Saturday, September 27, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Tri-City 4, Lincoln 3

Stars celebrate Biagio Lerario's first goal of the game
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The visiting Tri-City Storm put a damper on Lincoln's home opener with a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Stars at the IceBox on Friday night.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fall to 0-1-0 on the young season.  Click here to view the USHL regular season standings.

Before I get into the action on the ice, I just want to say a few things about the pregame festivities.

First off, I thought all of the upgrades inside the IceBox looked great.  Fresh paint, new banners, updated bathrooms, new counter tops in the concession stands, etc.  I thought it all looked great.  You could tell the staff have worked very, very hard on the upgrades.  They should be proud of their work.

Secondly, I thought the home opener video which was played before the game was awesome.  It looked very professional to me, and it got the crowd pumped up.  I'm hoping the Stars will put that video on YouTube.

Lastly....let there be light!  Wow.  I knew the Stars had installed new lighting above the ice, but I wasn't expecting it to be that bright.  It was great.  I've been going to Stars games since 1996, so in a way, it almost felt like I was watching a game in a different rink last night.  Two thumbs up.

On to the game....

It was definitely a back-and-forth first period although I thought the Stars were the better team.  Lincoln forward Biagio Lerario got the scoring going with an even-strength tally at the 9:54 mark.  On that play, a point shot by defenseman Ryan Cook was initially saved by TC goaltender Alec Dillion, but the rebound went right to Lerario who fired it into the open net.  Good play by Lerario to go to the net in anticipation of a rebound.

As would be the theme for the night, Tri-City responded quickly with a goal of their own after the Lerario goal.  Just one minute after the opening goal of the game, Kevin Kerr of Tri-City darted to the net behind the Lincoln defensemen before firing a shot glove high past goaltender Cam Hackett to knot the game at 1-1.

Later in the first period, Biagio Lerario got his second goal of the period with a nice individual effort.  Lerario collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, avoided a big check by a TC player at the blueline, and entered the Storm zone on a 2-on-1.  Lerario skated in on Dillion, went to the backhand, and roofed it to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead which they would take into the first intermission.

Early in the second period, a strange play in the Storm offensive zone allowed the Stars to take a 3-1 lead.  TC defenseman Gordi Meyer, who was just to the left of goaltender Alec Dillion, tried a cross ice pass to a teammate but the puck deflected off of the skate of Stars forward Ludvig Hoff and into the net.  It was a poor decision by Meyer to attempt the pass, and Dillion was obviously not paying attention on the play.  Puck luck was certainly on Lincoln's side for that goal.

An ill-timed Lincoln penalty less than a minute after the Hoff goal allowed the Storm to score a PP and kill any momentum the Stars may have had at the time.  I can only imagine that as a head coach, Chris Hartsburg had to have been frustrated with the penalty considering Lincoln had Tri-City on the ropes with a 3-1 lead.  But the Storm PP goal by Garrett Gamez gave his team life and quieted the raucous IceBox crowd.

With only 16 seconds remaining in the second period, Tri-City scored an even-strength goal to tie the game at 3-3 going into the second intermission.  I've always been of the opinion that goals scored in the last minute of a period are killers, if they're scored against your team.  They can suck the life out of a team going into the next period.

In the third, the only goal scored was the game winner by Storm forward Chris Wilkie on a nice wrister that looked like it went glove high.  Wilkie's goal, which came with 7:13 remaining was an even-strength tally and gave his team the 4-3 lead.  The Stars pulled goaltender Cam Hackett with a minute remaining for the extra attacker, but they were not able to score the equalizing goal.

Shots were 31-24 in favor of Tri-City.  Lincoln had 12 shots on goal in the first period, but combined for a total of 12 shots on goal in the last two periods.  Tri-City went 1-for-2 on the powerplay, while Lincoln was 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 31 shots on goal in the loss.  Storm netminder Alec Dillion stopped 21 of 24 in the win.

Unfortunately, a kneeing major by Stars defenseman Ryan Cook nearly started a line brawl situation as the horn sounded at the end of the third period.  The officials sent the Stars immediately to the locker room, so the team was not allowed to gather around center ice for their salute to the crowd.  In all of the games I've attended at the IceBox over the years, I don't know if I've ever not seen the Stars salute the crowd.  But considering the situation, I understand why the officials got the Stars off the ice quickly.

Overall, I was happy with how the Stars began this game but not how they finished.  I thought Lincoln looked very lethargic and tired in the third period, while the Storm got better each period.  Give full credit to Tri-City, as they played much more aggressive than Lincoln last night, especially on the forecheck.  They forced the Stars to make some bad decisions which led to goals.

After the game, head coach Chris Hartsburg was interviewed by Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye, and you could tell he wasn't happy.  It was refreshing to hear a coach tell it like he saw it and not try to sugarcoat it.  I wasn't used to that.  At one point during the interview, Hartsburg said he needs to figure out which players want to be here, and which players who don't.  I thought that was an interesting comment.  It should be an intense week of practice for the Stars.

Only one game for the Stars this weekend, so the next opportunity to bounce back will be Friday, October 3rd at the IceBox against the Sioux City Musketeers.  On Sunday, October 5th, Lincoln will take on the Waterloo Blackhawks at the IceBox for a rare 4:05pm Sunday afternoon puck drop.  More on those two games later next week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

B³ Home Opener Preview: Tri-City Storm vs. Lincoln Stars

Home Sweet Home
The Lincoln Stars will open the 2014-15 USHL regular season schedule this weekend with their Friday night home opener against the Tri-City Storm.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST at the IceBox.

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 Stars and Storm met two times in the preseason, with Lincoln winning one at home, and losing one in Kearney.  The Storm finished the 2014 exhibition schedule with a 4-0-1 record in five games, and outscored their opponents 20-11.

Tri-City forward Garrett Gamez was the leading point-getter for the Storm in the preseason with 7 points (3g, 4a) in five games played, although six of those seven points came in one game against the Des Moines Bucs.

Like the Stars last season, the Storm struggled to play consistent hockey, probably more so than Lincoln.  Tri-City finished in seventh place in the USHL Western Conference in 2013-14 with a record of 21-35-4 (46 points), 10 points behind the fifth place Lincoln Stars.

Towards the last few months of last season, the Storm pretty much had a yard sale in terms of sending some of their top, college-bound players to playoff-contending USHL teams so they could stockpile draft picks and young prospects.  Because only four teams from each conference make the playoffs, bottom dwelling teams will throw up the white flag on the current season, and start working on next season.  And that's exactly what the Storm did.

In this case, although it's still very early, I think what the Storm did last season worked.  They return a good core group of quality forwards and defenseman, and have added two very good goaltenders in Blake Weyrick (played for the NTDP last season) and Alec Dillion (L.A. Kings draft pick).  Many USHL pundits expect the Storm to be a much improved team in 2014-15, and to be in the playoff hunt come next spring.  I tend to agree with those pundits.

As for the Stars in 2014-15, you've heard me say numerous times this is a VERY young team.  They will likely be the youngest team in the USHL on opening night.  There are some very talented '96's and '97's on this team that will need some time to adapt to the speed and physicality of the USHL.  It won't come overnight.  With that said, there are some quality USHL vets on this team that should lead by example and show the youngsters how to succeed at this level.

