Friday, November 29, 2013

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Des Moines Buccaneers

Saturday evening in Des Moines, IA, the Lincoln Stars will look to break out of their current scoring slump when they take on the hometown Buccaneers.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

You can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreaklisten to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game on FASTHockey for a fee.

With a record of 4-11-4 (12 points), the Stars are in a three-way tie with Tri-City and Fargo for sixth place in the USHL western conference.  

With Chicago's 4-1 win over Des Moines last night, the Stars are tied with the Tri-City Storm for the lowest winning percentage (.316) in the USHL.  The highest (Omaha with .810) and lowest winning percentages in the USHL belong within the borders of Nebraska.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Des Moines comes into this game with a 6-12-1 (13 points) record which is good enough for fifth place in the USHL western conference.  The Bucs are 1-4-0 in their last five games, with that one win coming against Lincoln.

Surprisingly, this will be the fourth time already this season that the Stars and Bucs will meet.  Des Moines has a 2-1-0 record in those three previous contests.  These same two teams will meet for the fifth time next Saturday night in Des Moines once again..

As I mentioned briefly above, the Buccaneers played Friday night in Chicago where they lost 4-1 to the Steel.  I would assume the Bucs will be a little tired Saturday evening after making the 5 hour trip back to Des Moines late Friday night/early Saturday morning.  Hopefully a well rested Stars team can take advantage of that.

Per the USHL.com transactions page, Stars defenseman Zach Frye has been suspended by the league, with the length of the suspension "to be determined."  That's never a good sign when the league posts a "TBD" next to a suspension.  I would assume a big one is coming up for Lincoln's co-captain.  Frye missed the Wednesday home game against Sioux Falls.  According to the page linked above, the suspension was due to an offense committed in the Waterloo game on 11/23.

I will not be watching this one on FASTHockey, but I will be listening to the radio broadcast.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Sioux Falls 3, Lincoln 0

Michael Bitzer and Jonathan Desbiens touch gloves
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars suffered their second straight shutout loss tonight at the IceBox as the visiting Sioux Falls Stampede blanked the good guys by a score of 3-0.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars' record to 4-11-4 (10 points), which is good enough for a three-way tie for sixth place in the USHL western conference.

Click here to view the current USHL standings.


I thought the Stars played one of their better periods of the season to start this game, but they did not have any puck luck.  That seemed to be a common theme for the night.  Lincoln outshot the Stampede 12-8 through the first twenty minutes, but neither team would score.  Lincoln did a good job staying out of the penalty box, and were the better team by far in the opening period.

Early in the second period, with two Lincoln players in the penalty box, the Stampede got their first goal of the game to take a 1-0 lead.  The PP goal came on a 5-on-3 opportunity and was scored by Zeb Knutson.  It was a fantastic shot by Knutson, who put it high and on the short side just past Michael Bitzer.  I thought Bitzer played the shot well and was in position, but the shot by Knutson was a rocket and extremely well placed.

Both teams put up 10 shots on goal a piece in the middle period, but the Stampede would take that 1-0 lead into the second intermission.  Lincoln put a ton of offensive pressure on Stampede goaltender David Jacobson in the last couple of minutes of the second period, but he stood tall and preserved the shutout.

Early in the third, the Stampede once again took advantage of a powerplay opportunity to take a 2-0 lead.  Six minutes later, Sioux Falls scored an even-strength goal to complete the scoring.

Give credit to the Stampede for making the most of their powerplay opportunities.  That was the key to the game.  Sioux Falls was able to score those two powerplay goals, and the Stars were not able to convert any of their 5 PP chances.  Sioux Falls went 2-for-4 on the PP.

David Jacobson stopped all 35 shots he faced tonight to pitch the shutout.  Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 22 of 25 in the loss.

Honestly, I thought the Stars played pretty damn well in this game.  This seems like a broken record, but the Stars were the better team 5-on-5 for the majority of this game.  However, Lincoln could not win the special teams war.  There have been plenty of games this season that I thought Lincoln played well at even-strength, but the opposing team would always win the special teams war.  That happened again tonight.

It's not for lack of hard work, that's for sure.  The Stars busted their butts tonight, but puck luck was just not on their side.  Lincoln outshot a very good Sioux Falls team, 35-25.  The effort was there this evening, but the final score just doesn't show it.

After a two-day break, the Stars will be back in action this Saturday night in Des Moines, IA against the Buccaneers.

Wishing everyone out there a Happy Thanksgiving!  Hoping that you all get to spend some quality time tomorrow with friends and family.  I'm extremely thankful for all of the readers of this blog.  Your patronage is always appreciated.

Go Stars.

B³ Pregame Report: Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Lincoln Stars

The Lincoln Stars will play their traditional Thanksgiving eve game Wednesday night at the IceBox against the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you don't have your tickets already, make sure you get them because this game normally sells out.

If you can't make it out to this Thursday evening game, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreaklisten to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars have a record of 4-10-4 (12 points) and are tied with the Tri-City Storm for sixth place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

With an impressive record of 13-5-2 (28 points), the Sioux Falls Stampede occupy second place in the USHL western conference, only two points behind the first-place Omaha Lancers (30 points).  Sioux Falls is 4-0-1 in their last five games played, and are 8-3-1 on the road this season.

This will be the second time the Stars and Stampede will play one another this season.  In their only other meeting, Sioux Falls beat the Stars in overtime by a score of 4-3 at the IceBox on 10/12/13.  


Most pundits, including yours truly, thought the Stampede would run away with the western conference title this season.  And that still may happen, but the Stampede have struggled a bit defensively, and with their goaltending so far this season.

The 'Pede are an offensive-heavy squad, with top forwards like C.J. Franklin, Zeb Knutson, and Dennis Kravchenko.  They've scored 63 goals through twenty games, but they've also given up 57 goals against.  The Stampede will need to shore up their defensive numbers if they want to overtake the Omaha Lancers for first place in the west.  

The key for the Stars is to shut down the line of Franklin-Knutson-Kravchenko.  That's easier said than done. In their last meeting on 10/12/13, the three Stampede forwards I just mentioned combined for 3 goals (including the OT game-winner), and 3 assists.

