Tuesday, December 30, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Waterloo Blackhawks

The Stars will once again ring in the new year in Waterloo, IA on New Year's Even when they take on the Waterloo Blackhawks on Wednesday evening.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

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.

I'm running out of time tonight to get this article posted, so it will be a short one.

The Stars are 8-12-4 (20 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks who are 8-15-3 (19 points).  Lincoln does have two games in hand over Waterloo.

This will be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams during the 2014-15 season.  Lincoln is 1-2-0 in their three previous games against Waterloo.  In their last meeting, which was on December 13th, the Stars beat the Blackhawks in Waterloo by the score of 3-2 in an overtime shootout.

New Year's Eve has not been kind at all to the Lincoln Stars in the recent past  In their last five games on New Year's Eve dating back to 2010, all of which were on the road, the Stars are 0-5-0 and were outscored 27-6.  Ouch.

Having said that, if you go back and look at Lincoln's record on New Year's Eve in the six years prior to 2010, Lincoln had won five of the six games going back to 2004 (thanks to Mike Melbye for that stat).

Unlike in their last meeting, Waterloo will have a much more potent offense when they face the Stars on New Year's Eve.  Forwards Brock Boeser, Tyler Sheehy, and Tommy Novak (the top three scorers for the Blackhawks) are back in the lineup after participating in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge for Team USA.  The scoring really drops off for Waterloo after Boeser, Sheehy, and Novak, but those three forwards are uber-talented and will likely give the Stars fits.  Shut them down, and your chances of winning are much better.

Should be a pretty good battle.  Let's hope the Stars can reverse their recent New Year's Eve luck with a big road win to ring in 2015.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Edit:  I wanted to quickly congratulate Stars defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk on being named to the roster of the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will will take place on January 13th, 2015 in Dubuque, IA.  Click here to read more about that.

This will be a great opportunity for Wyatt to show off his skills in front of a ton of NHL scouts who will be watching in Dubuque.  Congrats again to Wyatt!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 1, Omaha 2 OT Shootout

In a low scoring battle at the Ralston Arena on Saturday evening. the Omaha Lancers squeaked by the Lincoln Stars by the score of 2-1 in an overtime shootout.

Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.

With the overtime shootout loss, the Stars earned one point and fell to 8-12-4 (20 points) on the season, good enough for 7th place in the USHL western conference.  Lincoln is now three points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and seven points behind the sixth place Sioux Falls Stampede.  Click here to view the current league standings.

For the most part, I thought this was a pretty evenly contested game.  From what I saw, Omaha had the better quality chances for most of the sixty minutes, especially in the first and third periods.  However, Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones stood on his head and kept Lincoln in this game, earning them the point.

Omaha's lone regulation goal was scored in the latter half of the first period just as a Stars minor penalty was ending.  Lancers forward Louie Rowe accepted a cross ice pass in the low slot before one-timing the puck past Peyton Jones.  There wasn't much Jones could do on the play it happened to fast.

Omaha took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission leading on shots on goal as well, 15-9.

It was a scoreless second period in which Omaha outshot Lincoln 12-10.

Patrick Polino extended his goal-scoring streak to three games with his 8th of the season at the 4:54 mark of the third period to knot this game at 1-1.  Polino took advantage of a Lancers turnover in the neutral zone before skating the puck into the Omaha zone and ripping a shot high glove side past goaltender Zach Driscoll.

With the lone goal, Polino jumped over Michael Gillespie into the top scoring spot for the Lincoln Stars with 17 points (8g, 9a) in 24 games played.

The score would remain at 1-1 after sixty minutes of regulation play.  Omaha outshot Lincoln 12-10 in the third period and 39-29 through the first three periods.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime period in which Omaha outshot Lincoln 4-1, this game went to a skills competition to name a winner.

In the shootout, Stars forwards Ludvig Hoff, Grant Jozefek, and Dominick Sacco were all held scoreless while Lancers forward Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson scored for Omaha to help his team obtain the two points.

Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay while Omaha was 0-for-3.  Stars goaltender Peyton Jones was Lincoln's best player, stopping 42 of 43 shots in the loss.  Omaha netminder Zach Driscoll stopped 29 of 30 for the win.

Lincoln fell to 0-2-1 in three games against the Omaha Lancers this season.

It will be busy week for the Lincoln Stars as they play three games in four days.  On Wednesday, December 31st, the Stars will play their annual NYE game in Waterloo, IA against the Blackhawks.  Then on Friday and Saturday, the Stars will host the two new USHL expansion teams.  The Bloomington Thunder will play at the IceBox on Friday, and then the Madison Capitols on Saturday.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Omaha Lancers

The first game back from their 8-day holiday break for the Lincoln Stars will be a Saturday night road tilt in Ralston, NE against the Omaha Lancers.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you can't make it up to Ralston tonight 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.

The Stars occupy seventh place in the USHL western conference with a record of 8-12-3 (19 points).  Lincoln is four points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and six points behind the sixth place Sioux Falls Stampede.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

This will be the third of eight meetings between Lincoln and Omaha during the 2024-15 regular season.  The Stars are 0-2-0 in the two previous games against the Lancers this season.  In their last meeting, which took place in Ralston on December 6th, the Stars had a 3-1 second period lead which vanished when the Lancers scored four unanswered goals to win 5-3.

The Lancers have a record of 11-8-4 (26 points) which is good enough for fifth place in the USHL western conference.  After getting out to a very slow start, the Lancers are one of the hottest teams in the league right now.  Omaha is riding a four-game winning streak, and they are 7-1-1 in their last nine games played.

To say that Omaha has had Lincoln's number the past couple of seasons is an understatement, unfortunately.  Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Lincoln is 8-17-3 against Omaha.  Basically, Lincoln has 8 wins in the past 28 regular season meetings between the two teams.

The Stars are coming off another impressive win against the first-place Sioux City Musketeers last Friday in which they beat the Muskies on their ice by the score of 7-5.  Lincoln has 3 wins in their last 10 games played, and two of those three wins came against Sioux City.

Roster-wise, the Stars are pretty healthy, save for forward Chris Dodero who was placed on the  25-day IR on 12/10.  Forward Ludvig Hoff is back in Lincoln after participating for Team Norway in the U20 World Championships which were help in Italy last week.  Hoff scored 8 points (2g, 6a) in four games for Norway on their way to a silver medal.

Per his Twitter account, forward Jack Badini ('98) has been called up by the Stars to finish the regular season with the team.  Badini was selected by the Lincoln Stars in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft this past spring.  Through 13 games this season for the North Jersey Avalanche U18 team, Badini scored 8 points (2g, 6a).  Badini will be the youngest player on the Stars' team.

Badini tips the scales at 5'11", 185 pounds and plays with a ton of speed and skill.  Even though he was one of the youngest players at Lincoln's tryout camp this past June, I was really impressed with his play.  The addition of Badini should help with the losses of forwards Chris Klack and August Von Ungern-Sternberg who are no longer on the team.

I'm not going to be able to watch this game live, but I hope to watch a replay of it Sunday morning and will post a recap article here on the blog later that day.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 7, Sioux City 5

The Stars exploded for seven goals Friday night at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, IA as Lincoln won their second straight game with a 7-5 drubbing of the Musketeers.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win and the two points, the Lincoln Stars improved to 8-12-3 (19 points) on the season.  The Stars are four points ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks and six points behind the sixth place Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL western conference.  Click here to view the current league standings.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night, but the Stars have 8 wins in 23 games so far this season, and 3 of those 8 wins have come against the top team in the USHL western conference, the Sioux City Musketeers.  Hopefully the Stars can bottle the magic they have against the Muskies and use it against the rest of the USHL once they come back from the holiday break.

This was wild and crazy game.  I didn't watch it live, but I did catch the replay on FASTHockey.  A total of 12 goals were scored, with an even amount of four goals being scored between the two teams in each of the three periods.

In what was their best period of the game I thought, the Stars outscored the Muskies 3-1 in the opening twenty minutes and never relinquished the lead.  Lincoln outshot Sioux City 13-10 in the first period.