As fans, it will be very fun to watch this team grow in 2014-15.  There will be some ups and downs, some growing pains, but I'm confident they'll get better as the season goes along.  I've had the opportunity to chat with owner Ryan Schiff, GM Jon Hull, and Head Coach Chris Hartsburg, and I know they will do absolutely everything in their power to bring winning hockey back to Lincoln.  They are all 100% committed to creating something special here that the fans will be proud of.  We just need to be patient.

Switching gears....

I posted this earlier today on Twitter, but Tri-City Storm head coach Jim Hulton has some interesting things to say about the environment inside the IceBox in this article posted today in the Kearney Hub newspaper.  I'll quote it below:

“It’ll be baptism by fire for some of our young kids going into Lincoln on Friday night with hopefully a hostile crowd throwing some beer at us and spitting on us and parading the environment right off,” Hulton said. “But we want that. We want the ‘us-against-world’ mentality this year.”


You could guess that the reactions from Stars fans on Twitter wasn't exactly rainbows and unicorns.  I thought about not even mentioning the quote by Hulton in this blog article because I don't think it's really necessary to give attention to something obviously so narrow-minded and trollish.

Having said that, I understand what Hulton was trying to say (or at least I think I do).  However, Hulton could have simply said, "We're going into a hostile environment this Friday night at the IceBox, and we wouldn't want it any other way."  That's it.  Done.  To add the stuff about fans tossing beer and spitting was a poor choice of words and something you wouldn't expect out of a head coach in a league like the USHL.

If anything, maybe the Stars can use the quote as bulletin board material.

Moving on....

Earlier today, the Stars announced the six players will head up a new "leadership group."  Click here to read more about that.  The six players in said group are: (D) Connor Frantti, (F) Dominick Sacco, (F) Max Humitz, (F) Blake Christensen, (F) Biagio Lerario, and (F) Patrick Polino.

Three of the above six players will wear the "A" (alternate captain) on their jerseys at home, while the other three players will wear the "A" for road games.  This is definitely something we haven't seen in Lincoln, but I like it.  I assume this was done by the coach to see how the above players respond to being put in a leadership role.  Maybe down the road this will help to establish the players who deserve the opportunity to wear a "C" on their jerseys.  We'll see.

Before I end this rambling mess, please take a minute to think about how hard the players on this roster have worked to get to this point in their hockey careers.  I pretty much said the same thing last season before the first game, but I think it bears repeating.  Well over 100+ players tried out for the Lincoln Stars way back in June at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, MN.  The players on this team have sacrificed so much, and have worked their butts off to earn a spot on the roster.  So cheer a little louder tomorrow night in honor of these young men who are here to play for your entertainment.  They deserve our praise and recognition.

See you all at the IceBox.  Let's get rowdy (but not toss beer or spit on players).

Go Stars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

USHL Protected Rosters Released

Very quick article tonight.  The USHL released the 23-player protected rosters and affiliate lists of all teams.

Click here to see the rosters.  It's a PDF file.

I'll post Lincoln's 23-player roster below.  No real surprises, in my opinion.  Forwards Angus Scott and Grant Jozefek were both moved to the affiliate roster, but both are still in town.  

Every year we see USHL teams keep a couple of extra players in town and they are able to move them back and forth from the 23-player roster to the affiliate roster.  Don't ask me to explain the USHL roster rules, because after all these years I'm still trying to figure them out.

A little surprised to not see '97 (D) Austin Cho on Lincoln's affiliate roster.  He's a RPI commit and a top prospect out of Canada.  2014 Phase II draft pick of the Stars.  He now appears on Cedar Rapids' affiliate roster.  Not sure yet if the Stars dropped him, or if they traded his rights to Cedar Rapids

BTW, here are my predictions for team captains.  I'm picking (2) captains, and (2) alternate captains.

C's:  Connor Frantti, Dominick Sacco
A's:  Max Humitz, Patrick Polino

I'd love to hear your predictions!  Leave a comment below and name your four.  Thanks!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lincoln Stars Roster Mania

I'm going to post a quick article here to highlight all of the roster moves the Stars made today.

The first move made was the addition of defenseman Ryan Cook ('95) from the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

 Per the USHL's Hockey Ops Twitter account, the Stars sent a 7th round pick in the 2015 USHL Phase II draft to Cedar Rapids for the rights to Cook.

Cook hails from Lancaster, NY (suburb of Buffalo) and adds some much need size to Lincoln's blueline, coming in at 6'3", 205 pounds.  Cook was originally a free agent addition by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, meaning he was not previously drafted.

Last season for the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL, Cook scored 13 points (2g, 11a) in 55 games played.  He also accumulated 48 penalty minutes.  In a total of five preseason games for the Roughriders this month, Cook had one assist and 16 penalty minutes.  As far as I can tell from looking online, Cook is uncommitted to a college.

The second roster move made was the trading of forward Quin Foreman ('96) to the Des Moines Buccaneers.  This particular trade was announced by Stars GM Jon Hull via Twitter, but it was not mentioned what Lincoln got in return for Foreman.  I assume it was a draft pick.

Foreman was originally selected by the Lincoln Stars in fifth round of the 2014 USHL Phase II draft.  In fact, Foreman was the first forward chosen by the Stars in that particular draft.  Quin has previously committed to play college hockey at Dartmouth University.

In five preseason games for the Stars this month, Foreman had 1 goal, zero penalty minutes, and two shots on goal.  Foreman will now join a Des Moines Bucs team that will play the Stars a total six times during the 2014-15 regular season.

The third move, made just a few minutes ago as I was typing up this article, was the addition of forward Joe Lappin ('94) from the Bloomington Thunder.  Stars GM Jon Hull again announced this trade via Twitter.  It was not noted what the Stars gave up for the rights to Lappin.

Last season, Lappin played for the South Shore Kings of the USPHL Premier.  In 45 games for the Kings, Lappin scored 44 points (27g, 17a) and accumulated 30 penalty minutes.  9 of his 27 goals were scored on the powerplay, and 9 of the 27 were game-winners.  Joe was the leading goal-scorer in the USPHL in 2013-14.

Joe was originally acquired by the expansion Bloomington Thunder in the fourth round of the 2014 USHL Phase II draft.  Joe hails from Geneva, IL and comes in at 6'1", 175 pounds.  Back in 2011-12, Lappin played for the Team Illinois U18 program, the same program that Stars GM Jon Hull used to be the head coach of.  I'm sure Joe Lappin was a player Jon Hull was very familiar with.

Looks like Lappin only played one preseason game with the Thunder and was held scoreless with one shot on goal.  Lappin becomes the second player born in 1994 on the current Stars roster.  The other overager is defenseman Connor Frantti.  Lappin is uncommitted.

As I've mentioned before, USHL teams have to cut down to 23 players on their main roster before Tuesday, September 23rd.  As I look at the Stars' roster, I believe they still need to cut/trade two more players.  I'm going to list the players below that I believe are on the team as of right now:

G - Cam Hackett
G - Peyton Jones
D - Connor Frantti
D - James LaDouce
D- Tony DeVito
D - Wyatt Kalynuk
D - Tye Ausmus
D - Ryan Jones
D - Cam Lee
D - Ryan Cook
F - Chris Klack
F - Dominick Sacco
F - Miguel Fidler
F - Max Humitz
F - August Von Ungern-Sternberg
F - Michael Gillespie
F - Ludvig Hoff
F - Angus Scott
F - Jared Bethune
F - Keegan Ward
F - Grant Jozefek
F - Biagio Lerario
F - Patrick Polino
F - Blake Christensen
F - Joe Lappin

That's 25 players by my count.  Two goaltenders, eight defensemen, and fifteen forwards.  I've been wrong plenty of times in the past, but I doubt the Stars will begin the regular season with 8 defensemen on the protected roster, especially when (D) Dylan Woolf comes off the 45-day injured reserve list in late October.

