seconds remaining in the game to pull to within one goal.  Bitzer and the Stars shut the door in the final 45 seconds to seal the 4-3 victory and an undefeated season series against the Tri-City Storm.  Lincoln outshot Tri-City 40-38 overall.

Lincoln went 1-for-6 on the powerplay while the Storm went 2-for-3.  The Stars' special teams didn't look that greatt last night, so hopefully that improves a bit in the playoffs.  If Lincoln wants to make a long playoff run, they'll have to improve in that department.  I do appreciate that the Stars are staying out of the penalty box, but they'll need to improve both on the PP and the PK in the postseason.

With his five goals over the weekend, I would guess that Vinni Lettieri has a good opportunity at being named USHL forward of the week.  We'll have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to find out if that is the case.  Lettieri is a treat to watch live.  In my opinion, he's Lincoln's best forward right now and I would argue he's Lincoln's most valuable player.  He does it all.  Originally, he was scheduled to start at the University of Minnesota in 2014, but considering the amount of underclassmen that have left Minnesota early, and the fact that Vinni is tearing up the USHL right now, it would not surprise me at all if the Gophers bring Vinni up this fall.

In his first start since March 22nd, Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 35 of 38 shots on goal to record his 22nd win of the season.  I was really impressed with how poised Bitzer looked last night, especially considering the long layoff.  Defensively, the Stars didn't play their best game so Bitzer had to bail out his team a number of times.  I have absolutely have no idea who the Stars will start in net for the upcoming playoffs.  Both Bitzer and Teichroeb are playing very, very well right now.  It's a good "problem" to have, I suppose.

The Stars scratched Mike McKee, Jimmy DeVito, and Riley Bourbonnais in this game.  I believe McKee is still recovering from a wrist injury.  Bourbonnais has a lower body injury but from what I've been told it isn't too serious.  A surprise addition to the lineup was forward Max Humitz, who played his first game since January 25th.  It's a bit confusing, but Humitz has been on Lincoln's affiliate list but has been in town going to school and practicing with the team.  I'm guessing the Stars petitioned the USHL to allow Max to play in this final regular season game.  Considering the long layoff, I thought Max looked very good last night and will hopefully be a player that returns to Lincoln next season.

It was another great showing by "Stars Nation" last night at the Viaero Event Center in Kearney.  I'd probably guess there were between 300-500 Stars fans in attendance last night, and we were very vocal as always.  It was nice to be there and give the boys some support in their last regular season game.

I'll be watching the Waterloo-Indiana boxscore later today and will post an article after we know who the Stars will play in the first round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

Go Stars.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Tri-City 2, Lincoln 5

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Vinni Lettieri scored a hat trick to lead the Lincoln Stars to a 5-2 victory over the Tri-City Storm Friday night in front of another sell out crowd at the IceBox.  Lincoln still has an undefeated record of 8-0-0 in eight games against Tri-City this season.  Friday's tilt at the IceBox was the last regular home game of the 2012-13 season.  The Stars finished the regular season with a 20-9-3 home record.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win and the two point, the Stars improved to 38-22-3 (79 points) and are now in third place in the USHL western conference.  The Waterloo Blackhawks, who play tonight (Saturday) and tomorrow in Indiana against the Ice, are in fourth place in the west with 78 points.  Lincoln is 9-3-0 in their last 12 games played.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

As mentioned above, Vinni Lettieri scored three goals, was +3, and even got into a fight.  He was only one assist away from the Gordie Howe hat trick.  Dominik Shine finished with two points (1g, 1a) and was +3.

Jackson Teichroeb has another strong game as he stopped 33 of 35 shots to record his 17th win of the season.  Teichroeb has won six of his last seven starts for the Stars, and has not given up more than three goals in any of those seven previous games.

I've got a ton of things to do today, including a road trip out to Kearney, so this recap will be short.  I will try to update it tomorrow sometime.