This should be a very good game.  The Stars have proven already this season they can hang with the Stampede at the IceBox, so I'm hoping that will happen again Thursday night.  Michael Bitzer will once again need to be Lincoln's best player for the Stars to win this game.  Winning the special teams war would help, also.

Go Stars.

Note:  Some surprising roster news Wednesday evening as the team dropped goaltender Shane Starrett, and picked up Jacob Nehama ('95) from the Lone Star Brahmas of the NAHL.  Click here to view the tweet from the USHL Hockey Ops account.

Just a few weeks ago, the Stars traded a conditional fifth round entry pick to the Sioux Falls Stampede for Starrett.  After getting only one start, and a total of 16 minutes of playing time in a Stars uniform, Starrett has been dropped for a goaltender (Nehama) who was at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June.

This morning, the USHL Hockey Ops account stated that since the pick was conditional and Starrett was released by a certain date, the Stars don't have to give up that 5th round pick.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Waterloo 3, Lincoln 0

An early missed call prevented the Stars from gaining momentum of the game, and the Waterloo Blackhawks responded with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Lincoln Stars at the IceBox on Saturday evening.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars and are tied for sixth place in the USHL western conference with the Tri-City Storm.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Before I begin this rant, I just want to say that I'm not one to normally rail on the officials.  I know they have a very difficult job.  I also understand that the USHL is a developmental league for the officials as well.  Some of the officials are still learning their trade, and at times their inexperience in big game atmospheres can negatively influence a game.

Last night's contest was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen at the IceBox.  I'm not giving excuses because the Waterloo Blackhawks deserved to win the game.  However, Referee Anthony Falette and his crew (linesmen Ryan Madsen, Richard Lembo) did a very poor job and I hope their supervisors at the USHL take a good hard look at the game tape.

A few minutes into this game, I believe it was Stars forward Jonathan Desbiens who skated the puck into the Waterloo zone and snapped a shot on goal.  Blackhawks goaltender Mathias Israelsson got a piece of shot, but the puck trickled behind him and into the open net.  Unfortunately, Anthony Falette, who was out of position and nowhere near the goalline, blew his whistle way too early because he didn't see the puck.  It was clear to everyone inside the IceBox (save for Falette and his crew) that Israelsson never had possession of the puck before it found the back of the net.

After Falette conferred with his linesmen, an announcement was made that the goal was waved off.  The fans were not happy at all and rained down boos onto the ice.  Because Falette was out of position on the play and blew his whistle entirely too early,  the Stars were denied an early 1-0 lead in this game.  I've seen some bad calls in my time at the IceBox, but that may have been the worst.

Regardless, the two teams played to a scoreless tie after one period.  Shots were 14-8 in favor of Waterloo after twenty minutes.

Just 1:36 into the second period, the Blackhawks took advantage of a Stars turnover to score their first goal of the game, on a breakaway, to take a 1-0 lead.

Later in the second, another bad call against the Stars gave the Blackhawks their second goal of the game.  At the 10:59 mark, Zach Sanford of the 'Hawks skated into the Lincoln zone on a partial breakaway and got a shot on goal that Michael Bitzer saved.  However, Sanford's momentum knocked the right goalpost peg off its moorning.  Referee Anthony Falette did not see that, so the trailing Blackhawks player (Blake Winiecki) was able to score on the rebound.  The play should have been dead immediately after the goalpost was knocked off.

Even after the goal, Falette and his crew were clueless that the goalpost was off its mooring until Michael Bitzer, who was obviously upset at the call, pushed the goalpost further off the goalline to get the officials attention.  It was a circus, and Falette and his crew had the spotlight all to themselves.

Waterloo took the 2-0 lead into the second intermission.  The Blackhawks doubled up the Stars in shots on goal through two periods, 24-12.

In the third, the Stars were able to put 13 shots on goal, but Mathias Israelsson shut the door to preserve the shootout.  With 1:30 remaining in the game, the Blackhawks scored a meaningless empty-net goal to complete the scoring.

Lincoln's PK unit was stellar last night, as the Blackhawks went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.  The Stars went 0-for-2 on the powerplay.  Waterloo's seven powerplays to Lincoln's two.

Michael Bitzer has another solid game for the Stars has he stopped 38 of 40 in the loss.  Waterloo's Israelsson stopped 25 of 25 to record his first shutout of the game (assist to Falette).

Despite the loss, I really think the Stars played pretty well against a very good team.  5-on-5, I thought Lincoln was just as good as Waterloo.  I thought the Stars did a great job of playing the body, which seemed to slow down the Blackhawks at times and force turnovers.  But you can only ask Bitzer to do so much.  This team really needs to figure out how to start scoring goals.

The Stars will have a few days off before they will be back at the IceBox this Wednesday evening to take on the Sioux Falls Stampede.  Lincoln head coach Jimmy McGroarty said on the radio after last night's game that the entire team will hop on a bus and drive up to Grand Forks, ND to attend Chad Johnson's funeral, which is Monday morning.  I think it's great that the organization is giving the team an opportunity to pay their respects in person.

Go Stars.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Youngstown 3, Lincoln 4 OT SO

Dan Willett scores the game-winning SO goal
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
"That one was for Chad."

Dominick Sacco and Daniel Willett each scored in the overtime shootout to propel the Lincoln Stars to a 4-3 OT SO win over the Youngstown Phantoms Friday night at the IceBox.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the big win and the two points, the Stars improved to 4-9-4 (12 points) and are in sixth place in the USHL western conference.


For the first time in a while, there are teams (Fargo and Tri-City) below the Stars in the standings.  Lincoln is now only one point out of fifth place in the west.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Before the game began, the Stars held a very moving tribute for former head coach Chad Johnson.  Public address announcer Craig Estudillo read a statement from the Stars that left no dry eyes in the rink.  Afterwards, there was a moment of silence.  After the moment of silence, every member of the Stars, who were standing together at the blueline, did a stick tap to the sky for Chad.  It was incredible.

Click here to view the helmet decals the Stars will wear this season in honor of Chad Johnson.

Click here to view the helmet decals all USHL officials will wear this season in tribute to Chad Johnson.

Once the game began, I thought both teams looked a little sluggish in the first period, especially the Stars.  With what they've had to deal with this week, I can understand why their heads may have not been in the game to start.  Neither team would score in the first period, with Youngstown leading in shots through the first 20 minutes, 10-7.

