Thursday, October 30, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Waterloo Blackhawks vs. Lincoln Stars

It's another single-game weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they will host the Waterloo Blackhawks this Friday (Halloween!) night at the IceBox.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

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

With a record of 3-4-1 (7 points), the Stars are tied with the Sioux Falls Stampede for 6th place in the USHL Western Conference standings.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent on Halloween night, the Waterloo Blackhawks, are in fifth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 3-3-2 (8 points).  The Blackhawks are winless (0-1-2)  in their last three games played coming into their tilt against the Stars.

This will be the second of four meetings between these two teams.  Back on Sunday, October, 5th at the IceBox, the Blackhawks embarrassed the Stars by a score of 4-1.  Waterloo outshot Lincoln 36-20 in that particular game.  After the loss, Lincoln head coach Chris Hartsburg was definitely not happy with his teams performance.  Click here to listen to his comments.

The Stars will be without the services of defenseman Connor Frantti for the next two games due to suspension.  That's a big loss for Lincoln, considering the minutes Connor eats up every game and his role as a captain, and leader, on and off the ice.

Defenseman Dylan Woolf, who has missed all of the preseason and the 8 regular season games so far due to injury, came off the injured reserve list on 10/30, so I suppose there is a chance he could play Friday night against Waterloo.  Having him in the lineup would certainly help offset the loss of Frantti.  Woolf is a big kid, and plays a physical, shutdown role similar to Frantti.

It's becoming very apparent that there are no easy games in the USHL western conference this season, so this will be another good test for the Stars.  I'm hoping the players remember the disappointing 10/5/14 loss to the Blackhawks and respond with a much better effort this time around.

Really looking forward to getting back to the IceBox on Friday night.  For some reason, it seems like it has been forever since the last home game.  Should be a very rowdy, loud crowd considering it is Halloween night as well.  Can't wait.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 3, Sioux City 5

At the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, IA on Saturday evening, the Musketeers won their fifth straight game with a convincing 5-3 victory over the visiting Lincoln Stars.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars dropped to 3-4-1 (7 points) and are in a two-way tie for seventh place in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Lincoln has been plagued so far this season with slow starts, and although they didn't play that bad in the first 5-10 minutes in this game, I thought Sioux City was definitely the better team and held the puck in the Stars' zone for the majority of the first period.

Muskies outscored Lincoln 1-0 in the first period, but without some huge saves by Stars goaltender Peyton Jones, the score could have easily been 3-0.  Sioux City outshot Lincoln 12-7 in the first period.

Lincoln spent a good chunk (9 minutes) of the second period shorthanded, and were outscored 2-0, with one of the two goals coming on the powerplay.  Due to having to kill a large amount of penalty minutes, it was hard for the Stars to really find their rhythm offensively in the middle period, I thought.  Also, it takes a lot out of a team to kill 7 straight penalty minutes, which is what happened after defenseman Connor Frantti's instigating minor, and fighting major, 29 seconds into the second period.

Going into the second intermission, the Musketeers led 3-0 over the Stars.  Sioux City outshot Lincoln 14-5 in the second period.

Gotta give some credit to the Stars in the third period.  They could have rolled over and let Sioux City continue to rack up the goals, but they responded with their best period of the game and scored three goals.

Third period goals for the Stars were scored by forwards Michael Gillespie, Dominick Sacco, and Biagio Lerario.  The tally from Lerario actually brought the Stars to within one goal with less than four minutes remaining in the third period.

Try as they might, the good guys were unable to score the game-tying goal and the Muskies added an empty-net goal with 1 second remaining to complete the scoring.

Shots were 38-25 in favor of the Musketeers (more on shots totals here in a bit).  Stars goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 33 of 37 in the loss, while Sioux City goaltender Collin Olson stopped 22 of 25 for the win.  Stars went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the Muskies went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Stars announcer Mile Melbye mentioned some stats early in the first period in this game on air that I thought I'd mention here.  Lincoln averages 25 shots on goal per game, which is dead last in the USHL.  On the other end of the rink, Lincoln gives up an average of  36 shots on goal which is third most in the league.  Stating the obvious, but those numbers will have to change big time if the Star want to compete in the west for one of the four playoff spots.