I will try to post updates from the game tonight on the blog Twitter account:  https://twitter.com/blackblueblog

Go Stars.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Tri-City Storm

The Lincoln Stars will wrap up the 2012-13 USHL regular season with a home-and-home series against the Tri-City Storm this weekend.  On Friday night, the Stars will host the Storm at the IceBox.  Saturday evening, the good guys will travel to Kearney, NE to battle the Storm at the Viaero Event Center.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST each game.

If you are unable to make it to any of the games this weekend, 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.

Lincoln has a record of 37-22-3 (77 points) and are in fourth place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only one point behind the third-place Waterloo Blackhawks (78 points).  See the western conference standings graphic below:

Sioux Falls, Fargo, Waterloo, and Lincoln have all claimed the four available playoff spots in the west.  Sioux Falls will finish in first place, and Fargo will finish in second place regardless of what happens this weekend.  What is still up for grabs is where the Stars and Blackhawks finish.

If Waterloo wins their final two games this weekend (both road games against the last-place Indiana Ice), the Blackhawks will finish in third place, regardless if Lincoln wins both games against the Storm.  In that scenario, Waterloo (as the #3 seed) would face the Fargo Force (#2 seed) in the first round of the playoffs.

If Lincoln can finish in third place, they would face the Fargo Force in the first round.  If Lincoln and Waterloo somehow end up tied in points after this weekend, the Stars would win the tiebreaker (head-to-head against the Blackhawks) and will face Fargo in the first round.  So there is still a lot riding on these last couple of games.

The Stars recently released two schedules based on Lincoln's potential first-round playoff opponent:

vs. Sioux Falls
Tuesday, April 16 @ Sioux Falls
Wednesday, April 17 @ Sioux Falls
Friday, April 19 @ Lincoln (use GAME A ticket)
Saturday, April 20 @ Lincoln (if necessary)
Tuesday, April 23 @ Sioux Falls (if necessary)

vs. Fargo
Wednesday, April 17 @ Fargo
Friday, April 19 @ Fargo
Saturday, April 20 @ Lincoln (use GAME A ticket)
Monday, April 22 @ Lincoln (if necessary)
Wednesday, April 24 @ Fargo (if necessary)

Each playoff series is best of five.  Based on the two proposed schedules above, I'd have to think that the more favorable one would be against Sioux Falls.  Having a game three, and a possible game four in Lincoln on Friday and Saturday nights would be nice.  Weekend games are going to bring in more fans, and more fans equal more noise.  The Stars will need all the help they can get from the home fans, so that's why I think the schedule against the Stampede is more favorable.

Now, that's not to say that the Stars would have an easier road against Sioux Falls compared to Fargo.  Both teams are very, very good.  It's going to be a battle regardless of the opponent in the first round.  All I am saying is that the schedule against Sioux Falls seems to benefit the Stars more.  Just my humble opinion.

Getting back to the opponent this weekend, the Tri-City Storm sport a record of 22-33-7 (51 points) and are in last place in the USHL Western Conference.  This weekend series will be the eighth and ninth time that the Storm and Stars will face one another this season.  Lincoln has an undefeated record of 7-0-0 in those seven prior games against TC.  However, five of the seven games have been decided by only one goal.

The Storm are really struggling as of late.  They've lost 10 of their last 11 games and have been outscored 58 to 26.  Defensively, they've been less than stellar.  The Storm have given up an average of 5.27 goals per game in the last 11 contests.

The Storm have nothing to play for other than pride, so it will be interesting to see how well they perform this weekend.  I'm sure the TC coaches and players are well aware that they have yet to beat Lincoln this season, and will want to change that.

Don't forget that Friday's home game is "Fan Appreciation Night."  The Stars will be giving away prizes to fans during the game, and the players will be available after the game to sign autographs on the ice.  I believe the game is very close to selling out, so if you don't have your tickets, call the Stars' ticket office asap Friday morning.

