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.

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