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)
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.