I really hope to see a lot of Stars fans in Kearney this Saturday night.  I've heard from a lot of other fans who are making the trek out to the Viaero Event Center, so "Stars Nation" should be well represented.  Let's do what we do best, help the opposing team sellout their own rink.  Two weekends ago it was Sioux City, and last weekend it was Omaha.  Ready to do it again in Kearney on Saturday.

Go Stars.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lincoln Stars announce 2013 tryout camp

I'm a little late with this news because I just now noticed that the Stars announced it via Twitter on 4/2/13. 

 For the third straight year, the Stars will hold their 2013 tryout camp at Ridder Arena (pictured on the left), on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Click here to read the tweet from the Lincoln Stars.  I'll embed it below as well.
As mentioned above, the dates of the 2013 tryout camp are June 6th-9th, and the exact times of the scrimmages will be announced at a later date. 

Click here to read some background information about Ridder Arena, which is where the University of Minnesota women's hockey team plays their home games.  Mariucci Arena, where the men's University of Minnesota team plays, is located right next door to Ridder Arena. 

Click here to view a Google maps view of the area.  Minneapolis is about a 7 hour drive from Lincoln, NE.

Just like the past five seasons, I will be at the tryout camp once again and will report back to the blog with numerous articles throughout.  Last year (and the year before), I thought the tryout camp was huge hit.  I talked with numerous player parents who said they likely would have not brought their son to a camp held in Omaha because it was easier and more convenient to get to Minneapolis. 

Holding the camp in Minneapolis, as opposed to Omaha, allows to the Stars to bring in more players, which makes the talent pool even larger for the Lincoln coaches to pick from.  It's not as accessible for fans, but in the long run I think it definitely benefits the team.

The University of Minnesota campus is beautiful, and the facilities within Ridder Arena are top notch.  The campus is very close to downtown Minneapolis, but not too busy.  The Mall of America isn't too far away, and there are plenty of food options near the rink in between scrimmages.  The only negative is lack of on-street parking around Ridder Arena.  

This is my favorite offseason event of the season, so I can't wait to get up there and watch four days of hockey.  It's pretty much heaven for a hockey nerd like myself.

Anyone else planning on attending?  This is a great opportunity to schedule a mini-vacation, and get your Lincoln Stars hockey fix.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 2, Omaha 3

The Lincoln Stars fell just short tonight of winning their fifth straight game with a 3-2 road loss to the Omaha Lancers in Ralston, NE.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars to 37-22-3 (77 points), but they are still in third place in the USHL Western Conference.  However, the Waterloo Blackhawks won tonight, so now they are only one point behind Lincoln in the standings.  The Stars have two games remaining, and the Blackhawks have three.  Waterloo plays Sunday night at home against Des Moines, and if they win that game, they will leapfrog the Stars into third place.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

With Fargo's win tonight, the Stars cannot finish any higher than third place in the west.  That means that Lincoln will either face the Fargo Force or the Sioux Falls Stampede in the first round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.  The Stars will start that series on the road, since Fargo and Sioux Falls have the better record.

Omaha got on the board first early in the first period at the 3:06 mark to take a 1-0 lead.  Lincoln answered when Riley Bourbonnais knocked home a rebound at the 11:56 mark of the first to tie the game at 1-1.  Omaha outshot Lincoln 12-7 in the first period.

The Stars outplayed Omaha in the second period, but each team would score one goal a piece in the middle stanza.  Lancers scored a shorthanded goal at the 8:54 mark of the second on a play that Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb will surely want back.  Teichroeb came out of his net to play the puck, but instead of passing it behind him and around the net, he attempted to pass the puck through an Omaha player.  The Lancers player knocked down the pass and fired the puck into the open net.

Paul LaDue would even the score at the 12:57 mark of the second with a PP snipe,  his 12th goal of the season.  Lincoln outshot Omaha 17-6 in the second period.

In the third, the Stars appeared to take the lead with a goal from Riley Bourbonnais, but it was waved off by USHL Ken Anderson.  I'll post more about that controversial call below.