The Stars got on the scoreboard first thanks to Stars forward Angus Scott, who scored his first career USHL goal at the 6:18 mark.  On the play, Lincoln forward Ethen Frank (I'll post more about him later) skated the puck into the SC offensive zone and fired a backhand shot that went wide. The puck rolled around the corner and immediately to a streaking Angus Scott who fired a rocket that beat Muskies goaltender Collin Olson high stick side to give Lincoln an early 1-0 lead.

Less than three minutes after Scott's first goal, the Musketeers scored on the powerplay to knot the game at 1-1.  The first three goals scored by Sioux City in this game came on the powerplay.  Coming into this game, the Stars had not given up a PP goal in four straight games.

Lincoln bounced back to take a 2-1 lead at the 12:24 mark of the first period thanks to some hard work down low by forward Biagio Lerario.  The scoring opportunity started with intense pressure around the Sioux City net initiated by Miguel Fidler.  Fidler fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Olson, but in the resulting scramble in front of the net, Fidler skated behind the net and was able to jam the puck free to Lerario who fired it quickly into the open net.

With less than four minutes remaining in the first period, the Stars increased their lead to 3-1 thanks for a powerplay goal by forward Joe Lappin.  Grant Jozefek skated the puck into the zone before stomping on the brakes and threading a pass between the circles to a streaking Dominick Sacco.  The puck deflected off of Sacco's stick and right to Joe Lappin who one-time a shot high stick side past Olson.

Five minutes into the second period, the Musketeers scored another powerplay goal to pull to within one goal.  However, the Stars got the two-goal lead back less than a minute later thanks to a powerplay goal scored by Dominick Sacco.  On the play, a shot from just inside the blueline by defenseman Ryan Jones was deflected by Sacco and through the legs of Collin Olson to give Lincoln a 4-2 lead.

After killing a SC penalty in which the Muskies had quite a ton of shots on goal that were saved by Cam Hackett, Angus Scott picked up his second goal of the game to regain a three goal lead over the Muskies.  Scott got the play started by doing a great job being aggressive with the forecheck in the Sioux City zone. Scott forced a turnover and the puck eventually found its way to Patrick Polino.  Polino fought to get a shot on goal, and the rebound went to Scott who was left unguarded in front of the Muskies' net.  Scott quickly tapped the puck into the open net to give Lincoln a 5-2 lead.

Sioux City goaltender Collin Olson was pulled after Scott's second goal in favor of backup netminder Cam Gornet.  Olson finished with 12 saves on 17 shots on goal.  Incredibly, because Gornet ended up giving up the sixth Lincoln goal, Olson did not pick up the loss.

Sioux City scored their third powerplay goal of the game at the 11:55 mark of the second period to pull to within two goals.  The score would stay 5-3 in Lincoln's favor until the end of the second period.  Due to a number of penalties against them, the Stars played shorthanded most of the second period.  Lincoln goaltender Cam Hackett had to make a number of big saves in the second period to keep the Muskies from getting any closer.

Five minutes into the third period, Sioux City scored an even-strength goal (the only 5-on-5 goal they scored against Lincoln) to pull to within one goal.  At the time, the Muskies seemed to have momentum on their side and were really putting a lot of pressure on Cam Hackett.

However, a clutch goal scored by Stars forward Miguel Fidler gave Lincoln a 6-4 lead and pretty much killed all of the momentum the Muskies may have had at the time.  The play started in the Muskies' offensive zone with a pass by Joe Lappin to Miguel Fidler who was just outside the Sioux City crease.  Fidler fired a forehand shot on net that was saved by Gornet, but the rebound was gobbled up by Fidler who by now was on his knees.  Miguel quickly gained possession of the rebound and fired a backhand shot on his knees which got past Gornet.  This was a pretty goal, and it would turn out to be the eventual game-winner.  Fidler does his best work in the dirty areas around the opposing net.  He's a prototype power forward who is very hard to knock off the puck once he has it.