There is always the chance that the Stars could send one of the players above to their affiliate roster, but those player must be born in either 1996, 1997, or 1998.  So, we'll have to wait and see if any other roster moves are made this week.

Thanks for reading.  If any other roster moves are made, I'll try to get an article up as soon as I can.  I'm also going to try to post my annual "Predict the Captains" article this week as well.

Go Stars.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

B³ Fall Classic Postgame Recap: Muskegon 7, Lincoln 2

The Lincoln Stars wrapped up their exhibition schedule Saturday afternoon at the USHL Fall Classic in Sioux City, IA with a 7-2 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The Stars finished the 2014 preseason with a 3-5-0 record in eight games.

I'm not sure how much time I want to devote towards this recap.  It wasn't a fun game to watch.  It was an ugly, penalty-marred contest that couldn't end soon enough.

Having said that, I don't think the final score indicates how the Stars played in this particular game.  Muskegon certainly was the better team, and deserved to win.  They were more disciplined, more physical, and took full advantage of the offensive chances they had.  However, the Stars played much better than you would think if you just glanced at the final score.

Muskegon pretty much won this game in the first two periods with six goals scored.  The bulk of the Lumberjacks scoring (5 goals) came in a six minute span from the end of the first period to the beginning of the second period.  In that six minute span, the game went from a 0-0 tie to a 5-0 Muskegon lead that they would ride out for the win.

Lincoln goals were scored by Michael Gillespie (SH - primary assist to Wyatt Kalynuk), and Dominick Sacco (PP - nice primary assist to Michael Gillespie).

After an uneventful first period in terms of penalty minutes, these two teams combined for 72 PIM's in the last forty minutes.  Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg was on more than one occasion visibly upset with referee Lucas Martin.  There were a few calls that should have been whistled against Muskegon, especially in the first period.  But like I've always said, good teams overcome bad calls.

In the end, the 'Jacks got the 7-2 win, and their second victory over the Stars in the preseason.  Muskegon outscored Lincoln 11-4 in those two games.  I thought the Lumberjacks were one of the better teams I saw at the Fall Classic.  They are big, fast, physical, and deep.  I believe they will definitely be a playoff team in the USHL eastern conference.

Shots were 36-34 in favor of Lincoln.  Stars goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 27 of 34 in the loss.

Muskegon went 2-for-8 on the powerplay while the Stars went 1-for-5.  Lincoln finished the preseason with 3 PP goals in 31 opportunities.  Lincoln's penalty kill unit surrendered 9 PP goals in 41 opportunities.

What's next?  Lincoln and every other USHL team now has the tough task of cutting their main rosters down to a total of 23 players.  The deadline to make these cuts is Tuesday, September 23rd.

Looking at the Stars' roster, I think they'll only have to make one cut.  I assume (D) Dylan Woolf is on the IR, so he wouldn't count towards the 23.  (G) Hunter Shepard is no longer on the team, so he wouldn't count as well.  So based on the players who have participated in the preseason for Lincoln, I see a total of 24.

The Stars will open up the 2014-15 regular season this Friday night at the IceBox where they will face the Tri-City Storm.  There's nothing better than a home opener at the IceBox.  Really looking forward to that.  I'll post a home opener preview article later on in the week.

Go Stars.

Friday, September 19, 2014

B³ Fall Classic Postgame Recap: Lincoln 4, Sioux Falls 3

Stars celebrate the 4-3 win over Sioux Falls
August Von Ungern-Sternberg's two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, powered the Lincoln Stars to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Sioux Falls Stampede at the first day of the USHL Fall Classic in Sioux City, IA.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

With the win, the Stars improved their preseason record to 3-4-0 in seven games played.  After losing their first three preseason games this month, Lincoln has won three of their last four.

In the first period, Sioux Falls took full advantage of two powerplay opportunities to score two PP goals and take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.  The lone Lincoln goal in the first period came on a nice play by forward August Von Ungern-Sternberg.  August jumped on a loose puck outside the blueline and turned on the jets before blasting an uncontested wrist shot past the glove of Sioux Falls goaltender Stefanos Lekkas.

It was sort of a back and forth first period, but overall I thought Sioux Falls was the better team.  The Stampede held a 10-7 shot advantage over the Stars after one period.

The Stars come out hot to start the second period and controlled the middle stanza for the most part with a more aggressive forecheck and some timely scoring.  Chris Klack knotted the score at 2-2 early in the second period thanks to a very good play by Michael Gillespie who fought his way out of the corner with the puck and fed it across to Klack who scored.

Speaking of Klack, he really stood out to me today.  He's certainly not the biggest guy on the team, but he's very slippery.  And when I say slippery I mean he's very good at avoiding big body checks from opposing players.  He also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.  I talked to a couple of scouts today who also shared some of the same positive feedback about Klack.

Near the halfway point of the second period, Sioux Falls scored to take a 3-2 lead over the Stars.  However, Lincoln answered a little later to tie the game at 3-3 thanks to some hard work by Max Humitz.  On this particular goal, Sioux Falls looked like they were going to skate the puck out of their own zone, but Max was able to work hard to pokecheck the puck lose before it left the zone.  Dominick Sacco then corralled the puck before feeding Patrick Polino who waitied for Humitz to get open just to the left of Lekkas.  Polino fed a nice pass across the top of the crease to Humitz who tapped it into the open net.  Terrific effort on the goal that was started and finished by Max.

Both teams were tied up at 3-3 at the second intermission.  Stars outshot the Stampede 11-4 in the second period and dominated play for the most part.

In the third, the lone goal came from Stars forward August Von Ungern-Sternberg early in the period.  This was another great example of the Stars being the aggressor and getting a good forecheck in the Sioux Falls zone.  Lincoln was able to put enough pressure on behind the Stampede net to force a turnover.  The Stars then cycled the puck to August who skated to a quiet spot in between the top of the circle and the blueline before he ripped another wrister past a screened Lekkas.

Try as they might, the Stampede were unable to score the equalizing goal in the remaining minutes of the third period.  Good effort by the Stars to get, and more importantly, hold onto the lead.

Sioux Falls won the special teams war as they went 2-for-4 on the powerplay while Lincoln finished 0-for-5.  The Stars definitely need to work on their PP, as it has not looked particularly well the last couple of games.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett played all sixty minutes and stopped 23 of 26 shots on goal.  Hackett made some HUGE saves late in the third period to keep the Stars in the lead.  I think this was probably his best game in a Stars uniform so far this preseason.  You could tell he was dialed in, especially when it counted in the final twenty minutes.

This is really a fun team to watch when they are clicking, as they did in good stretches in this game.  They may be young, but they are incredibly skilled and fast.  I think Stars fans are really going to enjoy watching this team grow in front of our eyes.