Very late in the period, Omaha scored while the Stars were sleeping in their defensive zone to win the game. Lincoln outshot Omaha 32-29 through 60 minutes, but the Lancers would get the two points.

Jackson Teichroeb stopped 26 of 29 in the loss, his first in six games played.  Lincoln finished 1-for-4 on the powerplay.

Tough loss, considering the missed goal, but the Stars picked up 2 of 4 points this weekend and clinched a playoff spot.  Focus on the positives and finish strong next weekend against the Tri-City Storm.

Go Stars.

Note:  Last night, I originally tried to embed a video from Facebook that a friend of mine posted of the disputed Stars goal in the third period that was called off.  The audio from the video was from Dan Fremuth, who is the Omaha Lancers' radio announcer.  In the video, Fremuth said that the puck clearly went over the goal line before the net came off the moorings.  For some reason, Facebook wasn't allowing anyone to watch the video, so I had to take it down.

I found the video below from the Lancers' Facebook page, and since it's a YouTube video, I was allowed to embed it.  Go to the 1:35 mark of the video to see the play in the second period that Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye thought was a goal but later agreed it never crossed that line.  Vinni Lettieri bats the puck out of mid-air and it bounces off of Cole Bruns, dances across the goal line, and hits the opposite post before getting cleared.  It's was close, but definitely not a goal.

The play that should have counted for a goal is at the 2:35 mark of the video.  There's no audio here of Dan Fremuth or Mike Melbye both saying it should of counted, just crappy rock music.  The shot by Riley Bourbonnais would have made the score 3-2 Stars in the third period.


Friday, April 5, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Omaha 3, Lincoln 4

The USHL "Good Life Cup"
Playoff bound!

The Lincoln Stars gutted out a big 4-3 win Friday night over the Omaha Lancers in front of another sell out crowd at the IceBox to clinch a spot in the 2013 USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

With Lincoln's win this evening, and Waterloo's 4-3 OT victory over the Dubuque Fighting Saints, the Omaha Lancers have been eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in 23 straight seasons.

Zach Aston-Reese put the team on his back Friday night as he scored a hat trick, including the game-winning goal.  Vinni Lettieri scored the other goal for the Stars.  Jackson Teichroeb won his fifth straight game as he stopped 29 of 32 to record his 16th win of the season.

The Stars got on the scoreboard early on in this game when Zach Aston-Reese scored his first goal at the 3:35 mark of the first period to give Lincoln a 1-0 lead.  Paul LaDue sent a quick centering pass to ZAR who simply tapped the puck into the open net past Omaha goaltender Alex Lyon.

Omaha tied the game up at 1-1 at the 15:28 mark of the first period, but ZAR answered with his second goal with 2:58 remaining to give the Stars a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.  Omaha outshot Lincoln 12-10 in the first twenty minutes.

It was looking like neither team would scored in the second stanza, but the Lancers scored a big PP goal with only 4 seconds remaining in the period to knot the game up at 2-2 going into the second intermission.

Both teams traded goals in the first three minutes of the third period to make this a 3-3 game.  First it was Vinni Lettieri of the Stars scoring at the 1:44 mark, which gave Lincoln a 3-2 lead that only lasted 1:12 before the Lancers responded with a goal of their own.

Later in the final period, Zach Aston-Reese completed the hat trick with a quick wrister from the slot to propel the Stars to the eventual 4-3 win.  Try as they might, the Lancers could not get the puck past Jackson Teichroeb in the last few minutes of the game.

Omaha went 1-for-4 on the powerplay, while the Stars went 0-for-1.  Yes, that's correct...the Stars had ONE powerplay.  Now, I know the Lancers aren't particularly physical.  They are a bit on the soft side.  But by no means are they angels.  I have a hard time believing that they only deserved one minor penalty called against them.

The Lancers outshot the Stars 32-30 overall, but I thought Lincoln was the better team overall, and deserved to win this in regulation.  Omaha is a very opportunistic team.  They didn't generate a ton of really good chances, but their PP unit is one of the best in the USHL, so they are very efficient with the man advantage.  All season long, the Stars have been the better team 5-on-5, and I thought that was the case last night as well.