Lincoln's next opportunity for a win comes this Friday (Halloween) at the IceBox against the Waterloo Blackhawks.  Just like this weekend, next weekend will only feature one game for the Stars.  That has to be a bit frustrating for the Lincoln coaches.  After you lose a game like the one against Sioux City, I'm sure the coaches wanted to come right back the next day to battle for two points.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Friday, October 24, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux City Musketeers

The Lincoln Stars will play only one game this weekend and that will take place Saturday evening at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, IA against the Musketeers.  

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you you'd like to keep track of the Stars in Sioux City on Saturday you can follow the boxscore 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.

With a record of 3-3-1 (7 points), the Stars are tied with with two other teams for 5th place in the USHL Western Conference standings.  Click here to view the current league standings.

The Muskies will play tonight (Friday) at home against the Des Moines Buccaneers, but as I write this article, Sioux City has a record of 6-1-1 (13 points) and are tied with the Bucs for first place in the West.  

Since losing to the Stars in OT at the IceBox on 10/3/14, the Muskies have won five of six games to vault themselves to the top of the western conference standings.

This will be the second of six meetings between the Stars and Musketeers this season.  In a bit of an odd scheduling quirk, all six games between these two teams will occur before December 20th.  

The Muskies are led by forward and University of Minnesota-Duluth commit Adam Johnson (5g, 5a in 8 games played) and goaltender Collin Olson (5-1-1, 2.03 gaa, .933 save %).  Olson stopped 34 of 37 shots on goal in Lincoln's 4-3 OT shootout win against the Muskies on 10/3.  Johnson had 2 points (1g, 1a) and 5 shots on goal against the Stars.

It's been relatively quiet with regard to player movement for Lincoln.  Defenseman Tony DeVito was recently moved to the BCHL's Powell River Kings.  From what I've been told, there is a chance forward Joe Lappin, who is recovering from an injury, could be in the lineup for the Stars against Sioux City on Saturday.  Defenseman Dylan Woolf, who missed all of the preseason and the regular season thus far with a lower leg injury, will come off the IR list on 10/30.

Only one game for the good guys this weekend, and it will be a tough one against a surging Muskies squad looking for revenge after losing to the Stars a few weeks ago.  If Lincoln can avoid the slow starts they've suffered from as of late, and get good goaltending from either Hackett or Jones, they should be able to hang with the Musketeers.  Should be another good test for the Stars.

For those Stars fans out there who'd like to watch this game via FASTHockey, the team recently announced that Twin Peaks restaurant will broadcast all Stars away games.  Twin Peaks is located at 800 Q Street, which is in the Haymarket area of downtown Lincoln.  Nice to see the Stars finally partner up with a local establishment to simulcast away games.

I'll report back here with a recap, so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

B³ Weekend Recap: Stars earn 3 of 4 points in Fargo

Blake Christensen scores Thursday night against Fargo
Courtesy of mjoy photography
The Lincoln Stars earned 3 of 4 possible points in their road series against the Fargo Force this past Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, Lincoln fell to Fargo in OT by a score of 5-4.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore from that game.

Friday evening, the Stars rebounded with a quality effort to beat the Force in OT by a score of 2-1.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boscore from that game.

With the OT loss and the OT win, the Stars improved their regular season record to 3-3-1 (7 points), and are in fifth place in the USHL western conference standings.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

The Stars started very, very slow against the Force Thursday evening at Scheels Arena in Fargo, ND.  I'm hoping this isn't a trend, but it seems like the Stars have a bit of a problem with slow starts as of late.  The Force took advantage of Lincoln's bus legs and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.  Fargo outshot Lincoln 12-5 in the first period.