Lincoln will finish out their exhibition schedule Saturday afternoon at the Fall Classic when they face the Muskegon Lumberjacks at 1:00pm CST.  The 'Jacks beat the Fargo Force today at the Fall Classic by a score of 3-2.  Former Stars Daniel Willett and Tommy Marchin both had a goal for Muskegon in the win against Fargo.  The game on Saturday should be a very good test for the Stars as I thought Muskegon played very well today against the Force.

Go Stars.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

B³ Lincoln Stars 2014 USHL Fall Classic Preview

The Lincoln Stars will continue their 2014 preseason schedule this week when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa to participate in the 2014 USHL Fall Classic (West) showcase.

The Stars will play a total of two games over the course of two days during the Fall Classic.  Lincoln will face off against the Sioux Falls Stampede on Friday, September 19th, and the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday, September 20th.

The two contests at the Fall Classic will be the final preseason games the Stars will participate in before the 2014-15 USHL regular season schedule begins on Friday, September 26th.

The Stars are 2-4-0 in six preseason games so far this month.  This past Tuesday evening at the IceBox, Lincoln scored three goals in the third period to beat the Sioux City Musketeers by a score of 5-4.

Like last year, the league split the 2014 Fall Classic event into two events:  the East Fall Classic in Green Bay, WI from 9/15 to 9/17, and the West Fall Classic in Sioux City, IA from 9/19 to 9/20.

Only western conference teams will be participating in the Sioux City Fall Classic this week (sort of).  Muskegon, who is an eastern conference team, will be participating in the Fall Classic West showcase.  They swapped places with the western conference Waterloo Blackhawks who played in the Fall Classic East.  Clear as mud.

The Fall Classic is one of the most heavily scouted hockey tournaments in North America.  Every year I go to Sioux City for this event, I'm amazed at the amount of college and pro scouts that I see.  At times, scouts outnumber the total amount of fans in the seats.  This tournament is a great opportunity for so many players to be seen, and possibly earn a college hockey scholarship if they don't already have a commitment.

For those who are unaware, the USHL Fall Classic West tournament will be held in one rink in Sioux City, which is the Tyson Events Center (TEC).  The TEC is the home rink for the Sioux City Musketeers.  The Musketeers staff and volunteers do a great job of hosting this event.  Here is the pricing for the tickets, which can be purchased in person at the TEC:

Daily pass: $15 Adult / $10 Child

Daily passes are good for all four games for the date purchased.  So if you are wanting to watch both days of the showcase, expect to pay a total of $30 ($15 x 2).  Unlike in past years, when the Fall Classic was four days long and all 16 USHL teams participated in it, there will not be an all-event pass option offered.  What a bummer.

If you decide to purchase passes ahead of time on Ticketmaster (which I don't recommend), you'll end up spending a lot more money because of Ticketmaster's hidden charges.  These games do not sellout.  In the past I've always just bought passes at the rink when I arrive.

All games this Friday and Saturday will be broadcast live on FASTHockey.

If you don't want to spend the cash on FASTHockey, you can also follow the boxscores of each game online via Pointstreak.   I do not believe any of the Fall Classic games will be available over the radio.  Let's get to the individual matchups.  All times listed below are CST.

Friday, September 19th @ 4:00pm:  Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede

The Stampede are coming off somewhat disappointing 2013-14 campaign in which they finished in fourth place in USHL western conference regular season standings.  I say "somewhat disappointing" because a lot of pundits, including myself, thought the Stampede would run away with the western conference title because of the amount of returning vets they had on the roster.  However, the 'Pede struggled mightily with playing consistent hockey, and they were eventually swept (0-3) in the first round of the 2014 USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

The Stampede have only played two preseason games so far this month.  On Tuesday, September 9th, Sioux Falls beat the Omaha Lancers at the Ralston Arena by a score of 4-3 in OT.  On Saturday, September 13th, the Stampede fell 1-3 to the Fargo Force in Fargo.

Saturday, September 20th @ 1:00pm:  Muskegon Lumberjacks vs. Lincoln Stars

Although they finished the 2013-14 regular season with a respectable 30-25-5 record, the Lumberjacks missed the Clark Cup playoff by only one point.

I've mentioned this in a prior article, but the Stars and the 'Jacks have been frequent trading partners as of late.  Current Stars GM Jon Hull was Muskegon's assistant GM before coming to Lincoln, so that might explain why both teams have swapped a number of players.  Current Stars Connor Frantti, Blake Christensen, Cam Lee, and Grant Jozefek were all property of the Lumberjacks at some point in the past.

The 'Jacks sport a preseason record of 3-2-0 in five games this month with wins over Cedar Rapids (4-3), Lincoln (4-2), and NTDP U-17 (1-0).  Their two loses came by the hands of the NTDP U-18 (1-5), and Bloomington (0-5).

Like all preseason games, you really never know what to expect with these Fall Classic contests.  Most of these teams will rest some of their better players, and will instead roster some of the younger, inexperienced players whom the coaches want to watch live during a USHL game environment.  As I've said before, these exhibition games are more for the coaches than they are for the fans.  The coaches of every USHL team have to cut down their rosters down to 23 players before the regular season begins.  So it's really important that they get as many players as possible into these games so they can better evaluate them before the start of the regular season.

I am planning on making the trip up to Sioux City for both days, and I'm really looking forward to that.  I have heard from a lot of Stars fans who also plan on being in attendance, so hopefully I'll get to meet and talk with a lot of them over the two days.  So if you'll be in attendance, please come back here to the blog and share your opinions.  I'd love to hear from you.

I will post recap articles this week after each game, so stay tuned for those.  It's starting to feel more and more like hockey season!  Wishing safe travels to all hockey fans and player parents/family/friends going to Sioux City this week.

Go Stars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Sioux City 4, Lincoln 5

Stars celebrate Blake Christensen's GWG
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
Stars forward Blake Christensen's goal with only 2:17 remaining in the third period pushed Lincoln to a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Sioux City Musketeers Tuesday night at the IceBox.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win, the Stars improved their exhibition record to 2-4-0 in six preseason games.

I was in attendance last night at the IceBox, so I'll post a quick recap below.  If you were at the game, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below if you desire.

This was definitely an odd game.  I was expecting Sioux City to come out guns blazing, so to speak, but the complete opposite occurred.  The Stars were by far the better team in the first twenty minutes and they were rewarded with two goals.

Stars defenseman James LaDouce scored the first of two goals at the 11:42 mark of the first period.  LaDouce wound up and blasted a long shot from the blueline that got past Sioux City goaltender Cam Gornet.

With less than a minute remaining in the first, Stars forward Miguel Fidler picked up a Sioux City turnover in the neutral zone and quickly skated into the offensive zone before threading a cross-crease pass to a streaking Quin Foreman who tapped the puck into the open net.  It was a great play by Fidler who had a man hanging on his back.  I thought for sure Fidler was going to shoot, but at the last second he passed it over to Foreman.  Great effort by Foreman to beat his man to the net, also.

The shots on goal in the first period were 21-4 in favor of Lincoln.  I'm not sure how accurate that was, but that's what was announced.

As good as Lincoln played in the first period, they played just as bad in the second period.  In my viewings in person and on FASTHockey of the Stars, I'd definitely say the second period was the ugliest I've seen all preseason long.  Having said that, the first period of this game was probably their best.  The Stars looked like two different teams in the first forty minutes of the game against Sioux City.

