Thursday, January 15, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo Force

The Lincoln Stars are back at the IceBox this Friday and Saturday evening for a crucial weekend series against the Fargo Force, the team directly ahead of them in the western conference standings.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

If you're unable to attend either of the two games this weekend at the IceBox, 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 14-13-5 (33 points), and are currently in sixth place in the USHL western conference, seven points ahead of the seventh place Lincoln Stars who have three games in hand over Fargo.  Click here to view the current league standings.

This will be the third and fourth meetings between these two teams so far this season.  The Stars are 1-0-1 in the two prior matchups with the Force.  These two games in Lincoln this weekend will be the last time the two teams meet in the 2014-15 USHL regular season.  Kind of surprising that Lincoln and Fargo will only meet four times this season.

The Force are a bit of enigma after you dig a little deeper statistically.  Their win-loss record of 14-13-5 is actually pretty decent considering they are -19 in goals for (76) and goals against (95).  

Offensively, the Force are not very good at all.  Their 76 total goals in 32 games is dead last in the USHL.  As a team, their shooting percentage of .085 is second worst in the entire USHL, only behind the Waterloo Blackhawks (.082).  Lincoln's shooting percentage of .102% is actually very good, surprisingly so considering their lackluster offense at times this season.  The problem with the Stars has been more with getting shots on goal and not shooting percentage.  However, you could argue that Lincoln's shooting percentage with go down with more shots on goal.  

Getting back to Fargo....

This is also a team that feasts at home, but starves on the road.  The Force are 10-4-2 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, but they are only 4-9-3 on the road.  Two of those four road wins came against the worst team in the USHL, the Waterloo Blackhawks, a team that only has 3 home wins.

Fargo averages 2.75 goals scored per game at home, but only 2.00 goals scored per game on the road.  Fargo averages 32.5 shots on goal per game at home, but only 23.6 shots on goal per game on the road.

So considering the ugly statistics above, especially those on the road, how are the Force only four points out of a playoff spot in the USHL western conference?  From what I can tell it's two things: team discipline and goaltending.

With only 460 penalty minutes accrued in 32 games played (14.4 PIM's per game), the Force are the second least penalized team in the USHL.  So the Force don't give teams very many opportunities to score powerplay goals.  Going along with that, Fargo's penalty kill unit is rated in the top third of the league at 83.74%.

The goaltending duo of Mathias Israelsson and Robbie Beydoun have combined to put up some stingy numbers so far this season (14-13-5, 2.97 goals against average, .916 save percentage).  That combined .916 save percentage is actually second best in the USHL, only behind Cedar Rapids (.923%).

Israelsson is the #1 starter for Fargo, but Beydoun has put up some good numbers as a USHL rookie.  Beydoun's road statistics (2-3-1, 2.64 gaa, .932 save %) are actually better than Israelsson's (2-6-2, 3.39 gaa, .909 save %).  

As for the Stars, they are coming off an up and couple of games this past weekend which included a dramatic come-from-behind OT win against Omaha, and then a disappointing blowout road loss in Dubuque.  As good and gutsy as the Stars looked last Friday night versus Omaha, they looked just as lethargic and lost against the Fighting Saints.  Consistent play is still a big issue with this Lincoln team.

Friday evening's game should be the debut of Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price who was recently acquired by the Stars earlier this week.  Click here to read more about that acquisition.  I assume Ethan will be in the starting lineup on Friday, and possibly Saturday as well.  I mean, considering the circumstances, how could he not start?  It will be fun to hear IceBox PA announcer Craig Estudillo for the first time say "From Lincoln, Nebraska...." during the opening lineups.

Looking forward to it!  In my opinion, if the Stars are serious about fighting for a playoff spot in the west this season, they need to win both games this weekend in regulation.  No extra points for the Force.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

enjoyed your page
one question we have a lot this team Go Stars.. Why are we NOT using some of the New Talent brought in ,, Gambardella is one hell of a hockey player Strong on the puck Fast to get to it .. just not getting time , new kid paying dues . sad play the talent at least move him up in the lines see what he got ,, Oh well its all good we are a young team that is ready to bust out at any time ,,Remember when you look up notice the STARS ,, go Lincoln