Another slow start in the second period put Lincoln down two goals, but the team responded with two straight goals of their own to knot the game at 2-2 heading into the second intermission.  Through two periods of the game on Thursday, I'm not sure I've ever seen the Stars play that badly.  I'm not piling on here, just stating what I saw watching on FASTHockey.  The Force absolutely dominated every aspect of the Thursday evening game through forty minutes.

However, when Lincoln did have the rare scoring opportunity, they seemed to make them all count.  Lincoln's first goal in this game, scored by forward Miguel Fidler, was assisted by an incredible pass from forward August Von Ungern-Sternberg.  You can check it out below:

Lincoln's second goal in the middle period was scored by forward Blake Christensen on an odd man rush with a great assist from forward Grant Jozefek.  The picture at the top of this article, courtesy of mjoy photography, shows Christensen scoring that goal.

So despite being outshot 33-10 through two periods Thursday evening, the Stars were tied with the Force at 2-2.  Lincoln goaltender Cam Hackett was certainly Lincoln's MVP that night, and the next night for that matter.

In the third, both teams scored two goals a piece with Lincoln goals coming from forwards Michael Gillespie and Blake Christensen (his second of the night).  Christensen's second goal of the game incredibly gave the Stars a 4-3 lead, but Fargo answered later in the period to tie it up at 4-4.  Stars outshot the Force 16-8 in the third period.

In the OT period, Stars had a great opportunity early on with a 4-on-3 powerplay to end it, but they were not able to get the puck past Force goaltender Mathias Israelsson.  A make up penalty called on the Stars later in the OT period allowed Fargo to score the game winner.

I'm not sure the Stars had any business getting the game Thursday evening to overtime, but I like how they played in the third period and for the most part in OT.  Cam Hackett stopped 38 of 43 shots on goal, but without his stellar play, the Stars don't get the point.

Stars d-man Wyatt Kalynuk had some fan support in Fargo
Courtesy of mjoy photography
On Friday evening, the Stars performed quite a bit better I thought compared to the Thursday OT loss with goaltender Cam Hackett leading the way once again.

In the scoreless first period, both teams played very cautious and combined for only 10 shots on goal (five a piece).

I thought Lincoln played much better defensively to start the Friday night game, which was good to see considering what I saw from the Thursday opening period.

In the second, the shot total went up but goaltenders Mathias Israelsson and Cam Hackett stood tall.  Fargo outshot Lincoln 15-8 in the middle stanza, but the majority of those 15 shots fired by the Force were thrown on net from bad angles.

The Stars got on the scoreboard first thanks to Blake Christensen's third goal in two games. On that particular play, Christensen worked incredibly hard along the far boards to keep possession of the puck before spinning away from two Fargo players and then firing a laser past Israelsson that beat him high stick side.  Just a great individual play by Christensen who was one of Lincoln's best forwards in the series against Fargo.

The 1-0 third period lead by the Stars wouldn't last more than a minute as the Force answered with a goal of their own to knot the game at 1-1.  A Fargo shot from the point could not be controlled by Hackett and the Stars, which turned out to be the only goal Hackett would allow in this game.

Just like the Thursday night tilt, the Friday evening game went to an extra OT period.  However, this time around the Stars got the game winner thanks to some great teamwork from Stars forwards Miguel Fidler and Dominick Sacco.

Deep in the Fargo zone, Sacco did a good job digging the puck out behind the net before passing it to Fidler.  Sacco smartly used himself to screen a Fargo player from getting to Fidler, who was able to fire a shot on net.  The shot was save by Israelsson, but the rebound went right to Sacco who had beaten his man to the net.  Dom quickly batted the puck into the net and the Stars were victorious.  Check it out below:

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 39 of 40 shots on goal to rightfully earn the win.  Hackett made some incredible saves in the third period to keep this game tied.  Without his play against Fargo, I very much doubt the Stars get 3 points.

Overall, I like how the Stars responded after the lackluster first two periods on Thursday evening.  The played much better defensively and for the most part outplayed Fargo on Friday.