Give credit for Sioux City for finally waking up in the second period.  They outshot Lincoln 14-4 in the middle stanza and outscored them 2-0.  So heading into the second intermission, this contest was knotted up at 2-2.

In the third, it was pretty much all Lincoln.  Forward Blake Christensen scored the first of his two third period goals at the 3:17 mark of the period.  After receiving a good pass from Jared Bethune, Christensen somehow found a hole short side on Gornet to give Lincoln a 3-2 lead.

However, the Muskies responded with two goals in a 2:27 span in the third period to take a 4-3 lead.

Just when it looked like the Musketeers might escape the IceBox with the win, the Stars really turned on the pressure.  On a beautiful bang-bang play, Stars forward Biagio Lerario entered the offensive zone on a rush and passed it across the ice to James LaDouce who launched a nasty one-timer past the Sioux City goaltender.  The play happened so fast I'm not sure Gornet knew what happened.  LaDouce isn't the biggest guy out there, but he has one heck of a heavy shot.

With the game tied, I think many expected this game to go to OT.  However, Blake Christensen pounced on a loose puck in the middle high slot in the offensive zone and fired a quick low shot that went five-hole past a screened Gornet.  Christensen's goal, which was scored with only 2:17 remaining in the game, was his fourth of the preseason.  When you're hot, you're hot.  Throw it on net and see what happens.

Full credit to the Stars in the third period for wanting it more.  This was the second straight game that the Stars came back from a deficit in the third period to win it.  The Stars could have easily rolled over on their backs and quit after Sioux City went up 4-3 in the third, but they kept fighting.

Shots on goal were 41-31 in favor of Lincoln.  Sioux City went 2-for-6 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-3.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett played the first and second periods and stopped 16 of 18 shots on goal.  Netminder Peyton Jones played the third period and stopped 11 of 13.

The Stars will finish out their preseason schedule with two games this weekend at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic (West).  On Friday, September 19th, Lincoln will face the Sioux Falls Stampede.  On Saturday, September 20th, the Stars will battle the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

I'll post a quick Fall Classic preview article Thursday evening here on the blog.  I plan on attending both days of the Fall Classic so I'll post updates from Sioux City as well.  Thanks for reading.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Here are some postgame reactions from Blake Christensen, James LaDouce, Keegan Ward, and head coach Chris Hartsburg, courtesy of Stars photographer Brandon Anderson.

Monday, September 15, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Sioux City Musketeers vs. Lincoln Stars

The Lincoln Stars are back at the IceBox on Tuesday evening when they will face off against the visiting Sioux City Musketeers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.  Admission to this game is free, but the Stars will be accepting donations for long-time billets Jennifer and Jim Klein.  More about that at the end of this article.

Lincoln has a record of 1-4-0 in five preseason games so far this month.  The Stars will wrap up their preseason schedule this upcoming weekend with two games at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic (West).

The Sioux City Musketeers have not played any preseason games against USHL teams so far this month, but they are certainly battle tested.

The Muskies recently represented the USHL at the 2014 Junior Club World Cup in Ufa, Russia.  At the conclusion of JCWC tournament, the Musketeers won the bronze medal with a 4-3 OT win over Dinamo-Shinnik Bobruisk.

In a total of six games at the JCWC , the Musketeers had a record of 4-2-0 and outscored their opponents 29-17.  Sioux City forward Adam Johnson was the tournament's leading scorer with 9 points (6g, 3a) scored in only five games played.

This should be a very good test for the Stars, as I believe the Musketeers will be one of the top teams in the USHL western conference in 2014-15.  I believe they are the deepest team in the west, and possibly in the entire USHL.

This past Friday, the Stars asked fans to bring monetary donations for the People's City Mission.  On Tuesday, the team is collecting monetary donations to Jennifer and Jim Klein, who have been host parents to Stars players for many years now.  Jennifer and Jim have had to deal with some pretty serious heath issues the past couple of years, so they could certainly use the assistance from #StarsNation.  So please, bring some extra cash to the game Tuesday night and give back to some Stars fans who really need our help.

Go Stars.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Tri-City 4

The Tri-City Storm rebounded from Friday evening's 4-3 OT loss in Lincoln with a 4-3 regulation win over the Stars at the Viaero Event Center in Kearney, NE on Saturday night.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 1-4-0 in five preseason games.

I did not attend this game, nor was I around a computer to watch the live stream that the Tri-City Storm provided on their website.

So because of that, this "recap" will be very brief.  I'm hoping some Stars fans who were in attendance last night will leave a comment or two at the end of this article.

Click here to read a recap article from the Tri-City Storm website.

Lincoln goals in this game came from Miguel Fidler (first period), Michael Gillespie (second period), and Patrick Polino (third period).  Gillespie finished as Lincoln's top point producer with two points (1g, 1a).

Polino's third period goal with only 8:07 remaining tied the contest at 3-3, but Storm forward Chris Wilkie scored the eventual game winning goal less than a minute later at the 12:49 mark to complete the scoring.

Shots on goal were 43-30 in favor of Tri-City.  This was the second time this preseason that the Stars have given up more than 40 shots on goal in a game.

Tri-City went 1-for-3 on the powerplay while Lincoln went 0-for-3.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones played the entire game and stopped 39 of 43 shots on goal.

Next up for the Stars will be a Tuesday night tilt at the IceBox in Lincoln against the Sioux City Musketeers.  The Muskies recently traveled to Russia to represent the USHL at the 2014 Junior Club World Cup where they won the bronze medal.

The Musketeers are a very good team with quality depth at each position.  In my opinion, I think they could end up being the top team in the USHL western conference this upcoming season.  So this game coming up on Tuesday will be a very good test for the Stars.

I'll write more about that matchup in an article that will post Monday evening.

Go Stars.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Tri-City 3, Lincoln 4 OT

Ryan Jones and teammates celebrate his 1st period goal
Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson
In dramatic fashion Friday night at the IceBox, the Lincoln Stars used the momentum gained for a game-tying goal late in the third period to beat the Tri-City Storm in overtime by a score of 4-3.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The Stars improved their preseason record to 1-3-0 in four games played.

If you were at the game, I'd love to here from you.  Please leave a comment below.

It was a back-and-forth first period with both teams combining for five goals scored.  Lincoln goals from defenseman Ryan Jones and forward Blake Christensen were answered by Tri-City goals from Mark Pettacio, Aleksi Ainali, and Chase Berger.

The five goals scored in the first 18 minutes of the first period would hold up until very late in the third period.  With only 1:05 remaining in the game, and with Stars goaltender Peyton Jones on the bench for the extra attacker, forward Blake Christensen scored a powerplay goal to tie the game at 3-3.

On the Christensen goal, Stars forward Jared Bethune won a crucial faceoff in the offensive zone and passed it back to Christensen who quickly rocketed a shot glove-side past Tri-City goaltender Blake Weyrick.  The entire play may have taken only a few seconds, but it was executed perfectly.

The USHL is experimenting with 3-on-3 in overtime during the 2014 preseason, and that's what we saw last night.  At the 2:16 mark of overtime, Stars defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk found a streaking Ludvig Hoff with a great pass out of the defensive zone.  Hoff went in alone on Weyrick, deked to his backhand before going to his forehand and buried the puck into the open net.