Also with the win, the Stars took home the "Good Life Cup" which is a new trophy created this season by the USHL that is awarded to the franchise with the highest winning percentage in games between the three Nebraska teams (Lincoln, Omaha, Tri-City). The Stars were nice enough to let me take a quick picture of the trophy after the game, and that photo is posted above.  This isn't the cup the Stars or their fans really want, though.  We want the Clark.

If you were at the game tonight, or watching at home, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Comments are wide open.

Go Stars.

Edit:  I'm going to embed a video below that was put together by Brandon Anderson.  Brandon was able to put a Go-Pro camera on the helmet of USHL referee Stephen Reneau last night.  The video captures all three goals scored by Zach Aston-Reese from the big win against Omaha.  Very cool!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Omaha Lancers

The Lincoln Stars will look to clinch a spot in the 2013 Clark Cup playoffs this weekend when they take on the Omaha Lancers in a crucial home-and-home series.  Friday's matchup will take place at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Saturday's contest will take place at Ralston Arena in Ralston, NE.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

If you are unable to make it to the IceBox this weekend, 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.

Lincoln has a record of 36-21-3 (75 points) and are in third place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only four points behind the second-place Fargo Force (79 points), and three points ahead of the fourth-place Waterloo Blackhawks (72 points).  Click here to view the current USHL standings.  The Stars only need one point this weekend to secure a spot in the Clark Cup playoffs.

The Lancers are in fifth place in the USHL Western Conference with a record of 33-26-1 (67 points).  Only the top four teams in each conference make the playoffs, so Omaha is very close to being eliminated from postseason play for the first time in 23 years.  The Stars can help the Lancers hit the golf course earlier than normal with a win or two this weekend.

Omaha is 6-1-1 in eight games against Lincoln this season.  5 of the 8 games between these two teams have been decided by one goal.  In their last meeting, on March 23rd, Stars forward Brad Hawkinson scored the OT game-winner to beat the Lancers at the IceBox by a score of 3-2.

Consistent play hasn't been Omaha's forte this season.  At times, they have looked very good and have beaten some of the top teams in the USHL.  Other times, they have been embarrassed by the cellar dwelling teams of the western conference.  They are a very young team with excellent goaltending, but marginal offensive talent at best.  Their top forward, Robbie Baillargeon, has not played since 3/15 because of a recent appendectomy.

The Lancers are doing a "white out" this Saturday for the game in Ralston, so if you are a Stars fan attending that game, make sure you wear black or blue.

Both games this weekend should have a playoff feel to it, considering what's on the line.  The Lancers are barely clinging to stay relevant in the western conference playoff chase, while the Stars are looking to get a little closer to Fargo, and distance themselves from Waterloo in the standings.  Two big games with four big points up for grabs.

Go Stars.

Note:  A little plug for the Lincoln Stars' BlueLine Booster Club.  The BLBC will be holding its annual spring auction this Friday night at the IceBox in which autographed player plaques will be available to bid on.  The auction sign-up sheets will be located in the south hallway of the IceBox (across from the womens bathroom).  Click here to view photos of all of the plaques up for auction.  Each plaque will have a "Buy It Now" option for $150 for those who don't want to risk losing a plaque during the auction.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Congrats to Jackson Teichroeb!

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Per the Lincoln Stars and the USHL, goaltender Jackson Teichroeb has committed to Niagara University for this upcoming fall.

Click here to view the USHL press release.

Niagara University is located in Lewiston, NY, which is only a two hour drive  from Jackson's hometown of London, Ontario, Canada.  I'm sure Jackson's friends and family are excited for the opportunity to watch him play hockey so close to home.

Jackson will join former Stars players Sam Afieri (2010-11), Nick Cecere (2010-11) next season for the Purple Eagles.