Friday's 2-1 OT win was the first game this season in which the Stars did not surrender a powerplay goal against.  There's plenty of room to improve the penalty kill, but it was nice to see the Stars blank the Force on the PP.

Stars are back in action on Saturday, October 25th in Sioux City against the Musketeers.  The next home game is on Halloween at the IceBox against the Waterloo Blackhawks.  In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Stars only play two games in the next 20 days.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo Force

For the first time in the 2014-15 USHL regular season, the Lincoln Stars will venture away from the IceBox to play two road games at Scheels Arena in Fargo, ND against the Fargo Force.

The two teams will play the rare Thursday night tilt, and then also on Friday evening.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for both games.

If you you'd like to keep track of the Stars this weekend in Fargo, 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 Force enter these two games against Lincoln with a record of 4-1-0 (8 points) in five games played, and are currently in second place in the USHL western conference.  The Force are 2-0-0 in two home games this season, both coming against the expansion Madison Capitols.

Fargo is led by talented '97 forward Denis Smirnov, who has scored 5 points (1g, 4a) in five games so far this season for the Force.  Smirnov was originally acquired by Fargo in the 2014 Indiana Ice dispersal draft.  Last year for the Ice, Smirnov racked up 41 points (15g, 26a) in 47 games as one of the younger players in the USHL.  Smirnov is definitely a player the Stars will want to keep tabs on in these two upcoming games.  He's deceptively quick, has great vision, and silky smooth hands.

As good as Smirnov is, the MVP of the Force through five games is undoubtedly goaltender Mathias Israelsson.  The overager ('94) from Sweden, Israelsson has played every minute for the Force and has posted a record of 4-1-0, a goals against average of 2.56, and a save percentage of .918%.  It would not surprise me at all if Israelsson starts both games against Lincoln this week.

I watched the Force play two preseason games at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic in Sioux City, and they really struggled offensively at times.  I believe most pundits thought the Force might struggle a bit this season, but they have certainly played very well so far, thanks to Israelsson.  In my opinion, the Force are going to live or die with Israelsson in net.  He's an incredible talent, and will be a workhorse for the Force this season, but I think Fargo lacks scoring depth at the forward position.

Regardless, this should be yet another good test for a Lincoln Stars team looking to play more consistent hockey and potentially get their first two road wins of the season.  I'll be watching both games on FASTHockey and will report back here with recaps.

Switching gears....

My good friend BellTolls looked at the first five games of this season and compared them to the first five games of last season.  Here's what BT shared with me that I thought I'd share with all of you:

Last Year:
0-2-3 record
2.2 goals per game
4.2 goals allowed per game
20.4 PIM per game
Bitzer: .882 save pct.
Goalies combined: .867 save pct.

This Year:
2-3 record
2.8 goals per game
3.4 goals allowed per game
20.0 PIM per game
Hackett: .900 save pct.
Goalies combined: .897 save pct.

So, the Stars are off to a better start than last year by nearly every metric. Also, Lincoln's four opponents this year have a combined 14-8-1 record and all of them (Tri-City, Sioux City, Waterloo, Muskegon) are likely playoff teams this season.

In other news....

Earlier this week, the Stars traded forward Keegan Ward to the Muskegon Lumberjacks for forward Chris Dodero.  Dodero ('96) hails from Bloomingdale, IL and tips the scale at 5'9", 177 pounds.  In 102 games played in the past three seasons with the Lumberjacks and the Chicago Steel, Dodero scored 30 points (13g, 17a) along with 66 penalty minutes.  Chris has committed to play college hockey at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.

During his time with the Steel, Chris was teammates with current Stars Biagio Lerario and Patrick Polino.  I'm a big fan of this trade.  Stars add more USHL experience and depth at the forward position with the acquisition of Dodero.  Click here to follow Chris on Twitter.

Also, per the Stars' official website, the team has signed Corey Courtney (Athletic Trainer/Equipment Manager/Strength Coach) to a four-year extension.  Anyone who has been a Stars fan for any length of time knows how important Corey has been to this team since he started in 1999.