Shots on goal were 37-34 in favor of Lincoln.  The Storm had a total of 30 shots on goal through two periods, but were held to only 4 shots on goal in the entire third period and overtime.

The Stars went 1-for-6 on the powerplay while the Storm went 0-for-6.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett played the first period and stopped 13 of 16 shots on goal.  Hackett was ran into by a Storm player late in the first period and appeared to be in some pain.  Peyton Jones relieved Hackett at the start of the second period and played the rest of the game, earning the win.

Some quick thoughts:
  • Stars Jared Bethune should get a ton of credit for winning the faceoff that led to the game tying goal late in the third period.  If Bethune doesn't win that faceoff, TC most likely wins the game.  Clutch play by the youngster Bethune to not only win the faceoff, but to get the puck to the wide open Christensen.
  • Good news last night was that the Stars didn't give up in the third period and were the better team at the end. They wanted it more than TC, and it showed.
  • The bad news was that the Stars had a ton of problems in the first and second period getting the puck out of their own zone.  They just could not separate Storm players from the puck.  Unfortunately, that's something I saw a lot of last weekend in the three games the Stars played at the Atlantic Challenge.  Hopefully that will improve.
  • I thought Peyton Jones did a terrific job coming in cold for Cam Hackett to start the second period. He's a big kid who covers a lot of net.  It would not surprise me to see him start tonight in Kearney, especially if Hackett is still dinged up.
  • I really hope the USHL seriously considers going to 3-on-3 in OT in the regular season.  If it were up to me, I'd have teams play seven minutes of 3-on-3,  and if still tied, the game ends in a tie.  I loathe the shootout.  A skills competition is a crappy way of deciding a winner.
  • I'm a big fan of 3-on-3 in OT.  It really opens up the ice and gives both teams plenty of chances to end it.  Fans saw last night how back-and-forth and exciting the 3-on-3 in OT was.
What a fun environment at the IceBox last night.  It definitely wasn't a sellout, but the true fans were there and were definitely loud when Ludvig Hoff scored the game-winning goal.  

The game itself may have been a bit sloppy at times, but it was certainly fun to watch.  Full credit to the Stars for wanting it more in the third period.  Both teams appeared tired towards the end of the game, but I thought the Stars had a little more in their tank compared to the Storm who really seemed to wilt in the last 20 minutes.

The Stars will finish out the weekend home-and-home series against the Tri-City Storm tonight in Kearney.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.  I will not be in attendance, but I plan on watching the replay of the game on FASTHockey and will report back here with a recap.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Here's some postgame reaction from the Stars and head coach Chris Hartsburg, courtesy of Brandon Anderson:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Lincoln Stars vs. Tri-City Storm

The Lincoln Stars will play their first preseason home game at the IceBox in 5 years this Friday evening when they take on the Tri-City Storm.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm.

Season ticket holders will be allowed entry into the IceBox from 4-6pm to pick up their season tickets, meet the Stars, tour the locker room, and see all of the rink upgrades throughout.

The game against the Storm is free to everyone, although fans are encouraged to bring money to donate to the People's City Mission.

There is a Husker volleyball game at the Devaney Center that same evening, so be prepared to pay $5 for parking.

The Stars will travel out to Kearney on Saturday night to take on the Storm to complete the home-and-home weekend preseason series.

Lincoln enters this weekend with a preseason record of 0-3-0.  Last weekend, the Stars participated in the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge which was held in East Meadow, NY.  Although the Stars lost to Cedar Rapids, Team USA U-18, and Muskegon, the team appeared to get better each game.

Although Pointstreak doesn't show the Storm having played in any preseason games, Tri-City won two scrimmages against Des Moines this past Sunday.  Both scrimmages were held at Ralston Arena, in Ralston, NE where the Omaha Lancers play their home games.  Yeah, I have no idea why the two scrimmages were played there either.  Anyway, the Storm won the first scrimmage by a score of 5-2, and the second scrimmage by a score of 3-2 (overtime shootout).

Lincoln will begin a stretch of 5 preseason games in nine days starting with the Friday home tilt against Tri-City.  After the Saturday game in Kearney, the Stars will be back at the IceBox next Tuesday the 16th against the Sioux City Musketeers.  Then on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th, Lincoln will battle the Sioux Falls Stampede and the Muskegon Lumberjacks at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic West in Sioux City, IA.

I'm not sure about you, but since we haven't had a preseason game at the IceBox in such a long time, the Friday preseason contest against the Storm almost feels like a home opener.  I'm really excited to see all of the new upgrades inside the IceBox and watch the new group of Stars on the ice.

Before I end this article, I'm going to jump on my soapbox here for just a bit.  I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who ready this blog have a pretty decent life.  We are gainfully employed (or go to school), we have a roof over our heads, and food on the table.  In the grand scheme of things, we're pretty lucky in that regard.  There are many, many people in Lincoln who can't said they are that lucky.  They have no place to call home.  They have no family or support system.  They don't know what tomorrow will bring.  And they're hungry.  That's why it's important to donate what you can Friday night to the People's City Mission.  Instead of buying that extra beer, that mixed drink, or those nachos, use that money to help someone in need in your community.

Thanks for reading.  See you all at the IceBox Friday night.

Go Stars.

Monday, September 8, 2014

USHL Atlantic Challenge recap: Lincoln 2, Muskegon 4

The Lincoln Stars closed out the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge in East Meadow, NY with a 4-2 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Lincoln finished the Atlantic Challenge with a 0-3-0 record.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

I didn't watch this game live, but I did catch the replay tonight and I'll post some very quick thoughts below.  If you'd like to leave a comment, please do so at the end of this article.

Honestly, I thought Lincoln played their worst, and best period of the entire Atlantic Challenge in this particular game.  The worst period happened to be in the first.  Stars played complacent and allowed Muskegon to dictate the pace of the game.  The Lumberjacks were rewarded with the lone first period, and outshot Lincoln 13-3 through the first twenty minutes.

I'm not sure what Stars head coach Chris Hartsberg said to the team in the first intermission, but whatever it was, it worked.  Lincoln played their best period this past weekend in the second against Muskegon.  They played aggressive, passed the puck much better, got quality shots on goal, and crashed the net.

The Stars outscored Muskegon 2-1 in the second period, with goals coming from forwards Jared Bethune and Patrick Polino.  Bethune's goal came on a nice effort fighting for a loose puck behind the Muskegon before successfully getting a wraparound stuff past Lumberjacks goaltender Michael Latorella.

Polino's goal, which came on the powerplay, was great team effort involving defenseman Cam Lee, and forward Chris Klack.  While in the Muskegon zone, Lee found Klack with a nice cross-ice pass who got a shot on goal which was initially saved by Latorella.  However, the rebound bounced out to Polino who one-timed the puck into the open net.  Good things happen when you go to the net, and Polino took full advantage of doing just that.

In the third, I thought both teams played pretty evenly although at times in the period, especially towards the middle portion, Lincoln was by far the better team.  The Stars had a couple of really good chances to take the lead, but Latorella came up big.

An unfortunate turnover by the Stars in their own end in the latter half of the third period gave the Lumberjacks an opportunity to score what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.  I thought the Stars were dominating play up until the third Lumberjacks goal.