The icing on the cake came late in the third period when Patrick Polino scored an empty-net goal with 1:12 remaining to finish out the scoring for the Stars.  Polino was outworked two Sioux City players to get possession of the puck and was mugged on his way down the ice before shooting the puck into the empty net.  Terrific individual effort by Polino on the play to make it 7-4 Lincoln.

With less than a minute remaining, Sioux City scored a late, powerplay goal but this game was over after Fidler's tally to make it 6-4.  Lincoln wins this one by the score of 7-5.

Shots were 39-21 in favor of Sioux City, but I really have to question their accuracy after watching this game.  There's not doubt that Lincoln only had a handful of shots in the second period, but I can guarantee they had more than 4 shots on goal in the third period.  Regardless, I'll take shot quality over shot quantity any day of the week.  They may not have had a ton of chances in the second and third periods of this game, but the Stars were certainly opportunistic when they had those chances.

I mentioned him above, but Stars forward Ethen Frank ('98) was called up by the team to play in this game.  Frank was originally selected by the Lincoln Stars in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft last spring.  The Omaha native normally plays for the Omaha AAA U16 team.  Through 44 games, Ethen has racked up 92 points (45g, 47a) for the Omaha AAA U16 squad.  He's a special talent, no doubt.  Ethen has already committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan University starting the fall of 2017.  I'm not sure if the call up is permanent or not, but Frank is definitely a player we'll see more of.  Although it was his first USHL game, I thought Frank looked very good.  He should have picked up an assist or two against the Muskies, but the Sioux City scorekeepers missed it.

Although he gave up five goals, I thought Cam Hackett had a solid game as he stopped 34 of 39 shots on goal.  Four of the five goals he gave up were on the powerplay.  As I mentioned above, Cam made some big saves in the last two periods of this game to keep the Muskies from creeping back into it.

Lincoln finished the game 2-for-4 on the powerplay, while Sioux City went 4-for-8 with the man advantage.

Overall, a quality road effort against a very good Sioux City team.  They should be proud of their effort.  Just have to clean up some issues on the PK, but otherwise Lincoln was the better team 5-on-5.

The Stars will take the next week off for the holidays, but they'll be back in action on Saturday, December 27th against the Omaha Lancers.  That game will take place at the Ralston Arena in Ralston, NE.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars....and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux City Musketeers

Only one game remains before the seven-day holiday break for the Lincoln Stars, and that game will take place Friday night in Sioux City, IA against the Musketeers at the Tyson Events Center.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

Unless you're lucky enough to be in Sioux City on Friday night, 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 7-12-3 (12 points) the Lincoln Stars are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, two points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Since they last played the Musketeers on 12/5/14, the Stars are 1-3-0 in their last four games.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the fifth of six meetings between the Stars and the Musketeers during the 2014-15 regular season.  The Stars have a very respectable 2-2-0 record in their four previous meetings with the Muskies.  Through 22 games played so far this season, the Stars have played the Musketeers more than any other USHL team.  However, after Friday night, the Stars and Muskies will only play one more time during the regular season.

The Musketeers currently occupy first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 16-6-1 (33 points).   In their last seven games played, the Muskies have a record of 5-2-0, and one of those five wins was a 3-1 victory last weekend against the top team in the USHL, the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

As I right this article on Thursday evening, the Musketeers are in Fargo, ND to take on the Force.  The Force won that game, 4-2.  Sioux City goaltender Collin Olson started for the Muskies against Fargo, so because he was on the losing end, I would not be surprised if backup goaltender Cam Gornet gets the start against Lincoln on Friday evening.  Although Gornet only has 6 games of USHL experience under his belt, one of his two wins on the season came against Lincoln on 11/27/14 in a 2-0 shutout victory in Sioux City.

Much like the two teams the Stars faced last weekend, the Musketeers will be missing some key players from their lineup on Friday.  Forward Joe Snively and defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf are representing Team USA at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Defensemen Neal Pionk and Jerad Rosburg are out of the lineup due to injury.

As for the Stars, they are relatively healthy (from what I know), other than forward Christopher Dodero who was placed on the 25-day injured reserve list on 12/10/14.  I've heard rumors of some upcoming player movement on the Stars, but I'll wait until the team announces it.

