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.

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