Lincoln had a great opportunity to score the game-tying goal with a two-minute powerplay late in the third period, but they were unable to get the puck past Latorella.  Stars defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk had terrific shot on goal from the point hit the post that would have tied the game.  Muskegon potted an empty-net goal with only four seconds remaining to complete the scoring.

Shots were goal were 30-27 in favor of Muskegon.  After only getting three shots on goal in the first twenty minutes of the game, the Stars rebounded with a total of 24 shots on goal in the final forty minutes.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones and Hunter Shepard again shared duties in this game with Jones playing the first half, and Shepard playing the second half.  Jones stopped 13 of 14 shots he faced, while Shepard stopped 13 of 15.  Just like their effort against Team USA this past Saturday, I thought Jones and Shepard both played very well considering the circumstances.  They didn't get a lot of help from their teammates.

Lincoln went 1-for-3 on the powerplay, while Muskegon went 1-for-4.  It was nice to see Lincoln get a powerplay goal in this game, which was their only PP goal of the Atlantic Challenge.  I thought the PP unit did a great job cycling the puck and getting quality shots on goal with the man advantage.  Much better than what I saw in the first two games.

It's interesting that Lincoln's top two picks in the 2014 USHL Entry Draft, defenseman Anthony Wyse and Dylan Woolf, did not play this past weekend in any of the three Atlantic Challenge games.  Both Wyse and Woolf are cut from the same mold: big, bruising, puck-moving d-men.  I'm not sure why they didn't play, but hopefully we'll find out soon what their status is.  I only bring this up because I've had a number of Stars fans ask me why they weren't in the lineup at all this weekend.

Next up will be a home-at-home series this weekend against the Tri-City Storm.  Friday's preseason game will be at the IceBox!  Yes, you heard that right.  The Stars are playing a preseason game at the IceBox for the first time since 2009.  I'll have more about that Friday night tilt at the IceBox, and the weekend series against Tri-City, later this week in a weekend preview article.  That should post on Thursday evening.

Thanks for reading, #StarsNation.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

USHL Atlantic Challenge recap: Lincoln 1, Team USA 4

Dominick Sacco scores in the first period
Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson
Day two of the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge in East Meadow, NY saw the Lincoln Stars fall to the NTDP U-18 squad by a score of 4-1.

The Stars scored the first goal of this game early in the first period before the NTDP reeled off four-unanswered goals.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

I didn't watch this game live, but I did catch a replay of it this evening.  I'll post my quick thoughts below.

The first period of this game was a back-and-forth affair.  I thought Lincoln started very sluggish, and goaltender Hunter Shepard had to make a number of big saves to keep it scoreless.

Thanks to a NTDP turnover in their own end by defenseman Caleb Jones, an aware Michael Gillespie jumped on the puck and slid a very nice backhand pass to a streaking Dominick Sacco who one-timed the puck into the open net to give Lincoln the 1-0 lead at the 5:24 mark of the first period.

About five minutes later, Stars forward Biagio Lerario had a golden opportunity to score and give his team a 2-0 lead, but an incredibly fortunate save by NTDP goaltender Michael Lackey denied the chance.  Lerario had the puck all alone in the slot, faked a forehand shot before going to the backhand and a wide open net.  Lackey stretched out his stick and somehow got the paddle save.

I thought Lincoln really came on in the middle portion of the first period and played more aggressive with and without the puck.  However, NTDP got on the scoreboard at the 11:09 mark after a shot from the blueline was saved by Shepard, but the rebound fell to Luke Kunin who tapped it into the net.

A highlight reel goal by NTDP forward Jeremy Bracco late in the first period gave Team USA the 2-1 lead it would take into the first intermision.  Bracco skated around a Lincoln defensemen and held onto the puck before firing a wicked backhand shot past a sprawled Shepard and into the open net.

Shots were 21-7 in favor of Team USA in the first period, but those shot totals are a bit misleading.  I thought Lincoln played pretty well for the most part.  However, they just weren't as consistent as the NTDP.

In the second period, the NTDP outshot Lincoln 21-8 and scored one goal (on the powerplay) to take a 3-1 lead which they took into the second intermission.  Although the shot total may say otherwise, I thought Lincoln played pretty well for the most part and generated quite a few good offensive chances.  However, it seemed like whenever those chances arose, the Stars would push the shot wide.  That will improve.

Halfway through the second period, goaltender Hunter Shepard was relieved by Peyton Jones who went on to finish the game between the pipes for Lincoln.

In the third, a fluke goal scored by NTDP completed the scoring at 4-1.  A crossing pass from behind the Lincoln net deflected off a Stars defenseman directly in front of Peyton Jones and past the netminder into the net.

Both teams were more evenly matched in third period, but the Stars were held off the scoreboard.  Shots were 13-10 in favor of Team USA in the third period.

NTDP finished this game with 55 shots on goal, while Lincoln had 25.  The Stars have been outshot 89-47 through the first two games of the USHL Atlantic Challenge.

Stars goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 31 of 34 shots in the first half of the game while netminder Peyton Jones stopped 20 of 21 in the second half.  I thought both goaltenders played very, very well considering the amount of rubber they faced in this game.

The NTDP went 1-for-6 on the power play, while Lincoln went 0-for-3.

Another tough loss for the Stars, but it's also another learning experience for this young team.  Lincoln definitely had a tough task in this game, taking on a team that had 17 players on their roster that played with each other last year for the U-17 team.  They were very familiar with each other, and it showed.  The Stars showed improvement from the game before against Cedar Rapids, and that's all you can ask for.

Hopefully the Stars can finish out the Atlantic Challenge tomorrow with a win against the Muskegon Lumberjacks and bring some positive momentum back to Lincoln.  That game will start at 11:30am CST.

Muskegon is 1-1 at the Atlantic Challenge with a loss to NTDP U-18, and a 4-3 win against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  Former Stars forward Tommy Marchin scored two goals for the Lumberjacks in that win over Cedar Rapids.


Edit:  Here's another postgame video from Stars photographer Brandon Anderson.  This time we hear from forward Ludvig Hoff, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk, and forward Angus Scott.

Friday, September 5, 2014

USHL Atlantic Challenge recap: Lincoln 1, Cedar Rapids 4

Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson
A four-goal 1st period was all that the Cedar Rapids Roughriders needed to cruise to a 4-1 victory over the Lincoln Stars at the first day of the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

I caught the majority of this game on FastHockey, and I'll post some quick thoughts below.  If you watched this game and would like to leave a comment below, please do so.

The first period was very odd.  I thought Lincoln came out and played their best hockey of the game during the first 5-7 minutes after the puck dropped.  They were aggressive with and without the puck, drew a couple of penalties, and did a good job cycling the puck while on the man-advantage.  They just weren't able to generate any quality, sustained chances on offense.

A goofy bounce off the glass behind Stars goaltender Cam Hackett at the 5:43 mark of the first period proved to be the momentum shift the Roughriders needed to take over the game.  CR forward Erik Foley's shot on goal was wide and bounced off the glass and right back in front of the net where Alec Marsh tapped it into the open net.  Despite controlling play up until that point, the Roughriders grabbed the 1-0 lead.

Cedar Rapids added three more goals in a five-minute span later in the first period to put the Stars behind an obstacle they would not be able to overcome.  The Roughriders led 4-0 at the first intermission and led 13-3 in shot on goal as well.