Jackson is playing his second season with the Lincoln Stars, and his third in the USHL.  This season, Jackson has split time with Michael Bitzer and has a record of 15-10-2 with a 2.79 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Last season, Jackson split time with Charles Williams and had a record of 18-14-1 with a 2.67 goals against average and a .896 save percentage.

Before being traded to Lincoln in the summer of 2011, Jackson spent the 2010-11 season with the expansion Dubuque Fighting Saints.  Teichroeb went 14-6-5 with a 2.49 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in 2010-11 for Dubuque.  The Fighting Saints won the Clark Cup that particular season.

Jackson has definitely paid his dues over the past few seasons, so it's very nice to see him get rewarded with this commitment.  Best of luck to him next season at Niagara!

A statistical look at the past three seasons

Since the Stars are at the 60 game mark of the 2012-13 season, I thought I’d look back statistically at the past three seasons under head coach Chad Johnson.  I'm sort of a stats geek, so this stuff is always interesting to me.

Before this season, the USHL regular season consisted of 60 games played per team.  This season, the league increased that number to 64 games.  I’ve been told that the league is going back to 60 games for the 2013-14 season.

2012-13 season (through 60 games)
Win-Loss record:  36-21-3 (75 points)
Winning percentage:  .625% (3rd place in USHL Western Conference)
Goals for:  202
Goals against:  180
Penalty minute totals:  1,495 (most in USHL)
Powerplay percentage:  15.61% (ranked 15th overall out of 16 teams)
Powerplay goals scored:  32
Penalty Kill percentage:  77.4% (ranked 16th overall out of 16 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored:  10
Leading scorer:  Eric Scheid 57 points (23g, 34a)
Average home attendance:  3,922 (first overall in the USHL)
Playoffs:  ??

2011-12 season
Win-Loss record:  38-18-4 (79 points)
Winning percentage:  .658% (1st place in USHL Western Conference)
Goals for:  214
Goals against:  172
Penalty minute totals:  1,424 (most in USHL)
Powerplay percentage:  23.18% (ranked 3rd overall out of 16 teams)
Powerplay goals scored:  51
Penalty Kill percentage:  81.70% (ranked 11th overall out of 16 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored:  4
Leading scorer:  Kevin Roy 104 points (54g, 50a)
Average home attendance:  3,929 (first overall in the USHL)
Playoffs:  First round bye; Won second round with a 3-1 series win over Fargo; Lost third round to Waterloo, 1-3

2010-11 season
Win-Loss record:  33-22-5 (71 points)
Winning percentage:  .592% (5th place in USHL Western Conference)
Goals for:  195
Goals against:  188
Penalty minute totals:  1,323 (second most in USHL)
Powerplay percentage:  20.37% (ranked 2nd overall out of 16 teams)
Powerplay goals scored:  44
Penalty Kill percentage:  81.60% (ranked 14th overall out of 16 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored:  11
Leading scorer:  Ryan Dzingel 67 points (23g, 44a)
Average home attendance:  3,790 (first overall in the USHL)
Playoffs:  Lost first round series to Fargo, 0-2

It’s interesting that the PP was so good in the first two seasons, but for some reason this year it is really struggling.  Having Kevin Roy last season probably helped a lot.  As many points as Roy scored last season, it’s also interesting that this year’s Stars team scored only 12 goals less than the 2011-12 squad.  That tells me that the 2012-13 team is deeper offensively compared to the 2011-12 top-heavy team.

The PK the last three seasons has been statistically average, to below average.  It would be interesting to guess how much better the Stars’ win-loss record would be this season if their PP and PK units weren’t towards the bottom of the USHL rankings.

When originally hired, Chad Johnson signed a three-year contract to be the head coach/general manager of the Lincoln Stars.  So this current 2012-13 season is the last under the original three-year contract.  So the above is the body of work the Stars have accomplished under Chad Johnson.  I have not heard anything in the news yet about a contract extension.

Thoughts on the above?  Comments are wide open.