|Stars celebrate after Jared Kolquist's 3rd period goal|
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.
With the loss, the Stars fell to 2-7-4 (8 points) on the season, and with Fargo's 4-3 win over Youngstown last night, Lincoln is now all alone in last place in the USHL western conference. Omaha improved to 12-2-1 (25 points) and are still in first place in the west. Click here to view the current USHL standings.
For the most part, the first period of this game had the feel of a championship heavyweight boxing match with both opponents sitting back while trying to feel one another out. Shots were very low (5-4 in favor of Lincoln), and there was no scoring. It wasn't exactly exciting hockey to watch, but again, I think both teams were trying to see how the other team was going to play.
Very early in the second period, with the Stars down a man due to a penalty, the Lancers got a powerplay goal to take a 1-0 lead. Matt Nelson's ripped a wrist shot which beat Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer glove high just 59 seconds into the middle period.
Omaha increased their lead to 2-0 less than seven minutes later with an even-strength tally from Jake Randolph at the 7:34 mark.
The Stars grabbed momentum back from the Lancers later in the second period with a goal scored by Jonathan Desbiens at the 15:40 mark, with assists going to Jared Kolquist and Keegan Ward. The goal from Desbiens pulled the Stars to within one goal, and it breathed life into the sellout crowd at the IceBox.
Only 20 seconds after Desbiens' goal, the Stars had a great opportunity to even the score and take control of the game when Desbiens was hauled down on a breakaway. Desbiens was awarded a penalty shot on the play, but Lancers goaltender Cole Bruns came up huge with a glove save.
In my opinion, this was the turning point of the game. If Desbiens scores on the penalty shot, the game is tied up at 2-2, the roof blows off the IceBox and the Stars have momentum heading to the third period. However, Bruns came up big for his team and the Lancers kept momentum on their side along with the 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
In the third period, it was all Omaha as they outscored Lincoln 3-1 and outshot them 13-4. Lancers forward Tyler Vesel showed why he's one of the top players in the league by scoring the first two goals of the third period to give his team a commanding 4-1 lead.
Jared Kolquist pulled the Stars to within two goals with an even-strength tally at the 16:38 mark, but the Lancers completed the scoring with an empty-netter late in the third period.
Omaha outshot Lincoln 29-17 overall. Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 24 of 28 shots in the loss, while Cole Bruns stopped 15 of 17 in the win. Lincoln went 0-for-2 on the powerplay while the Lancers went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Sad to say it, but Omaha's dominance over the Stars continued last night. With the 5-2 victory at the IceBox, the Lancers have won 15 of the last 19 meetings between these two teams. They absolutely put a blanket on the Stars yesterday evening. I'm trying to remember the last time a team held the Stars below 20 shots at home. I'm sure it's been a long time. I can see why the Lancers are in first place after their performance last night. They are for real.
To put it bluntly, the Lancers are a much better team than the Stars right now. I don't think the Stars played bad last night, they just ran into a red hot team that plays very good team defense. Cole Bruns hardly had to break a sweat. I now understand why he was able to start the season with five straight shutouts. The team in front of him does a terrific job of limiting the amount of shots that he has to stop. Omaha did a great job of shutting down the Lincoln offense for the majority of the game.
The Stars will be back at the IceBox for a rare Thursday night game this week when they take on the Chicago Steel. In years past, games against the Steel normally meant a win and two points. Although the Steel have a record of 4-11-0 (8 points) and are in last place in the USHL eastern conference, they've won four of their last five games and are playing their best hockey of the season right now.
On Friday and Saturday, Lincoln will play back-to-back games in Des Moines, IA against the Bucs. More on the busy three-game weekend for the Stars later this week on the blog. Keep an eye out for that.