In the middle period, the Stars (specifically Brandon Smith) exploded for two quick goals only 24 seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead.  Smith's goal at the 8:09 mark of the second came on a powerplay, with assists going to Luke Voltin and David Parrottino.  Smith's goal at the 8:33 mark was at even-strength, with assists going to Luke Voltin and Daniel Willett.  Both of these goals were scored on the other side of the IceBox from where I sit, so I didn't get a very good view, but it looked like good work down low by Smith on each tally.

With the 2-0 lead halfway through this game, the Stars were flying high and the crowd was going nuts.  However, the Stars just were not able to stay out of the penalty box for most of this game, which opened the door for the Phantoms to get right back in it.  In my opinion, if it wasn't for the undisciplined penalties, the Stars keep that two goal lead and cruise to a regulation win.  Luckily for the Stars, the Phantoms played just as undisciplined at times also.

With only 1:21 remaining in the second period, the Phantoms scored a powerplay goal to pull to within one goal.  Stars took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission with Youngstown leading in shots on goal, 25-18.

In the third, the Phantoms struck first with an even-strength goal at the 5:10 mark to even the score at 2-2.  Lincoln's two-goal lead had vanished, and suddenly it wasn't looking so hot for the Stars.

Dominick Sacco put the Stars up 3-2 with a nice goal-mouth scramble effort while on a powerplay at the 12:30 mark of the period.  Zach Frye and Christian Lampasso had the assists on Sacco's PP goal.

It was looking like the good guys were going to hold onto that lead and win in regulation, but bad penalties let the Phantoms back in the game again.  At the 15:07 mark, the Phantoms scored their second powerplay goal of the game to knot the contest up at 3-3.  

Shots were 38-26 in favor of Youngstown through sixty minutes.  Both teams put five shots on goal a piece in the five-minute overtime period, but neither squad would score.  This one went to a shootout.

In the shootout, Stars goaltender stopped three of four Youngstown shooters, while Sacco and Willett each scored for the Stars to give Lincoln's its second straight victory.  Willett's goal was the eventual game-winner.  Both Sacco and Willett appeared to use the same backhand to forehand deke on Youngstown goaltender Colin DeAugustine to get their goals.

Lincoln went 2-for-10 on the powerplay while the Phantoms went 2-for-9.  Youngstown netminder Colin DeAugustine stopped 28 of 31 in the loss.  Michael Bitzer was the #2 star of the game has he stopped 40 of 43 shots to record his second straight win.  Brandon Smith was named the #1 star of the game for his two goals.  Smith also finished the game +1, with four shots on goal and one fight.

Even with all the penalties, last night's game was a lot of fun to watch.  So very happy the Stars were able to pull this one out for Chad.  I'd like to think his spirit was there inside the IceBox last night rooting the team on to victory.

The Stars will be back at the IceBox tonight to take on the Waterloo Blackhawks, who lost last night to Team USA U-18 by a score of 8-6.  Considering that they had 8 goals put on them at home, I'm sure the Blackhawks will be a salty bunch tonight and will want to rebound with a better effort against the Stars.  Meanwhile, Lincoln will be looking to win their third game in a row.  Should be a good one.

A message from Stars announcer Mike Melbye:

Friday, November 22, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Youngstown and Waterloo


With heavy hearts after the loss of former head coach Chad Johnson, the Lincoln Stars will be back at the IceBox for back-to-back home games this weekend.  On Friday, the Stars will host the Youngstown Phantoms.  On Saturday evening, the Stars will take on the Waterloo Blackhawks.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each contest.

If you are unable to make it to any of the games at the IceBox 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.

This will be a very short weekend preview.  My apologies for that.  Just too busy the last couple of days to get as much as I wanted into this article.


The Lincoln Stars enter this weekend with a record of 3-9-4 (10 points) and are tied with the Fargo Force and the Tri-City Storm for sixth place the USHL western conference.  Last Saturday, the Stars snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Des Moines Bucs.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

The Phantoms start the weekend with a record of 6-11-1 (13 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL eastern conference.  The last time these two teams met, the Phantoms shutout the Stars by a score of 1-0 in Youngstown.  Since that game, the Phantoms are 2-6-0 in eight games played.  Youngstown is 1-7-0 in 8 road games this season.

The Blackhawks sport a very impressive record of 11-4-0 (22 points), and occupy third place in the USHL western conference.  In their last meeting this season, the Blackhawks stomped all over the Stars at the IceBox by a score of 5-1.  Waterloo is 4-1-0 in their last five games played, and are 5-3-0 on the road.

I'm sure it will be an emotional scene this Friday and Saturday night at the IceBox.  As fans, lets do all that we can to support the players, coaches, and the organization as a whole this weekend.  They are going through a very tough time with the passing of their friend, and I'm sure they would appreciate the encouragement.  Also, let us remember Chad this weekend, and the legacy he left behind.  He spent many nights inside the IceBox coaching the Stars, and I'd like to think he'll be there again this weekend in spirit.  So be cheer loud and proud so Chad can hear us.  Stars Nation is one big family, and we'll get through this together.

Go Stars.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lincoln Stars sold; New ownership is 823 Ventures, LLC

Stars owner Ryan Schiff shown on the right
with L.A. Kings forward Dustin Brown
Although the Stars confirmed last week that a transaction to sell the team was imminent, it wasn't until today that it was confirmed by the USHL, and the new ownership named.

Click here to read the official announcement from the USHL.

Click here to read the announcement from the Lincoln Stars.

The new ownership group is 823 Ventures LLC, which consists of Ryan Schiff and his wife Kirsten Schiff.  Ryan Schiff is pictured on the left with L.A. Kings forward Dustin Brown.

Through the wonders of Google, here's what I've been able to track down about Ryan Schiff:

Schiff works for "ED&F Man Capital Markets" in Chicago, Ill where he is the Global Head of Foreign Exchange.  Click here to view his Linkedin profile.

He is also the CEO and Founder of "POSTGAME," which is a company that sells shampoo/body wash that is marketed towards athletes.  Click here to read more about POSTGAME.  According to their website, USHL teams such as the Indiana Ice and the Chicago Steel use POSTGAME in their locker rooms.  The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins also use POSTGAME.