Congrats to Corey!  He really deserves a lot of attention for what he has contributed over the years.  Here's to many more years with the Lincoln Stars.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cam Lee named USHL Defenseman of the Week

Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
Congrats to Lincoln Stars defenseman Cam Lee who was named the USHL CCM Defenseman of the Week today by the league.  

Click here to read the official USHL press release.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

The defenseman scored a goal in both contests and posted a plus-four rating as the Stars split a weekend set against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  

He netted a goal in the first period of Friday’s 3-2 loss and equaled a game high plus-two rating.  

The 17-year-old then netted his second goal of the weekend in Saturday’s 4-3 victory and again tied a game high plus-two rating.  

Lee has now scored a goal in three straight games for the Stars and has tallied those three goals on just four shots.  

The Ferguson’s Cove, Nova Scotia native is playing his first USHL season and is committed to play NCAA hockey at Providence College.

Nice for the Stars (and Cam) to get some recognition so soon after the season started.  Cam had a big weekend and will be counted on to have many more this upcoming season as one of the top offensive defensemen on the Stars. 

Congrats again to Cam!  Well deserved.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Muskegon 3, Lincoln 4

Stars celebrate the 4-3 win over Muskegon
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars rebounded from Friday's loss to Muskegon with a hard-earned 4-3 victory over the Lumberjacks Saturday night at the IceBox.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 2-3-0 (four points) and currently sit in sixth place in the USHL western conference standings.

Click here to view the current USHL standings.

The shot total might not indicate how well the Stars played in the first period, but I thought Lincoln showed a better sense of urgency in the first twenty minutes compared to what I saw on Friday night against this same team.

The Stars took advantage of a powerplay opportunity late in the first period to get on the scoreboard first thanks to a heads-up play by forward Michael Gillespie.  After a PP shot on goal by Dominick Sacco was blocked by Muskegon, the rebound went to a wide open Gillespie who quickly ripped a shot past Muskegon netminder Michael Latorella.

Stars took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission break.  Shots were 13-4 in favor of Muskegon, but many in attendance thought that total was far from correct.  I know for sure that the Stars had more than 4 shots on goal in that first period.  I'm not sure who is responsible for counting shots on goal, but Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg didn't agree with the totals either.

The bulk of the scoring in this particular game came in the middle stanza, as both teams combined for 5 goals, with three of those five coming from the Stars.

Just 22 seconds into the 2nd period, Stars defenseman Cam Lee scored his second goal of the weekend against the team that originally drafted him.  Some water on the ice in the Muskegon offensive zone allowed the puck to sit for a streaking Lee who slapped it past Latorella to give Lincoln a 2-0 lead.

The next four goals scored in the second would be traded one at a time between Lincoln and Muskegon.  First it was a goal-mouth scramble in front of Stars goaltender Cam Hackett that gave the 'Jacks their first goal of the game.

Lincoln's next goal came on a terrific individual effort by forward Patrick Polino in which he drove hard to the net and backhanded a shot past Latorella for his first goal in a Stars uniform.  On that play, forward Blake Christensen had a great head man pass to the streaking Polino who put it in sixth gear and blew past the Muskegon defender.  Polino's parents happened to be sitting next to my wife and I last night, so it was really cool to see their reactions after their son scored.  Very nice people.

'Jacks forward Matheson Iacopelli scored the first of his two goals on the night later in the 2nd period to pull his team to within one goal at 2-3.  Both teams were playing 4-on-4 hockey, and Iacopelli ripped a shot right off a faceoff past Hackett.  However, the Stars answered just a little over a minute later thanks to some hard work by Patrick Polino and Michael Gillespie.

Gillespie worked to get the puck off the boards in the Lincoln zone to Polino who skated quickly up the ice and into the Muskegon zone.  Polino put on the brakes just before feathering the puck to Gillespie who had beaten his man and was streaking to the net.  Polino's pass was right on target to Gillespie who redirected the puck past Latrorella.  Great example here of the team speed that the Stars have this year.