Stars forward Ludvig Hoff is in Italy at the moment representing Norway in the 2015 IIHF U20 World Championship.  Through four games for Norge, Hoff has racked up 8 points (2g, 6a) and 31 PIM's.  Atta boy, Ludvig.

As I mentioned above, apart from one game, the Stars have played the Muskies pretty close so far this season, to include two wins in four games.  Sioux City will be coming off a road loss, and are a bit shorthanded personnel-wise.  This is another great opportunity for the Stars to pick up two points, and some much needed momentum and confidence heading into the holiday break.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to watch this game on FASTHockey Friday night as it happens, but I plan on watching the replay on Saturday morning and will post a recap article sometime later that day.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

B³ Weekend Recap: 12/12 & 12/13

It was an another up and down weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they were shutout Friday night at the IceBox by the Dubuque Fighting Saints by the score of 1-0, but rebounded Saturday evening with a 3-2 OT shootout win against the Waterloo Blackhawks in Waterloo, IA.

Boxscores:
12/12:  Dubuque 1, Lincoln 0
12/13:  Lincoln 3, Waterloo 2 OT SO

The Stars currently have a record of 7-12-3 (17 points) and are in seventh place in the USHL western conference, six points behind the sixth place Sioux Falls Stampede, and two points ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Dubuque 1, Lincoln 0

Former Stars goaltender Jacob Nehama, who was cut from the team at their tryout camp this past June, got some revenge in a Fighting Saints uniform as he stopped all 34 shots he faced to shutout his former team.

Dubuque was missing so many players in this game due to injury or suspension, they called up a number of players from their affiliate roster, and actually were able to "loan" two forwards from the NAHL in order to fill their roster.

Despite all of the new faces, the Fighting Saints put a blanket on the Stars and really limited the amount of quality offensive chances they had in this game.  Yes, the Stars had 34 shots on goal, but many of those shots were not high quality.  Time after time, the Stars would enter the zone and get one shot on goal before the Saints gained possession of the puck and moved the puck right back out of their zone.  Lincoln very rarely were able to sustain offensive pressure in the Dubuque zone, especially in the first two periods.

It's well known that the Fighting Saints play team defense better than most teams in the USHL, and it was certainly on display this past Friday night.  I thought the Saints did a great job getting between the puck and their goaltender when the Stars had possession of the puck.  Many shots from Lincoln were blocked or deflected.

The lone goal came early in the first period when Saints forward Mitchell Smith beat a Stars defenseman to the outside before skating in on Cam Hackett and roofing a shot glove-high.  There wasn't much Hackett could do on the play.

I thought Dubuque was the better team overall through the first two periods, but Lincoln certainly played with more urgency in the third period.  But Saints goaltender Jacob Nehama stood tall in the final twenty minutes when the Stars threw everything they had at him.  At the final horn, Nehama skated out of his crease and pumped his right hand up and down as he was mobbed by his teammates.  I'm sure he was pretty happy to prove people wrong.

As well as Nehama played that night, I thought Stars goaltender Cam Hackett played even better.  Hackett definitely had tougher saves to make throughout the match compared to Nehama.  Hackett stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal, and was the only reason the Stars were a shot away from tying this game.

Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay in this game, while Dubuque went 0-for-2.  The Stars are getting better with moving their feet more to draw penalties.  However, Lincoln's PP unit really struggled most times.  In this game, they were lucky to get the puck into the Dubuque zone and set up.  Most often there were met at the blueline with a line of red jerseys and were forced to dump the puck in.  Again, give credit to the Fighting Saints who put on a clinic on how to effectively play unselfish team defense.

Lincoln 3, Waterloo 2 OT Shootout

It wasn't exactly pretty, but the Lincoln Stars escaped Waterloo, IA with two points after a 3-2 shootout victory against the Blackhawks.

This was one weird game to watch.  I'm not sure where to start.  Lincoln was very, very lucky to get two points.

Thanks to a number of calls against Waterloo in the first period, the Stars got on the scoreboard first with a 5-on-3 PP goal scored by Patrick Polino.  Polino accepted a pass from below the left faceoff circle in the Waterloo zone before firing a sharp-angle shot that got past Blackhawks goaltender Trevor Gorsuch.