I thought the Stars responded well in the second period and seemed to play with a little more urgency compared to what I saw in the last 10-12 minutes of the first period.  However, there were times when players from both teams over-pursued the puck and got themselves out of position, which led to chanced going the other way.  That's to be expected in the preseason.

The Stars finally got on the scoreboard late in the third period when forward Patrick Polino threw the puck in front of Roughriders goaltender Ben Black and forward Miguel Fidler crashed the net and jammed the puck into the open net.

Shots were 34-22 in favor of Cedar Rapids in this game.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett, who looked a bit shaky in the first period, played very well in the last forty minutes to stop 30 of the 34 shots he faced.

Lincoln went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while Cedar Rapids went 1-for-4.  

There's a good reason the Stars did what they could to shedule as many preseason games as possible before the regular season begins on September 26th.  This is an extremely young team adjusting to a new teammates, a new head coach, and a new system.  Remember, it's a marathon not a sprint.  This game will be one of many learning opportunities for this team.

The Stars will be back in action Saturday afternoon at the USHL Atlantic Challenge when they face Team USA U-18 at 2:30pm CST.  You can watch all of the Atlantic Challenge games for free on FastHockey.  


Edit:  Here's a video from Stars photographer Brandon Anderson which includes some quotes from forwards Dominick Sacco, Miguel Fidler, and head coach Chris Hartsberg.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge Preview

The 2014-15 Lincoln Stars will open up preseason play this weekend with three games at the USHL Atlantic Challenge in East Meadow, NY.

Click here to read more about the Atlantic Challenge, which will take place at the Twin Rinks Ice Center of Eisenhower Park.  This is the second year of the USHL Atlantic Challenge, but the first time the Stars have participated in it.

As I noted above, the Stars will play a total of 3 exhibition games at the Atlantic Challenge against foes from the USHL's eastern conference.  I will post Lincoln's schedule of games below, and then I will talk a little about each of the teams the Stars will face.

Friday, September 5th at 4:00pm CST:  Lincoln Stars vs. Cedar Rapids Roughriders 

Saturday, September 6th at 2:30pm CST:  Lincoln Stars vs. NTDP U-18 (Team USA)

Sunday, September 7th at 11:30am CST:  Lincoln Stars vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks

Cedar Rapids Roughriders
What better person to ask about the 2014-15 Roughriders than my friend Scott Herbst, who is a diehard Cedar Rapids and USHL fan.  Click here to follow Scott on Twitter,

Quote here from Scott: "The Roughriders return 12 players from a team that placed 2nd place in the Eastern Conference last season.  Three other player have USHL experience."

"The strength of the Roughriders will be in net.  Danny Tirone returns after posting a record of 26-13-2 with a GAA of 2.63.  The Roughriders also drafted Ben Blacker in the Indiana Ice Dispersal draft.  The Eastern division is going to be strong this year but the Roughriders should battle for one of the 4 playoff spots."

NTDP U-18 (Team USA)
The NTDP U-18 squad represents what USA Hockey believes to be the best USA-born hockey players under the age of 18.  Although young, these "kids" will play a tough schedule against international, college, and USHL competition during the 2014-15 season.  Two players on the current U-18 squad have Lincoln Stars ties.  USA forward Michael Floodstrand was selected by the Stars in the 2013 Futures draft, while USA forward Troy Terry was selected by Lincoln in the Indiana Ice dispersal draft this past May.

Muskegon Lumberjacks
I've chatted with a few folks who closely follow the eastern conference USHL teams, and most agree that the Lumberjacks are posed to have a big season in 2014-15.  I've been told they are deep, talented squad.

Current Stars GM Jon Hull came to Lincoln from the Muskegon Lumberjacks, and his former team has become a frequent trade partner now that he's with the good guys.  Current Stars with Muskegon ties are Connor Frantti, Cameron Lee, Blake Christensen, and Grant Jozefek.

The Stars and Lumberjacks will meet again in the preseason on Saturday, September 20th at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic (West).

The USHL Atlantic Challenge website has posted the rosters of all teams competing this weekend, including Lincoln's.  Click here to see the Stars' roster.  Two notable omissions are defensemen Anthony Wyse and Dylan Woolf, Lincoln's top two draft picks in the 2014 USHL Entry Draft.  I am unsure why those two are not listed.

Like any other preseason tilt, these Atlantic Challenge games will give the Lincoln coaches and other staff a good opportunity to see the players in action to determine if they deserve a roster spot.  Every USHL team has to cut down to 23 players before 9/22, so there will be some fierce competition for those roster spots over the next few weeks.

Not only will the players look to impress the Lincoln staff this weekend, but they'll also play in front of both college and pro scouts at the Atlantic Challenge.   For those players who have not committed to a college, this will be an opportunity for them to possibly pick up a scholarship offer.

This trip to New York will be a bit of a homecoming for a number of players on the Lincoln roster.  Forwards Dominik Sacco (Brooklyn, NY), Michael Gillespie (New City, NY), and Grant Jozefek (Chester, NJ) will certainly have a lot of friends and family present to root them on in person.

Some good news is that FastHockey will broadcast all of the games from the USHL Atlantic Challenge for FREE.  With no radio broadcast available, watching on FastHockey is the only way to follow these games, save for the boxscores on Pointstreak.  I assume the USHL Atlantic Challenge website will also post frequent updates.

Hockey season is here!  I'm really looking forward to seeing this young group of Stars back in action.  I'm also excited to see how the new players react in their first ever USHL game environment.  Check back here for recap articles after each game.  I will also provide updates on the blog's Twitter account as well.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My guess at Lincoln's preseason roster

With Lincoln's first exhibition games only a few days away, I thought I'd put a quick article together and post what I believe Lincoln's preseason roster looks like right now.  Call it an educated guess.

Per a new USHL rule, teams are now allowed to protect up to 30 players on their preseason roster up until 9/22 when it must be cut down to 23 players.  

Previous to this new rule, teams had to cut down to 25 players by 9/1, and then to 23 players before the start of the regular season.

Because of this new rule, I don't believe we will see the league release the 25-man rosters of every USHL team like they have done in years past around 9/1.  Keeps the fans guessing, I suppose.

The players below are listed in no particular order.

There are 27 players listed above, which will have to get cut down to 23 before the start of the regular season.

One of the biggest battles appears to be between the three goaltenders.  Shepard, Jones, and Hackett will compete for only two spots on the regular season roster.  Shepard and Jones were selected by the Stars in the 2014 USHL Entry Draft, while Hackett was acquired from the Green Bay Gamblers in the offseason.  Hackett is the only goaltender of the three with prior USHL experience.

As you can see above, it appears defenseman Connor Frantti is the only overager (player born in 1994) on the roster.  That's a good indication of how young this roster is (nine players included above were born in 1997).  USHL teams are allowed to carry a maximum of four overager players on the roster.  

There are four import players noted above, which indicates a player born outside of the USA.  Defenseman Cameron Lee and forward Jared Bethune were both born in Canada, but from what I've been told, they are not considered imports in the eyes of the USHL.  Bethune has dual citizenship, while Lee has played in at least three seasons of organized hockey in the United States.  Like overagers, each USHL team is allowed to carry a maximum of four imports on the regular season roster.

In a few days I'll post a preview article which will look at the three games the Stars will play this weekend at the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge.

Go Stars.