Schiff played two years of college hockey at the University of Miami-Ohio, and one year of minor-pro hockey.  Click here to view his EliteProspects.com profile.

Schiff is originally from Roslyn, NY but lives in the Chicago area now.  He is 47 years old, married, and has three children

From what I was told, Schiff was in attendance last Thursday evening at the IceBox and watched the Chicago Steel-Lincoln Stars game in which the Stars lost 5-1.

Very exciting times for sure.  It's nice to know Schiff is committed to keeping the Stars in Lincoln.  It will be interesting to see what changes he makes, and how soon he makes them.

Thoughts on this big news?  Comments are wide open.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Go Stars.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Former Stars Head Coach Chad Johnson found dead in Fargo

Very sad news to report today.

Former Lincoln Stars assistant and head coach Chad Johnson was found dead Monday evening in Fargo, ND.  I will post some links below with more information.

InForum.com
Grand Forks Herald
Lincoln Journal Star
University of North Dakota
USHL.com

I've been sitting all morning at work trying to concentrate on other things, but it has been very hard.  When these things happen, and with the suddenness of it, it’s very difficult to understand how and why.  I feel sick to my stomach.

Chad was always so nice to me over the years.  I’m just an idiot with a blog, but Chad always made it a point to track me down at Lincoln’s tryout camp every June to talk about the team.  He never had to do that, and I would have been fine if he didn't track me down.  But he took the time to say hi, and always joked he was going to look at my tryout camp notes.  At this last camp, we sat and talked for quite a while about the team.  It's hard to believe that he is gone now.

During the season, whenever I’d pass him in the concourse inside the IceBox, Chad would always stop and say hi to my wife and I.  A few years ago when I blew out my knee and was hobbling around on crutches, he would stop and ask me how I was doing.  And he was genuine.  You could tell that Chad honestly cared.  Again, he didn't have to do that but he did.  He was a kind soul.

It has been incredible today to see the amount of people on Twitter who were positively affected by Chad.  He touched the lives of so many people.  I've been RT'ing tweets from friends of Chad all day on the blog's Twitter account.  The outpouring has been amazing.

Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the extended Johnson family.  I can’t imagine what they are going through right now.  If any of them are reading this, please know that all of us here in Lincoln send our support in this time of need.

Rest in peace, Chad.  You will be greatly missed by everyone in Stars Nation.

Edit:  With the approval of former Lincoln Stars hall-of-fame foward Chris Fournier, I'm going to post a note below that Chris sent me this afternoon.  Chris wanted to share his thoughts about Chad with the rest of Stars Nation.  I appreciate him reaching out to me.

So many kind words have been said of coach Chad. And rightfully so. He was not only my coach, but my friend. He was the type of person you could go to no matter what the situation and he'd make you feel better about the situation and about yourself. He had a great personality, which was only surpassed by his great humor. 
I would not have been a Lincoln Star if it was not for Chad. He came into my parents home and not only sold us on the Stars organization, but sold us on himself and Steve. He promised my parents that he would look after a 15 year old kid who had never been away from his parents. And that's what he did. Was always there for a laugh and to make me feel comfortable in my surroundings. Never blew hot air up your ass but never tore you down either. He loved hockey and coached every game and practice with passion and heart. Because of Chad, I made one of the best decisions of my life. And that was to play for a great organization, a great city and the great fans of Lincoln. 
You'll be missed dearly Coach, but never forgotten. God bless your family.
-Chris Fournier

Sunday, November 17, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 2, Des Moines 1

The Lincoln Stars used a gutsy effort Saturday night in Des Moines, IA to beat the Buccaneers by a score of 2-1, and in turn snapped their seven-game losing streak.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The win improved Lincoln's record to 3-9-4 (10 points), and moved them into a three-way tie with Fargo and Tri-City for sixth place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

This will be another brief recap.  I did not watch the FASTHockey broadcast, but I did catch most of the radio broadcast.  I'm not a big fan of FASTHockey, to be honest.  For the amount of money they charge per game, I don't believe it's a good product.  So for most road games I will listen to the radio broadcast only.

In a nice change of pace, the Stars got the first goal of the game when Jason Stephanik scored a 5-on-3 PP tally at the 5:53 mark of the first period to give Lincoln an early 1-0 lead.  That lead would continue into the first intermission with the Stars leading on shots, 14-11.

In the last three minutes of the first period, Stars defensemen Zach Frye and Connor Frantti were both ejected from the game.  Frye picked up a double minor for checking from behind and a 10 minute game ejection misconduct.  Frantti picked up a major penalty for head contact and a game ejection misconduct as well.  Because of the ejections, the Stars played shorthanded on the blueline for the second and third periods.  Both Frye and Frantti have been suspended by the league this season, so it wouldn't surprise me if they have to sit more games after these latest penalties.  Not good.

Late in the second period, the Stars got their second goal, and the eventual game-winner, from forward Luke Voltin.  Lincoln radio announcer Mike Melbye was adamant that Voltin scored the goal, although Pointstreak still shows that Christian Lampasso scored.  Melbye later tweeted that the scoresheet he viewed after the game showed that Voltin scored, so I would assume the Pointstreak boxscore will be changed eventually.  Regardless, the goal at the 16:28 mark gave the Stars a 2-0 lead.

That two-goal cushion wouldn't last long, as the Bucs scored a PP tally less than a minute after to pull to within one goal.  At the second intermission, the Stars led 2-1 with Des Moines leading in shots, 30-25.

Both teams put up 10 shots a piece in the final twenty minutes, but neither club would put the puck in the net.  The Bucs had a lot of PP opportunities in this game, but they were only able to score one PP goal in nine chances.  Coaches often say that a team's best penalty killer is the goaltender, and Michael Bitzer was certainly that last night.

Lincoln went 1-for-8 with the man advantage in the win.  Shots were 40-35 in favor of Des Moines.

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer was the #1 star of the game as he stopped 39 of 40 shots for the win.  Bucs netminder Billy Christopoulos played well for the second straight game, but it wasn't enough as he stopped 33 of 35 in the loss.  In the two games against the Stars in Des Moines this weekend, Christopoulos stopped 82 of 85 shots on goal.  Considering those numbers, the Stars should feel very fortunate they salvaged two of four points this weekend.

