Thursday, October 17, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Team USA U-18 and Youngstown

The Lincoln Stars will head east this weekend on a long road trip to Michigan and Ohio to battle Team USA and the Youngstown Phantoms.  Both of these games will start a little earlier than what we are normally used to.  The Friday night game against Team USA U-18 in Ann Arbor, MI will begin at 6:00pm CST.  On Saturday, the Stars will drop the puck at 6:05pm CST in Youngstown, OH against the Phantoms.

If you'd like to follow the team this weekend, you can track 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.

Up first for the Stars this Friday will be Team USA, who have a record of 6-2-0 (12 points) and are in first place in the USHL eastern conference.  This will be the first of two meetings this season between the NTDP and the Lincoln Stars.  Team USA U-17 visits the IceBox on March 15th, 2014.

The casual USHL fan might not know this, but the National Team Development Program (NTDP)  which competes in the USHL is actually two teams (U-17 and U-18).  The Stars will play the U-18 team on Friday evening.

This is not to say that the U-17 squad isn't talented, because they are, but the U-18 team is the cream of the crop of the NTDP.  This particular team plays both USHL and collegiate teams throughout the season.  In fact, in five games against USHL foes this regular season, the U-18 squad is 5-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 26-6.  Yikes.

In their last game, Team USA U-18 lost 8-4 to Colorado College.  The game before that, the U-18's beat Lake Superior State University by a score of 3-2.  This group is really salty, and will give Lincoln all it can handle on Friday night.  Needless to say, the Stars will have to be on the top of their game to win this tough road matchup.

On Saturday, the Stars will finish up the long weekend road trip with a contest against the Youngstown Phantoms.  With a record of 3-4-1, the Phantoms occupy fifth place in the USHL Eastern Conference.  This will be the first of two meetings between these teams this season.  On Friday, November 22nd, Youngstown will visit the IceBox for a tilt against the Stars.

After a rough start to the regular season which saw the Phantoms go 0-3-0 and give up 20 goals in those three games, Youngstown is 2-0-0 in their last two games.  They have given up a league-leading 35 goals, but have also scored 28 goals through 8 games.  So on paper, this is a team that can both score and give up goals in bunches.

Youngstown forward Kyle Connor leads the USHL in scoring with 12 points (4g, 8a) through 8 games played.  Forwards J.J. Piccinich (10 points) and Maxim Letunov (9 points) are right behind Connor in the stat column.  

Lincoln will be without the services of defenseman Connor Frantti for both games this weekend, due to a two-game suspension handed down by the USHL after an elbowing major and misconduct he picked up this past Friday against the Sioux Falls Stampede.  The good news is that defenseman Zach Frye will be back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension against Sioux Falls.

Big test this weekend for the Stars.  It will be interesting to see which team shows up.  Will it be the team that looked lost against Waterloo last Friday, or will it be the team that outplayed the first-place Sioux Falls Stampede this past Saturday?  Stay tuned.

Go Stars.

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