Thanks to Gillespie's second goal of the game, the Stars took a 4-2 lead into the 2nd intermission.  Shots were 11-10 in favor of Lincoln in the second period.

In the third, the 'Jacks threw everything but the kitchen sink at Cam Hackett but were only able to score one goal.  Shots were 20-4 in favor of Muskegon in the final twenty minutes, but again you could argue those shots totals aren't exactly accurate.  The 'Jacks certainly controlled play for most of the third, but the Stars did a good job of minimizing the offensive chances against.

The final shot total was 43-19 in favor of Muskegon.  Lincoln went 1-for-3 on the powerplay, while the 'Jacks went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Stars netminder Cam Hackett finished with 40 saves on 43 shots on goal, but somehow wasn't named one of the three stars of the game.  I thought Hackett played his best game in a Lincoln Stars uniform Saturday night against Muskegon.  There were quite a few times late in the third period that Hackett stood on his head and prevented the 'Jacks for scoring the tying goal.

Nice to see the Stars finish out the weekend with a win against a quality team.  It's obvious that consistency will be an issue with this team early on, but as they grow I'm positive we'll see that improve.

Lincoln's first five games of the season were at home, but the next three games will be on the road.  This coming Thursday and Friday, the Stars will be in Fargo, ND to face the Force  The upcoming road series against the Fargo Force should be a good one.  Fargo is out to a very good start, going 4-1-0 in their first five games.  I'll post more about that matchup here in the next few days.

Thanks for reading. Go Stars.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Muskegon 3, Lincoln 2

Cam Lee (L) celebrates his 1st period goal with
Dominick Sacco (center) and Connor Frantti (R)
Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos
The Lincoln Stars came up a bit short Friday night at the IceBox as the visiting Muskegon Lumberjacks skated to a 3-2 victory in the first game of the two-game weekend series between these two teams.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars dropped to 1-3-0 in four games this season.  Muskegon improved to 4-2-0 with the win.

Considering the lackluster performance in their last game (vs. Waterloo this past Sunday), I really expected the Stars to start the first period of this game with a lot of energy and aggressive play.  Unfortunately, I didn't see that.

The 'Jacks put two goals up on the scoreboard in the first 10 minutes of the first period and put the Stars behind the 8 ball early.  The first Muskegon goal was of the powerplay variety, with forward Jack Rowe roofing a backhand up high past Stars goaltender Peyton Jones.  The second goal came on bang-bang play right in front of Jones in which the Stars were unable to clear the puck, allowing 'Jacks forward Mason Jobst to pounce on a loose puck before scoring.

Lincoln defenseman Cam Lee breathed life into the Stars later in the first period with a rocket past Muskegon goaltender Eric Schierhorn to pull the home team to within one goal.  On that particular play, the Stars did a good job cycling the puck in the offensive zone before defenseman Connor Frantti found Lee wide open at the top of the circle.  

Muskegon took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission, and also held a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal.

Neither team would score in the middle stanza, but I thought this was Lincoln's best played period of the game.  Shots were 13-8 in favor of the 'Jacks in the second, but I thought Lincoln had the better scoring opportunities and controlled play for the most part.

In the third, Muskegon scored the eventual game-winning goal just two minutes into the period with a nice play by forward Matheson Iacopelli.  After his initial shot on goal was blocked by defenseman Ryan Jones, Iocopelli found some open ice in between the top of the circles and awaited a nice pass from David Keefer.  Iacopelli didn't waste time with his second shot opportunity as he wristed it between the legs of Jones.

Give the Stars some credit here, down two goals in the third period.  They didn't give up.  Lincoln forward Max Humitz brought his team to within on goal later in the period with a screened slapshot after a nice feed from forward Ludvig Hoff.  Humitz cycled the puck from along the boards before feeding the puck to Connor Frantti at the point. Frantti's point shot was blocked in front, and the rebound went right to Hoff.  Humitz had worked off the board and found a quiet spot on the ice just 10 feet in from the blueline and ripped the puck past Schierhorn.