It may not have been pretty, but props to the players for getting the two points last night.  Playing shorthanded for most of the game due to the loss of Frye and Frantti, the team had to kill a ton of penalty minutes to keep the Bucs from getting back in it.  Gutsy effort for sure.

The Stars play their next three games at the IceBox, so it should be a good opportunity to string some wins together.  However, the opponents in those three games will be tough.  On Friday 11/22, the Stars will host the Youngstown Phantoms.  Saturday 11/23, Lincoln will take on the Waterloo Blackhawks.  And then on Wednesday 11/27, the day before Thanksgiving, the Stars will battle the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Also, I'd expect the USHL and the Stars to announce something early this week about the selling of the team.  I've heard some rumors on my end about that, so it will be interesting to see who the buyer(s) is and what their plans are for the team.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Once again, here are video highlights from this game, courtesy of Bucs fan Scott Thompson.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 1, Des Moines 5

The Des Moines Buccaneers got out to a quick 3-0 first period lead over the Lincoln Stars and never looked back as they cruised to a 5-1 win at Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines, IA last night.  The loss was Lincoln's seventh in a row.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped the Stars to 2-9-4 (8 points) on the season, and they continue to occupy last place in the USHL western conference.

Despite the fact that the Stars are on a seven-game slide, and they have the worst winning percentage (.267) in the USHL, Lincoln is only two points out of sixth place in the west.

This recap is going to very brief.  I did not watch the FASTHockey broadcast, and I caught bits and pieces of the radio broadcast.

Seems like during this seven-game losing streak, the opponent has gotten out to a quick first period lead, and that was no different in this particular matchup.  Less than twelve minutes in, the Stars found themselves in a 0-3 hole.

Stars goaltender Shane Starrett got his first start in a Stars uniform, but was pulled after giving up two  first period goals on eight shots on goal.  Michael Bitzer entered the game and surrendered a penalty shot goal at the 11:30 mark.

Lincoln defenseman Zack Pittman stopped the bleeding temporarily with a goal coming with only 23 seconds remaining in the first period to pull the Stars to within two goals.  Pittman, who earlier this week committed to Canisius College, has scored goals in back-to-back games.

Des Moines took the 3-1 lead into the first intermission, leading on shots as well, 13-10.

In the second, it sounded like the Stars came out and dominated the Bucs for twenty minutes, but they could not solve DM goaltender  Billy Christopoulos.  Lincoln outshot Des Moines 19-4 in the middle stanza, but neither the Stars nor the Bucs would put the biscuit in the basket.

In the third, the Bucs finished off the scoring with two additional goals, which included an empty-netter with 46 seconds remaining.  Despite spending the majority of the third period in the penalty box, the Stars still managed to outshoot the Bucs 21-15 in the final period.

Stars defenseman Zach Frye, and forward Hunter Anderson were both ejected in the third period, so we'll have to wait and see if the league decides to suspended them for a game (or longer).  Anderson was ejected after a checking from behind misconduct, while Frye was tossed after picking up his second misconduct in the third period.

Amazingly, the Stars outshot the Bucs 50-32 overall in this game, yet lost 5-1.

Lincoln went 0-for-7 on the powerplay while the Bucs went 1-for-10.  You're not going to win too many games when you give the other team 10 PP opportunities.

Shane Starrett stopped 6 of 8 shots and picked up the loss.  Michael Bitzer stopped 21 of 23 in relief of Starrett.  Bucs goaltender Billy Christopoulos was the #1 star of the game, and he stopped 49 of 50 Lincoln shots he faced.  Seems like opposing goaltenders have their best games against Lincoln as of late.

Not sure what more to say.  I figured this Stars team might struggle at the beginning of the season since they had so many new faces, and very few returning vets from last season, but I had no idea it would be this bad.  The only thing we can continue to do as fans is support the players through this and hope they can get it turned around.

These same two teams will battle it out again tonight in Des Moines.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.  I'll be listening again to the radio broadcast and will provide updates on Twitter and on the blog's Facebook page.

Go Stars.

I am going to embed a video below which includes "highlights" of the Friday night game, courtesy of Scott Thompson, who is a Bucs fan.  Scott does a great job editing his game highlight videos.  Give him a follow on Twitter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Chicago 5, Lincoln 1

Zack Pittman scores in the first period
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Chicago Steel stormed into the IceBox tonight and outscored Lincoln 4-0 in the last two periods in route to a 5-1 win over the Stars.  The loss was Lincoln's sixth in a row.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The loss dropped Lincoln's record to 2-8-4 (8 points) and they are still in last place in the USHL western conference.  The Steel improved to 5-11-0 (10 points), also in last place in their respective conference (eastern).  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time at all on this recap, for obvious reasons.

The final score doesn't indicate how close this game was for the thirty minutes.  Having said that, I thought both teams played very sloppy tonight.  Each squad gave up a ton of odd man rushes, and breakaways.  Defensively, it wasn't pretty.

After an early Chicago goal made it 1-0 Steel in the first period, Zack Pittman scored Lincoln's only goal with about 5 minutes remaining in the first.  Zack fired a nice, glove-high wrister that Morris couldn't get.

In the second and third, it was all Chicago.  The Steel scored two in the second, and two in the third (including an empty net goal) to finish out the scoring.

Goaltender Cale Morris got the rare start for the Chicago Steel, and shut the door on the Stars, stopping 29 of 30 shots in the win.  Morris has been Chicago's backup goaltender this season, but he didn't play like a backup tonight.  He was named the #1 star of the game, and rightly so.  The native of Larkspur, CO earned his first USHL win tonight, which happened to come at the IceBox against the Stars.  Big night for that kid.

Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 25 of 29 in the loss.

The Stars went 0-0 on the powerplay.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Only against Lincoln would the second most penalized team (Chicago) in the USHL not get whistled for any penalties.  Not one.  Suddenly they were all angels tonight.  Funny how that happens.

