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.

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