Try as they might, the Stars were not able to score the equalizing goal in the remaining 7+ minutes of the third period after Humitz's goal.  'Jacks take this one by a score of 3-2.

Shots on goal were 31-22 in favor of the Lumberjacks.  The Stars were 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the 'Jacks went 1-for-4.  Lincoln's PK unit continues to struggle so far this season.  The Stars are dead last in the USHL in penalty kill percentage (64%), a good ten percentage points behind the next team (Green Bay at 75%).

Peyton Jones stopped 28 of 31 in the loss, while Eric Schierhorn stopped 20 of 22 to get the win.  Overall, I thought Jones played very well despite coming up short.  It was hard to fault him for the first two goals, but I know he wants that third Muskegon goal back that beat him five-hole.  Jones also didn't get a lot of help from his teammates on the offensive side of the rink.  You aren't going to win too may games when you manage 22 shots on goal.

The Stars will look to even out the weekend series against Muskegon with a win tonight at the IceBox.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

Quick note:  Yesterday afternoon, Stars forward Jared Bethune ('97) announced via Twitter that he had singed with the WHL's Prince George Cougars.  The news definitely caught me off guard.  I had heard some rumblings earlier this week about Bethune leaving the Stars, but his decision to sign with a major junior team really surprised me.  Hopefully this is not a decision he regrets later on in life.  Since he has signed with a major junior team, he will not be allowed to play college hockey (Bethune had previously committed to UMD).

As one door closes, another door opens for a player on this team (who wants to be here) to rise up and take advantage of the opportunity of more playing time.  

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Muskegon Lumberjacks

The Lincoln Stars will be back in the friendly confines of the IceBox this weekend with back-to-back games against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for the Friday and Saturday night home games.

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.

Before I get to this weekend preview, I want to apologize for the lack of game recaps last weekend.  Real life got in the way of blogging, and I had zero time to devote to the B³.  I also missed both home games last weekend, so my recaps wouldn't have been that lengthy anyway.  But I'm back in the saddle now, and ready for the two upcoming games against the Lumberjacks.

The Stars enter this weekend with a record of 1-2-0 in three games played so far in the regular season.  These two upcoming home games at the IceBox will complete a five-game home-stand to start the 2014-15 season for Lincoln.

Lincoln is coming off an up and down couple of games last weekend in which they played very well in a 4-3 overtime shootout victory over the Sioux City Musketeers, but then fell flat against the Waterloo Blackhawks in a disappointing 4-1 loss.  The Stars had 38 shots on goal against the Muskies, but only 20 against the Blackhawks.

Lincoln's foe this weekend, the Muskegon Lumberjacks, sport a record of 3-2-0 in five regular season games so far this season.  After starting the season 3-0-0, the Lumberjacks have lost two straight and were outscored 10-3 in those two road games against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

Even those these two teams are meeting for the first time this season, the Stars and the 'Jacks are pretty familiar with each other so far.  In the preseason, Lincoln and Muskegon played two games against one another.  At the 2014 USHL Atlantic Challenge, the 'Jacks beat the Stars by a score of 4-2.  A few weeks later at the 2014 USHL Fall Classic West, Muskegon walloped Lincoln by a score of 7-2.

I've mentioned this in other blog articles, 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.

Current 'Jacks (and former Stars) Tommy Marchin and Daniel Willett will be playing at the IceBox for the first time this weekend as members of the opposing teams.  Willett was traded to Muskegon during the 2013-14 season, while Marchin was traded at the conclusion of the regular season.  So far this season, Willett has one assist for Muskegon through five games, while Marchin has four points (2g, 2a) in five games.