The Steel went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Not much more to say other than there is plenty of room to improve.  Gotta support the players and hope they can turn this around soon.  They'll get another opportunity to do that Friday and Saturday night in Des Moines.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Chicago and Des Moines (x2)


The Lincoln Stars will play three games in three consecutive days for the first time this season when they take on the Chicago Steel at the IceBox on Thursday evening, before going on the road for back-to-back games this weekend in Des Moines, IA against the Buccaneers.  All three games will begin at 7:05pm CST.

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.

The Lincoln Stars enter this weekend with a record of 2-7-4 (8 points) and are in last place in the USHL western conference.  The Stars are riding a five-game losing streak and have been outscored 22-11 in those five losses.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

In a rare Thursday tilt at the IceBox, the Stars will take on the visiting Chicago Steel, who have a record of 4-11-0 (8 points) and are in last place in the USHL eastern conference.  The Steel are the only other team in the USHL that has a lower winning percentage than the Stars (.267 to Lincoln's .308).

This will be the first of two games the Stars and Steel will have against one another this season.  On 1/17/14, the Steel will be back at the IceBox once again to face the Stars.

Despite their record and low winning percentage, the Steel are actually one of the hottest teams in the USHL right now.  Chicago has won 4 of their last 5 games, including wins against Green Bay, Cedar Rapids, and two victories in a row on the road against the Fargo Force.  This is not a team the Stars can take for granted.

This Friday and Saturday, will visit Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines, IA for back-to-back games against the Bucs.  Des Moines has a record of 5-8-1 (11 points) and occupy fifth place in the USHL western conference.  

In their only other meeting this season, the Bucs beat the Stars in Lincoln by a score of 4-3.  In that particular game, the Stars outshot the Bucs 46-23, but lost in an overtime shootout.

Much like the Stars, the Bucs aren't playing their best hockey right now.  They've lost four of their last five, and were outscored 17-8 in those five games.  Des Moines is 2-3-1 at home so far this season.

Sorry for the short weekend preview!  I had to spend time tonight putting the "Stars Sold?" article together, which limited the amount of time I could devote to this article.

See you all at the IceBox Thursday night!

Go Stars.

Lincoln Stars sold?

A very interesting tweet ran across my Twitter feed this morning.  The tweet came from Andrew Weiss, who is a writer/scout for the Future Considerations ice hockey scouting agency.  Click here to read the tweet.  I'll embed it below, also.
Andrew is someone I follow on Twitter, and I wouldn't post his tweet if I didn't believe him.  He's pretty well connected, so I trust his information.

On my end, I've heard rumors of the Stars being sold for a few months now.  I have hesitated to post those rumors here on the blog, or on Twitter, until I could confirm them.  With Andrew's tweet, and what I've heard since then, I feel confident in saying that a transaction is pending for the sale of the Lincoln Stars.

What does that mean for you, the fan?  First of all, I wouldn't worry that the new owners will move the team to a different city/state.  The Stars' lease at the IceBox runs through 2031, so I really don't think they are going anywhere.  Lincoln has led the USHL in attendance for the last seven straight seasons, so it would be silly to not take advantage of that rabid fan base.

As for the rest, we'll have to wait and see how much change the new owners will want to make.

I don't want to speculate as to why the current owners would want to sell the team.  I do know that UNL owns the land the IceBox is on, and all of the surrounding land around it.  The university is slowly turning the old state fairgrounds area into what will be called "Innovation Campus."  Their lease runs through 2031, but could UNL push them out?  Could the university cut the Stars a big check to break their lease at the IceBox so they could tear it down and build a modern building?

Also, it is my opinion that "Husker Hockey" will happen in the next 5 years.  There is too much money at stake with regard to the B1G Network to ignore the possibilities of a Division 1 hockey team in Lincoln.  The new Pinnacle Bank Arena in downtown Lincoln has the capabilities of installing ice.  The equipment is already there and in place.  I fully expect UNL to field a mens and womens division one hockey team sometime in the next 5 years.

When Husker Hockey comes to town, there's no doubt in my mind that attendance at Lincoln Stars games will suffer.  How much will it suffer?  It's hard to say.  I believe the Stars could still pull in 2,000 to 2,500 a night even with another hockey team in town.  What the Stars have in their favor is the atmosphere of the IceBox, cheaper ticket prices, and alcohol....three things that Pinnacle Bank Arena (or any future rink) will likely not have.

Stars fans are a hardcore committed group of folks.  We will follow the team regardless of how good/bad they are every season.  Heck, look at me.  I devote a ton of time and effort to keep this blog updated with fresh information.  And I do it for my love of the game, and the team.  The IceBox is our church, and Lincoln Stars hockey is our religion.  I don't see a mass exodus of hockey fans away from the IceBox even when Husker Hockey comes to fruition.

So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  As always, I will keep you all updated with the latest news.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear your comments regarding this topic.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Thursday morning, the Lincoln Journal Star made it official.  Pending league approval, the Lincoln Stars will be sold.  Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Congrats to Zack Pittman!

Per his Twitter account, Lincoln Stars defenseman Zack Pittman ('95) has committed to play college hockey for Canisius College.
Canisius College is private university located in Buffalo, NY.  The Canisius Golden Griffins hockey team plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA).  Former Stars forward Kyle Gibbons is a senior for the Golden Griffins this season.

Zack is starting at Canisius at a good time, as the program will get a new home starting the 2014-15 season, thanks to a generous donation by the Buffalo Sabres and Kim and Terry Pegula.  Click here and here to read more about that.

I've always been a big fan of Zack's play, so I'm very happy to be posting this news.  Heading into the 2012-13 season, Zack was a virtual unknown.  He was one of the youngest players on the team, fighting for ice time at a position that isn't very forgiving for rookies.  But he stood tall, and quickly proved he could be a valuable part of the Stars' d-corps.  Zack played 56 games last season and was +24.  Impressive numbers for such a young player at this level.

Congrats again to Zack!  Very well deserved.  Canisius is very lucky to be getting such a quality defenseman.  I do not know if Zack will start at Canisius in the fall of 2014 or 2015, but I would guess it will be in 2014.

B³ Postgame Recap: Omaha 5, Lincoln 2

Stars celebrate after Jared Kolquist's 3rd period goal
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Omaha forward Tyler Vesel continued his hot play with four points (2g, 2a) to power the Lancers to a 5-2 victory over the Lincoln Stars at the IceBox on Saturday night.