The Stars extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period thanks to another powerplay goal, but this one came from forward Joe Lappin.  On the play, forward Miguel Fidler brought the puck from behind the net out front in a stuff attempt.  The Stars immediately crashed the net and Joe Lappin was able to bat the puck into the net on the goal-mouth scramble.

At the end of the second period, the Stars held a 2-0 lead and seemed to have all the momentum on their side heading into the final twenty minutes of regulation.  Shots were 21-20 in favor of Waterloo through two periods.

Waterloo scored two goals in the third period to knot the game at 2-2, and outshot Lincoln 16-1.  Yes, the Stars had one shot on goal in the third period and that lone shot on goal came with 35 seconds remaining in regulation.

I've been watching Stars hockey for a long time, and I don't think I've ever seen them just stop playing as they did in the third period of this game.  It was hard to watch.  Waterloo players were skating hard to pucks, while Lincoln players floated around in a daze.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, this game went to a skills competition to name a winner.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped all four shooters he faced, while Grant Jozefek scored the only goal in the shootout to give Lincoln the 3-2 win.

Lincoln went 2-for-7 on the powerplay, while Waterloo was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.  An encouraging stat: Lincoln has not given up a powerplay goal in four straight games (8 powerplay chances against in those four games).  Stars are also limiting the amount of times they are shorthanded per game, also.

Once again, Hackett saved Lincoln's bacon with a number of big saves in this game.  Without his consistent play, this is another third period collapse.  Hackett stopped 37 of 39 shots on goal in regulation and OT, along with the four shooters in the SO.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night, but Hackett has established himself as the clear #1 goaltender as of late with his play.  He wasn't always consistent in his play during the first couple of months, but he has really turned it on.  In his last six starts, Hackett has stopped 205 of 218 shots on goal (.940 save percentage).  His win loss record (2-4-0) in those six games isn't the best, but that's because Lincoln averaged 1.67 goals scored.  He's standing on his head, but not getting much offensive support.

The Stars found a way to win in the end, but I'm not sure I've seen a team flip the switch as much as the Stars have done so many times this season.  They are very Jekyll and Hyde.  The first two periods of this game, Lincoln showed that they were the better team.  In the third, they just stopped playing.  The consistency issue continues to be a problem.

Stars had a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd period against a team that was 1-11-0 in their last 12 games and were missing their top 3 forwards (Boeser, Sheehy, Novak).  They never should have allowed Waterloo back in the game.  There's no excuse to stop competing.  There's no killer instinct with this team.

The Stars had 7 powerplay opportunities to Waterloo's 4, and Lincoln was still outshot 39-23.  I hate to sound negative after win, but that's not a good stat at all.  With the amount of PP chances that Lincoln had in this, the Stars should have outshot the shorthanded Blackhawks, or at least kept it close.

Hopefully the Stars can learn a lot on how not to play based on their performance in the third period.  Learn from it, and move on.  Hopefully next time they have a third period lead, the Stars can keep a boot to the throat of their opponent.

Lincoln will have one more game to play before the holiday break, and that will come this Friday in Sioux City, IA against the Musketeers.  The Muskies are the top team in the west, but the Stars have done pretty well against them so far this season, going 2-2-0 in four games.

Thanks for reading. Go Stars.

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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

B³ Weekend Recap: 12/5 & 12/6

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
It was an up and down weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they skated to a quality 5-3 win Friday night at the IceBox against the Sioux City Musketeers (top team in the west), but then gave up a 3-1 lead in Omaha against the Lancers and lost 5-3.

Boxscores:
12/5:  Sioux City 3, Lincoln 5
12/6:  Lincoln 3, Omaha 5

The Stars currently have a record of 6-10-3 (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.  Click here to view the current league standings.


Sioux City 3, Lincoln 5

Against the team that blanked them on Thanksgiving night, the Stars got out to a quick lead and held on to beat the visiting Sioux City Musketeers by the score of 5-3.

