Tuesday, November 25, 2014

B³ Thanksgiving Preview: Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Des Moines

The Lincoln Stars will will play three games over the long Thanksgiving weekend against some of the top teams in the USHL right now.

Wednesday evening at the IceBox, the Stars will host the red-hot Cedar Rapids Roughriders.  On Thanksgiving evening in Sioux City, IA, the Stars will battle the Musketeers.  The Stars will wrap up the weekend with a Saturday night tilt back at the IceBox against the Des Moines Buccaneers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each of the three games.

If you you can't make it to any of the games this long 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 are currently tied for last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 5-7-2 (12 points).  Click here to view the current league standings.

Wednesday's opponent will be the top team in the USHL right now, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. This will be the first of only two meetings between the Stars and the Roughriders during the 2014-15 season.  The final regular season matchup will take place in Cedar Rapids on 4/1/15.

 The 'Riders have a record of 15-2-0 (30 points) and are in first place in the USHL eastern conference.  Cedar Rapids has the top goal scorer in the league (Jiri Fronk - 15 goals in 17 games), the top goaltender in the league (Ben Blacker: 10-2-0, 2.01 goals against average, .941 save percentage), the top scoring offense (4.3 goals per game) and top defense (1.9 goals against per game) in the league, and they are in the top three in both powerplay (25.3%; 2nd overall) and penalty kill percentage (88.5%; 3rd overall).  Wow.

To say the Stars will have their hands full in this game is an understatement.  You will not find a team in the USHL that is clicking as well as the Roughriders are right now.  However, we've seen the Stars play a 60-minute game and beat very good hockey clubs this season.  The Roughriders put their skates on just the same as the Stars, so there's no reason to think that this is an automatic win for Cedar Rapids.  If they don't take the Stars seriously and just half-ass it, Lincoln can certainly win this game with a 60-minute effort.  Winning the special teams war is a must for the Stars, also.

On a rare, Thanksgiving night game, the Stars will travel to the Tyson Event Center Sioux City, IA to battle the Musketeers.  The Muskies are in first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 13-4-1 (27 points).  This will be the third of six meetings between the Stars and Muskies so far this season.  Lincoln is 1-1-0 in the prior two games against Sioux City.  The last times these two teams met in Sioux City, which was on 10/25/14, the Muskies prevailed by the score of 5-3.

The last time the Stars played on Thanksgiving was in 2010, on the road in Sioux City against the Musketeers.  Lincoln won that game in OT by the score of 2-1.  Dominick Shine had the game winning goal in OT.  Let's hope history repeats itself four years later.

Sioux City is on a bit of a roll as of late, going 5-1-0 in their last six games played.  During those six games, the Muskies outscored their competition 32-20.  In their last game at home, the Muskies scored 7 goals on a very good Tri-City squad to win, 7-5.  Sioux City forward Joel Janatuinen (from Finland) had three goals and 1 assist to lead the Muskies on offense in that particular game.

Lincoln's final opponent this Turkey Day weekend will be the Des Moines Buccaneers who are in third place in the USHL western conference with a record of 9-6-2 (20 points), 8 points ahead of the Stars.  This will be the third of eight meetings between the two teams this season.  Lincoln is 1-1-0 in the prior two games against the Bucs, winning their last meeting by a score of 5-2 at the IceBox on 11/11/14.

After starting the season on an incredible tear, the Bucs have cooled down as of late.  After beating the Stars in Des Moines on 11/8/14 by the score of 5-3, the Buccaneers have lost four straight games and were outscored 18-6 in those four losses.  The Buccaneers play Tri-City at home on Wednesday this week, and against Omaha on Friday in Des Moines leading up to the road game Saturday night at the IceBox against Lincoln.

Three games in four days for the Stars this week, and they are playing some quality competition.  It won't be easy but I'd like to see the Stars get at least 4 points out of the upcoming three games.  These three contests should also be a good litmus test to see how the Stars respond after the disappointing home loss last Friday against the Omaha Lancers.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

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