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.

Go Stars.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 5, Sioux City 6

Thomas Carey scores his first USHL goal in the 3rd period
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The  Stars outscored Sioux City 3-1 in the third period, and outshot them 23-4 in the last twenty minutes, but it wasn't enough as early Lincoln turnovers and miscues allowed the Musketeers to escape with a 6-5 win at the Tyson Events Center on Friday night.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars dropped to 2-6-4 (8 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference.  Sioux City improved to 10-2-1 (21 points) and are one point out of first place in the west behind the Omaha Lancers (22 points), Lincoln's opponent Saturday night at the IceBox.

I was able to watch this game on FASTHockey, so I'll post some brief thoughts below.

This was a very strange game, full of streaks for each team.  The Muskies quickly got out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, only to allow the Stars score two straight to get back into it.

Then, the Muskies scored three straight goals to take a 6-2 lead, but the Stars responded again with a 3-0 tear late in the third period to pull to within one goal.  It was a rollercoaster game for sure, but the Musketeers were the better team the first two periods, and that's all they needed to get the two points.

The Stars got goals from Christian Lampasso, John Simonson (PP), Dominick Sacco (SH), Max Humitz (SH), and Thomas Carey.  The Pointstreak boxscore linked above incorrectly shows Sacco scoring the last goal of the game (at the 16:12 mark), but it was Thomas Carey who got that one, his first in a Star uniform.

Michael Bitzer got the start for the Stars in this game, but was pulled after the third Sioux City goal.  Shane Starrett played the remainder of the first period (5:22), but Bitzer returned to play all of the second and third period.

Special teams played a big part in this game, as the Muskies solved Lincoln's penalty kill unit by going 3-for-8 on the powerplay, but they also gave up two shorthanded goals to the Stars as well.  Lincoln went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.  The Stars had killed 33 straight PP opportunities against them going into this contest.

Quote here from Sioux City head coach Jay Varady about this wild tilt:  “I think it was just a weird game,” he added. “We got up, they crawled back in, but you have to give (Lincoln) credit. They are a team that works and never gives up. We knew that about that group over there. It seemed like every time we got up, they pushed back and we weren’t quite ready to answer that push. But we hung on.”

After the game, Stars head coach Jimmy McGroarty said on the radio that the Stars need to figure out how to bottle their third period effort from this game and bring it to the matchup tonight at the IceBox against the Lancers.  If the Stars can play like that for 60 minutes, I have no doubt the good guys can hang with and beat the first-place Lancers.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Don't forget that the game Saturday evening at the IceBox is Military Appreciation Night.  As a Navy brat myself, I think it's great that the organization is doing this.  Maybe next year we can get digitized camouflage jerseys and auction them off after the game for a veterans charity?  Hint, hint.  Anyway, quote below from the Stars:

Saturday, November 9th vs Omaha is Military Night at the Ice Box, sponsored by Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA).

Military personnel with ID can purchase discounted group tickets for the game by calling the Stars Ticket Office at 402.474.7827, ext. 1.  

We're asking fans to bring new winter hats, gloves, socks, t-shirts, winter coats and blankets to donate for the veterans CVMA works with.   In the 1st intermission of the game, fans will be asked to toss the items for donation onto the ice as part of our contest.

CVMA t-shirts will be for sale for $15 to raise money for this non-profit organization that directs their efforts on helping veterans in their local communities.

For more information on the CVMA's work in the community, visit them at cvma162.org.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Omaha


The Lincoln Stars will take on two of the hottest teams in the USHL this weekend when they face off against the Sioux City Musketeers on Friday, and the Omaha Lancers on Saturday.  Friday's game in at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City will begin at 7:00pm CST.  Saturday evening's contest will take place at the IceBox in Lincoln, beginning at 7:05pm CST.

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.

Up first for the good guys will be the red hot Sioux City Musketeers, who have won 8 in a row and have a record of 9-2-1 (19 points) and are in second place in the USHL western conference, only two points behind the first-place Omaha Lancers.

The Muskies are 6-0-1 in seven home games so far this season, so this will be a huge test for the Stars who are 1-2-2 in five games away from the IceBox.  

Saturday at the IceBox, it will be World War III when the Stars host the Omaha Lancers.  Omaha is in first place in the western conference with a record of 10-2-1 (21 points).  The Lancers won the first meeting of the season against the Stars last Saturday night in Ralston with a 4-1 decision.

Going back to the start of the 2011-12 season, Omaha has won 14 of 18 regular season games against the Lincoln Stars.  They have definitely had Lincoln's number the past couple of years.

There were a few roster moves this week involving defensemen.  First, d-man Wilson Vershay announced on Twitter he is no longer on the team.  From what I've been told he was not traded to a different team.  Vershay only played two regular season games after he was originally acquired from the Waterloo Blackhawks for a third round futures pick in 2014.  I'm not sure if he left the team because he was upset at not playing, but Waterloo still has Lincoln's draft pick and the Stars don't have anything to show for it.

Secondly, per the USHL's Hockey Ops Twitter account, the Stars acquired defenseman Patrick Gazzillo ('95) off of the waiver list from the Omaha Lancers.  Gazzillo played 14 games for the Chicago Steel during the 2010-11 season before spending the 2011-12 season with the Chicago Fury U18 squad.  The Steel drafted Gazzillo must have liked what they saw from Gazzillo in 2010-11, because they selected him in the third round of the 2012 USHL Entry Draft.  Last year, Gazzillo played 59 games for the Soo Eagles of the NAHL where he scored 10 points (2g, 8a) along with 73 PIM's and was +20.

Gazzillo initially was protected by the Omaha Lancers in the preseason where he played three exhibition games, one of which was against the Lincoln Stars at the 2013 USHL Fall Classic.  In that particular matchup, Gazzillo got into a fight with Lincoln's Hunter Anderson.  Although he's a bit undersized (5'10", 180 pounds), Gazzillo seems like a player that will not back down and is more than willing to drop the mitts.  I've been told that he was hurt during the preseason for Omaha and was placed on the injured reserve list.  I'm not sure if he's 100% healthy right now, or if he will play this weekend.