Seven of the eight goals scored in this game all game in the first period, and it was Lincoln's Ludvig Hoff who got it started with 5th of the season just one minute and one second into the period.  It was "Teddy Bear Toss" night at the IceBox for this game, so the fans got to throw their stuffed animals barely after first sitting down.  I'll post a video at the end of this article that I took with my phone of the scene at the IceBox as the bears started to fly.

Ludvig's goal, and the next goal scored by Lincoln which came from Chris Klack about 11 minutes later, were almost mirror images of one another.  Both players has possession of the puck just to the left of the Sioux City net before skating a few strides in front of goaltender Collin Olson before stuffing it between the goaltender's pads.

After the Klack goal which gave Lincoln a 2-0 lead with roughly 9 minutes remaining in the first period, the Sioux City coaches pulled goaltender Collin Olson and replaced him with Cam Gornet who played the rest of the game.

Starting with the Klack goal, both teams combined for six goals scored in the next eight minutes of the first period.  Miguel Fidler gave Lincoln a 3-0 lead at the 12:19 mark of the period thanks to a powerplay goal scored.  On the play, a Lincoln shot from inside the blueline was stopped by Gornet, but the rebound went right to Fidler who jammed it into the open net.

The Muskies stopped the bleeding temporarily with a goal scored exactly three minutes after Fidler's PP goal to pull to within two at 3-1.

However, Patrick Polino gave the Stars a 4-1 lead at the 15:49 mark thanks to a nice play by teammate Joe Lappin.  Lappin skated the puck into the SC zone along the boards and did a great job getting past a Muskies defender while keeping possession of the puck.  Lappin then fired a pass to a streaking Polino who had beaten his man before redirecting the Lappin pass past Gornet.  Polino's goal, which which was his fifth of the season, turned out to be the eventual game-winner.

Sioux City fought back with two goals scored within a minute very late in the first period to pull to within one goal.

After a wild and crazy first period, the Stars took a 4-3 lead into the first intermission.  Shots were 16-15 in favor of Lincoln.  Lots of scoring in the opening twenty minutes, and not a lot of defense by either team.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 12 of 15 shots on goal in the first period, but then stood on his head the rest of the game stopping all 28 Sioux City shots he faced.

Seven goals were scored in the first twenty minutes of the game, but only one was scored in the remaining forty minutes and that goal came from Stars forward Dominick Sacco in the second period.

Sacco's goal was a beautiful shorthanded tally, which was the first SH goal the Muskies had given up all season long.  On the play, Sacco and Ludvig Hoff led the charge out of their own zone and entered the SC zone 2-on-2.  Hoff passed it Sacco just as the two entered the SC zone, and it was Sacco who pulled off a nifty drag move using his defender as a screen before ripping the shot past a surprised Gornet.  It was Dom's second shorthanded goal of the season.

The score would remain 5-3 the remainder of the second period, and all of the third.  Stars were outshot 28 to 10 in the final two periods of the game, but Cam Hackett stood tall with a number of big saves.  Hackett, who stopped 40 of 43 on the night, was the main reason why Lincoln got the two points in this game.

Lincoln seemed to go into a shell after getting the 5-3 lead, especially in the third period.  But overall, it was a quality effort against the top team in the western conference.

Lincoln 3, Omaha 5

It was looking good for the Stars on Saturday night in Omaha as they built a 3-1 lead over the Lancers, but Lincoln gave up four unanswered goals and lost to their arch-rival by the score of 5-3.

I didn't attend this game, nor did I watch it on FASTHockey, so this recap will be very brief.  If I have time today I'm hoping to watch a replay of it on FASTHockey.  If that happens, I'll come back and add some thoughts.

I had a few friends (both Lincoln and Omaha fans) attend the game and both said pretty much the same thing.  Stars played very well to start, got out to the 3-1 lead, but then put it into auto-pilot.  The Lancers took awhile to wake up, but once they did, they pushed the Stars around again physically and gained control of the game.

