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.

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