With Zach Frye out for two more games due to suspension, the Stars will be down to five defensemen if Gazzillo doesn't play this weekend.  Normally, teams will dress and play six defensemen per game, so if Frye and Gazzillo are both out, they'll be a bit shorthanded on the blueline against SC and Omaha.

Sorry for the short weekend preview.  I've been traveling for work this week and just haven't had much time to devote to the blog.  I plan on watching the Sioux City game on FASTHockey, and will of course be in attendance on Saturday for the Omaha tilt.  Wouldn't miss that game for the world. 

Go Stars.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 1, Omaha 4

Two empty-net goals late in the third period was the icing on the cake which allowed the Omaha Lancers to skate to a 4-1 victory over the Lincoln Stars at Ralston Arena on Saturday night.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 2-5-4 (8 points) and are still in seventh place in the USHL western conference.  The Lancers improved to 10-2-1 (21 points) and are in first place in the west.  Click here to see the USHL standings.

This isn't going to be much of a recap.  I was not in attendance last night, nor did I listen to the game on the radio or watch it on FASTHockey.  What little I know about the game I received from friends who were in attendance.

The Lancers got on the scoreboard quickly in this game when Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson scored a little over 4 minutes in to give Omaha an early 1-0 lead over the Stars.  Lincoln outshot Omaha 9-2 in the first period, but the score remained 1-0 after twenty minutes.

After being held to only two shots on goal in the first period, the Lancers responded with 17 shots on Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer in the second period.  Omaha forward Tyler Vesel scored on one of those seventeen shots to give the Lancers a 2-0 lead early in the middle stanza.  Vesel's goal would turn out to be the eventual game-winner.

Shots in the second period were 17-14, in favor of Omaha.  All of Lincoln's 23 shots on goal through two periods were saved by Lancers goaltender Hayden Hawkey.  Cole Bruns, Omaha's #1 goaltender, did not play in this game.

In the third, the Stars finally got on the scoreboard with a powerplay tally by former Lancer Dominic Sacco at the 12:36 mark.  Jared Kolquist and Brandon Smith earned the assists on Sacco's goal, his first as a member of the Lincoln Stars.  I'm sure it felt good for Dominic to get his first Stars goal against the team that released him last year.

Sacco's goal gave the Stars some life, but the Lancers scored two empty-net goals in the last minute of the game to complete the scoring.

Lincoln went 1-for-5 on the powerplay, while the Lancers went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  That makes six straight games that the Stars have not given up a powerplay goal against (32 consecutive PP kills).

Hayden Hawkey stopped 31 of 32 shots to earn the win, while Michael Bitzer stopped 25 of 27 in the loss.  

From the people I heard from who were in attendance, it sounded like the Stars played pretty well.  They hung with a very good Omaha team, but just couldn't get more than the one goal.

Unfortunately, the offense has disappeared a bit for the Stars.  Take away the 6-1 drubbing of the Storm by the Stars on 10/25, the Stars have scored just five goals in their last five games.  

The schedule doesn't get any easier for Lincoln as they will go on the road this Friday to take on the Sioux City Musketeers, who are the hottest team in the USHL right now having won 8 in a row.  On Saturday at the IceBox, the Stars will host the first-place Lancers.

If you were at the game last night, or watched from home, I'd love to hear your opinions.  Please leave a comment below.

Go Stars.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 0, Tri-City 3

After getting blown out by the Stars last Friday at the IceBox by a score of 6-1, the Tri-City Storm got some revenge with a 3-0 shutout win over Lincoln last night in Kearney.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.  

With the loss, the Stars fell to 2-4-4 (8 points) and are now in seventh place in the USHL western conference.  The Storm improved to 4-5-2 (10 points) and are in fifth place in the west.  Click here to view the current USHL standings. 

Unfortunately, I spent $8 to watch this game on FASTHockey.  I'll post some brief thoughts below.  There aren't a lot of positives from this game, and I'm not going to dwell too much on the negatives.

Seemed to me that the Stars spent most of this game on auto-pilot.  A lot of perimeter shots in the Tri-City zone, and I didn't see players crashing the net as much as they did last Friday night at the IceBox.

Neither team played particularly well, but the Stars had opportunities to score goals in this game but just couldn't get any past Storm goaltender Jacob Johansson.  The Storm gave the Stars plenty of chances to get back into the game with some very undisciplined play at times.  Lincoln had 6 powerplay opportunities but were not able to convert.

There were times in this game that it seemed like the Stars flipped a switch and outplayed the Storm.  In the latter half of the second period, and at times in the third, Lincoln was the better team.  But it wasn't a 60 minute effort like it was against the Storm last Friday at the IceBox.

Shots were 33-25 in favor of Lincoln, but again most of those 33 shots were from the perimeter.  Johansson wasn't tested much, especially in the first half of the game.  Michael Bitzer stopped 22 of 24 in the loss while Johansson stopped all 33 he faced.

Biggest positive from this game was the continued good play of Lincoln's penalty kill unit.  If my calculations are right, the Stars have not given up a PP goal in the last five games.  In those five contests, Lincoln has killed all 28 powerplay chances against them.  Goaltenders are often said to be your best penalty killer, and that is certainly the case as of late with Michael Bitzer.

The Stars called up defenseman Connor Chambers this week to add some roster depth on the blueline with Zach Frye out of the lineup.  Chambers was a free agent at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June, and was on the initial protected roster.  After starting the preseason in Lincoln, he was moved to the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL where he has been since.

With Frye out for four games, I figured this would be a good opportunity to give defenseman Wilson Vershay some playing time.  Lincoln traded a third round futures draft  pick (in 2014) for Vershay, but he has only played two games and is currently listed on the inactive Pointstreak roster.  I've had a lot of fans ask me about his status, and I have no clue.  It just seemed odd to me to see the Stars bring up a defenseman from the NAHL when they had Vershay here in town sitting on the sidelines.  Maybe he's injured.  I have no idea.

The Stars have a great opportunity tonight to rebound and pin a home loss on the Omaha Lancers at the Ralston Arena.  Omaha is coming off a 3-2 home loss Friday night to the Sioux City Musketeers, so I'm sure the Lancers will be a salty bunch tonight.  I expect the Stars to turn the page and give the Lancers all they can handle.

Go Stars.