The two games this weekend against the 'Jacks should be another good test for this young Stars squad.  Just like Lincoln's first three opponents (Tri-City, Sioux City, Waterloo) this season, I think Muskegon is also a playoff team once the 2014-15 regular season campaign is complete.  They are an extremely deep team, and have probably the best pure goal-scorer in the USHL right now in forward Matheson Iacopelli.  Through 58 games last season for Muskegon, Iacopelli racked up 41 goals, including 12 on the powerplay.

Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg took his team to task during his radio interview with Mike Melbye after the 4-1 loss this past Sunday evening to Waterloo, so it will be interesting to see how the players respond against Muskegon.  I'd expect the Stars to come out with their hair on fire Friday night to start that particular game.

There's no excuse not to be at the IceBox this weekend if you are a hockey fan living in Lincoln.  Come on down and support the boys.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Waterloo

The Lincoln Stars are back at the IceBox this weekend with games against the Sioux City Musketeers on Friday, and the Waterloo Blackhawks on Sunday.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST at the IceBox for the Friday game, and at 4:05pm CST for the Sunday afternoon matchup.

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 enter this weekend with a 0-1-0 record on the young 2014-15 season.  Lincoln will play the first five games of the season at home at the IceBox.

First up for the black and blue will be the Sioux City Musketeers, who have a record of 1-0-0 after getting a 4-3 OT win over the Omaha Lancers in Ralston, NE last Friday.  Muskies forward Joe Snively's shorthanded goal with only 36 seconds remaining in the overtime period gave his team the two points.  Sioux City goaltender Collin Olson, whom I expect to start against Lincoln, stopped 36 of 39 in the win.

This will be the first of six meetings this season between the Stars and Muskies.  In an odd scheduling quirk, these two teams will meet six times between now and December 19th, but no other meetings after that for the remainder of the regular season.

In a rare Sunday afternoon tilt, the Stars will battle the visiting Waterloo Blackhawks who currently have a record of 0-1-0.  Last Friday, the Fargo Force squeaked by the Blackhawks by a score of 2-1 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, ND.  Waterloo outshot Fargo 39-17 in that particular game, yet still lost.  Wow.

A little bit of Lincoln Stars trivia:  the last time the Stars played a Sunday home game at the IceBox was way back on October 19th, 2003.  Over ten years ago.  In that particular game 11 years ago, the Stars beat the Waterloo Blackhawks by a score of 6-1.  Current Stars assistant coach Mick Berge had three points (all assists) to led the team in scoring.

Anyway, back to the current-day Waterloo Blackhawks, who appear to have reloaded with yet another high-powered offense this season.  Yes, they were held to only one goal against Fargo last weekend, but this Blackhawks squad is going to score plenty of goals this season in the USHL.  

The Waterloo scoring attack is led by what some pundits believe is the top offensive line in the league in forwards Brock Boeser (Wisconsin commit), Tom Novak (Minnesota commit), and Tyler Sheehy (Minnesota commit).  Now, I'm not 100% sure that Waterloo head coach P.K. O'Hanley will play the above three players on the same line against Lincoln, so we'll have to wait and see.

The two games this weekend will be a good test for the Stars.  Sioux City is still my pick to win the USHL western conference, and Waterloo will likely be a playoff team as well.  Personally, I think Waterloo is a bit top heavy, meaning they aren't as deep as other USHL teams in the west.

In Stars news....

Lincoln defenseman Ryan Cook, who was obtained last week from Cedar Rapids, has been suspended by the USHL for two games due to his kneeing major penalty at the end of the home opener loss to Tri-City last Friday.  Cook will miss both games this weekend.

Quick reminder that the Husker volleyball team will be playing at the Devaney Center on Friday evening at the same time as the hockey game, so be prepared for your typical UNL parking fiasco.  Thankfully, this is the last time this season that Husker volleyball and Stars hockey have conflicts on the same night.  

I will not be in attendance Friday night, but I will be there Sunday.  I'll report back to the blog with recaps of both games.  I'm hoping to catch a replay of the Friday night game on FASTHockey sometime late Friday, or early Saturday.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.