Thursday, December 11, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Dubuque and Waterloo

With only three games remaining before the Christmas break, the Lincoln Stars will host the Dubuque Fighting Saints at the IceBox on Friday night before going to Waterloo, IA to face the Blackhawks on Saturday.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each contest this weekend.

If you you can't 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 currently have a record of 6-12-3 (15 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, five points behind the sixth place Omaha Lancers, and one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Lincoln is 1-5-1 in their last seven games played.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent Friday night at the IceBox will be the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who sit in fourth place in the USHL eastern conference with a record of 13-7-1 (27 points).  After getting out to a fast 12-4-0 start to the season, Dubuque is only 1-3-1 in their last five games played.

This will be the first of two meetings between the Stars and the Fighting Saints this season.  Their final regular season tilt will come in Dubuque, IA on Saturday, January 10th.

The Fighting Saints will be without quite a few players for their game against Lincoln.  According to this thread on the "Finish Your Check" USHL message board, the Saints will be without the services of forwards Zack Zulkanycz, J.D. Dudek, Ryan Stevens,  Jakob Romo, and defensemen Sasha Larocque due to injury.  Forwards Jacob Benson and Evan Smith are out of the lineup due to suspension.  Additionally, forwards Seamus Malone, Dylan Gambrell, and defenseman Blake Hillman are participating in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

Because they'll have so many players out of the lineup, the Saints will likely have to call up some of their affiliate list players to fill spots on the roster.  So this is a great opportunity for the Stars, who are relatively healthy and are only missing Ludvig Hoff from their roster, to pick up two points against a depleted Fighting Saints squad.

One player on the Dubuque roster who is healthy and is most likely very eager to play against Lincoln is former Stars goaltender Jacob Nehama.  Nehama was free agent acquisition by the Saints before the season began and he has proved to be their MVP so far.  Jacob got a ton of press earlier when he started the season winning the first 11 games he started.  Since then, he has struggled a bit going 0-3-1 in his last four starts.

Nehama was released by Lincoln this past June after the Stars decided to go with goaltenders Petyton Jones and Hunter Shepard instead.  Cam Hackett was later acquired by Lincoln from Green Bay, and Hunter Shepard was released.  If he starts this Friday evening against Lincoln at the IceBox I'm sure Nehama will want to prove a lot of people wrong within the Stars' organization.

On Saturday, the Stars will travel to Waterloo, IA to battle the Blackhawks, who are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 6-13-2 (14 points).

This will be the third of four meetings this season between Lincoln and Waterloo.  The Stars are 0-2-0 in the two previous meetings with the Blackhawks, with both losses coming at the IceBox.

To say that Waterloo is struggling right now is an understatement.  To put it simply, this team is a defensive mess.  They have some of the top forwards in the entire USHL, but team defense is big problem and their goaltending is leaky at best.

In their last game, Waterloo beat the Fargo Force by a score of 4-1 to snap a 10-game losing streak.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Blackhawks lost 10 straight games.  During that 10-game skid, Waterloo was outscored 53-20.  Yikes.

I mentioned Waterloo's top forwards above, which consists of the highly touted Brock Boeser, Tyler Sheehy, and Tom Novak.  Boeser, Sheehy, and Novak are Waterloo's top three point scorers, but all three will be out of the lineup against the Stars due to their participation in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge.  Waterloo defenseman Hayden Shaw is also playing at the World Junior A Challenge so he will not play against Lincoln either.  What a shame. ;)

If there was any weekend so far this season that the Stars could pull out two wins, I think this is the weekend.  Yes, the Stars have really struggled as of late to play consistent hockey, but I think the Saints and the Blackhawks are really vulnerable right now.  The Saints are a walking M*A*S*H unit, and the floundering Blackhawks will be without their top three forwards.  Great opportunity for the Stars to grab four points.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

P.S. - I want to apologize to all of my readers for not posting a pregame, or postgame blog article for the Lincoln vs. Tri-City game this past Tuesday night.  The Stars lost that particular game by a score of 2-1.  I was traveling for work this week and I haven't had much time at all to devote to this blog.  I take pride in keeping #StarsNation informed of the latest news, but this time real life got in the way.  I hate when that happens.  But again, my apologies.

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