Lincoln goals were scored by Blake Christensen, Biagio Lerario, and Joe Lappin.  For the second time in 19 games this season, the Stars outshot their opponent, this time 31-30 over the Lancers.  Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones stopped 25 of 30 shots in the loss.  Considering how well Cam Hackett had played the past three games, I'm surprised he didn't get the start.  But maybe the Lincoln coaches wanted to give him a rest.

The Lancers started goaltender Zach Driscoll in this game, which was his very first USHL appearance after being aquired by the Austin Bruins of the NAHL.  Not a bad start for the '97 netminder as he stopped 28 of 31 for the win.

I mentioned this briefly on Twitter this morning, but as a fan it's pretty frustrating to see the Stars lose so many games to the Lancers the past few seasons.  Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Lincoln is 8-17-3 against Omaha.  So basically, the Stars have only won 8 games in the past 28 meetings between the two teams.  There's no better feeling beating the Lancers, and there's no worse feeling losing to the Lancers.

If we want to look at some positives from this weekend, it seems as if the offense has woken up.  Also, Lincoln got out to early leads in both of these games, which is good.  For the most part, the Stars stayed out of the penalty box as Sioux City had only 3 powerplay opportunities, while Omaha had only one last night.

It will be a busy week for the Stars coming up with three games in five days.  On Tuesday night in Kearney, NE, the Stars will take on the Tri-City Storm.  Friday evening at the IceBox, Lincoln will host the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  Then on Saturday in Waterloo, the Stars will knock heads with the Blackhawks in what could be a battle for last place in the western conference standings.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Omaha


The Lincoln Stars will look to snap a four-game winless streak this weekend with a Friday home tilt against the Sioux City Musketeers, and a Saturday road game against the Omaha Lancers.

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

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 are currently in seventh place in the USHL western conference with a record of 5-9-3 (13 points), one point ahead of the eighth place Waterloo Blackhawks.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's opponent Friday night at the IceBox will be the Sioux City Musketeers, who sit comfortably in first place in the USHL western conference with a record of 14-5-1 (29 points).

This will be the fourth of six meetings between the Stars and the Muskies this season.  Lincoln is 1-2-0 in the three prior contests against Sioux City.  Last week on Thanksgiving night in Sioux City, the Musketeers blanked the Stars by a score of 3-0.  It was the first time this season that Lincoln was held scoreless in a game.

The Stars will be holding their annual "Teddy Bear Toss" during the Friday night game against Sioux City, as well as their annual "ACS Breast Cancer Jersey Auction."  Busy night for the Stars' staff.  The Stars were originally supposed to wear the special ACS jerseys back on November 7th against the Musketeers, but that game was rescheduled due to an on-ice issue.  Click here to read more about the two Friday events.  Bring your new stuffed animals and your checkbook for the jerseys.

Saturday night in Omaha, the Lancers will host the Stars for the first time this season at the Ralston Arena, in Ralston, NE.  The Lancers currently sit in fifth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 7-7-4 (18 points), five points ahead of the Lincoln Stars.

This will be the second of eight regular season meetings between the two bitter rivals.  Just two weeks ago at the IceBox, the Lancers bullied the Stars around on their home ice and beat the good guys by a score of 4-1.  Interestingly, the Lancers are a much better road team (5-2-2) so far this season than they are a home team (2-5-2).

The Lancers were dealt a big blow to their roster this week when it was announced that goaltender Hayden Hawkey tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the season.  Big, big loss for the Lancers.  Hawkey was the USHL Goaltender of the Year last season, and was supposed to be the #1 guy again this season in Omaha.

Considering how the Lancers have struggled to score goals so far this season, having one of the top goaltenders in the league in Hawkey was certainly a plus for them to fall back on.  Now, the Lancers won't have that.  Look for '97 goaltender Kris Oldham to likely start for Omaha against Lincoln this Saturday night.  Oldham has only 6 USHL games under his belt.

Attention!  There will be two volleyball games played Friday night at the Devaney Center, so be prepared for another potential UNL parking mess.  There is a game at 4pm, and then the Huskers will play their game at 7pm.  Be prepared and leave earlier than you normally would.

Sorry for the short recap!  It's been a busy week for me at work, so not a lot of blogging time.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.