Wednesday, September 11, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Des Moines 4 (Fall Classic)

On the opening day of the USHL Fall Classic West tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, the Lincoln Stars fell to the Des Moines Buccaneers by a score of 4-3.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 2-1-0 in the 2013 USHL preseason.  Des Moines improved to 2-0-0.

The Stars will play Thursday afternoon against the Omaha Lancers to complete their Fall Classic experience.  More on that later.

Scratches for Lincoln in this game were David Parrottino, Thomas Carey, Connor Chambers, Nick Schmit, Dan Kucerovy, & Brandon Smith.  Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer played the first half against the Bucs, and free agent invite Jake Ireland (from Canada) started the second half.

The Bucs came out very strong in the first period, while the Stars played very sluggish I thought.  Des Moines peppered Michael Bitzer early and often in the first period.  Bucs forward Patrick Grasso gave his team a 1-0 lead at the 9:53 mark of the first period thanks to some good work down low in front of Bitzer.

Shortly after the goal by Grasso, the Bucs were awarded a penalty shot, but Bitzer came up huge with a big save to keep the Stars in the game.

I thought Lincoln played better in the second half of the first period, but they were unable to solve Bucs goaltender Billy Christopoulos.  Bucs took at 1-0 lead into the first intermission and led 13-6 in shots on goal.

In the middle stanza, Lincoln outshot Des Moines 12-10, but again they were not able to figure out the Bucs' goaltending tandem of Billy Christopoulos and Merrick Madsen.  On the other end of the ice, Des Moines increased their lead to 2-0 after an odd-man rush resulted in a goal from Bucs forward Marcel Kurtch.  On the play, a bad turnover by the Stars on their own blueline led to a Des Moines 2-on-1.  Des Moines' Jake Jackson made a very nice play to pass the puck to a streaking Kurth who one-timed it past Stars goaltender Jake Ireland.

Right before the goal by Kurth, Ireland came up huge with a big save on a Bucs breakway shortly after he entered the game in relief of Michael Bitzer.  Ireland certainly didn't get a lot of help from his teammates in that second period.

Bucs took at 2-0 lead into the second intermission, leading on shots as well, 23-18.

A little over six minutes into the third period, Lincoln finally got on the scoreboard thanks to some hard work down low from forwards Keegan Ward and Christian Lampasso.  After getting a pass from defenseman Zach Frye in the Bucs' offensive zone, Keegan Ward sent a pretty cross-crease pass to a wide open Christian Lampasso who looked to knock it out of mid air and into the Des Moines' net.  Ward and Frye picked the assists on Lampasso's even-strength goal.

With the Stars trailing by one goal, the Bucs came right back three minutes after Lampasso's goal to increase their lead to 3-1.  After a Bucs shot was initially saved by Ireland, the rebound went right to a wide open Sandis Zolmanis just outside the crease who easily backhanded the puck into open net.  What momentum the Stars had after the Lampasso goal was quickly extinguished after the Zolmanis tally.

Very late in the game, trailing by two goals, the Stars pulled goaltender Jake Ireland for the extra attacker.  A loose puck in the Bucs' zone was gobbled up by Lincoln forward Hunter Anderson who quickly turned and fired it past Merrick Madsen to pull the Stars to within one goal.  Anderson's unassisted goal came with only 32 seconds remaining in the game.

However, the late rally fell short when the Bucs scored an empty-net goal with only .8 seconds remaining in regulation.  After sixty minutes, the Bucs led 4-2.

Like every preseason game so far this month, the USHL required these two teams to play a five minute 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period after regulation.  As I have stated previously, the league is testing this new 3-on-3 OT period to see if it is something they want to use in the regular season.  Last season, teams played five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime hockey when teams were tied after regulation.

Just 8 seconds into the overtime period, Stars forward Dominick Sacco raced down the left wing and fired a rocket past Bucs goaltender Merrick Madsen to give Lincoln's its third goal of the game.  Christian Lampasso picked up the lone assist on Sacco's OT goal.

Des Moines outshot Lincoln overall, 36-31.  Michael Bitzer stopped 17 of 18 in the first half of the game, and Jake Ireland stopped 15 of 17 in the second half.

Neither team would score on the powerplay in this game.  Lincoln went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Bucs went 0-6.  So far this preseason, Lincoln's PK unit has been stellar, stopping all 18 PP opportunities against them in the last three games combined.

I'm not sure why, but Stars head coach Chad Johnson was not behind the bench during this game.  Associate head coach Jimmy McGroarty and trainer Corey Courtney coached the team.

Overall, I thought this was a sloppy game played by both teams, but that's to be expected this early on.  That's why we play these preseason games, to get better.  Lincoln has been practicing about a week, and the players are still getting to know one another.

Lincoln will look to rebound Thursday afternoon at 4:00pm CST when they take on the Omaha Lancers.  The Lancers lost earlier on Wednesday at the Fall Classic to the Sioux Falls Stampede by a score of 4-3.  Omaha outshot Sioux Falls 36-17 in that game, and didn't look that bad considering it was their first preseason game.

I will post live updates from the Omaha-Lincoln game tomorrow on Twitter, so follow along if you can.  I will post a recap article sometime very late on Thursday when I get back to Lincoln.

Go Stars.

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