|Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos|
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!
Edit: Video highlights from Game 4 are below.