|Ludvig Hoff celebrates after scoring one of his two goals|
Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
1/2: Bloomington 2, Lincoln 3
1/3: Madison 2, Lincoln 3
The weekend sweep, coupled with Waterloo's two losses, allowed the Stars the pull themselves out of last place in the USHL's western conference and into seventh place with a record of 10-13-4 (24 points).
The Stars are now only 6 points out of fifth place in the USHL western conference, and 9 points out of fourth place (playoff eligible). Lincoln also has at least two games in hand over five of the six teams ahead of them in the standings. Click here to view the current league standings.
Bloomington 2, Lincoln 3
Ludvig Hoff's two goals, and Biagio Lerario's game winner on a powerplay powered the Lincoln Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Bloomington Thunder this past Friday night at the IceBox.
Hoff got the Stars on the scoreboard first thanks to a nifty assist from Grant Jozefek at the 9:36 mark of the first period. On the play, Jozefek had possession of the puck deep in the Bloomington zone and it appeard he would skate it behind the net. However at the last second, Jozefek fired a blind, forehand pass back into the slot and Hoff shot it past Thunder goaltender David Jacobson.
The 1-0 Lincoln lead only lasted 51 seconds as the Thunder took advantage of a Stars penalty to score a powerplay goal to knot the game at 1-0.
The score would remain at 1-1 at the first intermission. Lincoln outshot Madison 11-8 in the first period.
Early in the second period, Ludvig Hoff would strike again to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead at the 1:55 mark of the period. On the play, a Tye Ausmus shot from the point missed the net, but Hoff immediately corralled the rebound and skated it around the net before getting the wraparound goal. Thunder goaltender David Jacobson looked lost on the play and could not get back to his far post in time to save the Hoff shot.
Eight minutes after Hoff's second goal of the game the Thunder scored at the 9:56 mark to tie the game at 2-2.
The game winning goal, as I mentioned above, came from Biagio Lerario on a powerplay with 2:11 remaining in the second period. On the play, Stars defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk fired the puck on net from just inside the blueline in the Bloomington zone, and Lerario deflected the puck past Jacobson to give Lincoln a 3-2 lead. Lerario was standing about 8 feet in front of Jacobson and did a great job getting a piece of the puck with his stuck to deflect it into the open net.
Stars took the 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Shots on goal in the second period favored Bloomington, 12-8.
The Thunder outshot the Stars 11-5 in the third period, but Lincoln goaltender Cam Hackett stood tall, stopping all 11 shots to preserve the 3-2 victory for his team. Hackett stopped 29 of 31 to record his 7th win of the season. Bloomington Thunder goaltender David Jacobson stopped 21 of 24 in the loss.
The Stars were 1-for-2 on the powerplay, while the Thunder were 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
The line of Grant Jozefek-Ludvig Hoff-Michael Gillespie combined for two goals and four assists in the win against the Thunder.
This game was a bit sloppy at times by both clubs, but it was great to watch the Stars battle through a couple of lost leads to take the final lead of the game and hold onto it in the third period for the two points.
Madison 2, Lincoln 3
Lincoln snapped Madison's five-game road winning streak with a workmanlike 3-2 victory over the Capitols this past Saturday night at the IceBox.
I was not able to attend this game in person, but I did catch all of it on FASTHockey.
Blake Christensen opened up the scoring with his fifth goal of the season at the 10:09 mark of the first period. On the play, Dominick Sacco fought off a couple of Madison defenders behind their own net before throwing a pass out into the slot where Christensen was camped out. Blake's first shot on net was saved by Capitols goaltender Darren Smith, but the rebound came right out to Christensen again and his second attempt found the back of the net.
Lincoln took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Capitols outshot the Stars 12-8 in the first period.
In the second period, each team scored two goals with Lincoln opening and closing the period with a goal. Biagio Lerario scored his second goal of the weekend, both on the powerplay, at the 2:05 mark of the second. Much like Lincoln's first goal, the Stars did a good job of cycling the puck in the Madison zone before Joe Lappin quickly sent a pass from behind the goal line out to Lerario in the slot who one-timed it past Smith to give Lincoln a 2-0 lead.
The Caps fought back two two straight goals of their own scored in less than four minutes in the middle of the second period.
With the score knotted up at 2-2, Patrick Polino stepped up to score what would turn out to be the game winner at the 13:54 mark of the second period. On the play, the Stars kept possession of the puck in the Madison zone and did a great job once again cycling the puck around. This was an even-strength goal, but the Stars really worked the puck around like they were on a powerplay. Wyatt Kalynuk fed the puck from just inside the blueline over to Polino who skated in a few strides to the top of the circle before ripping a shot past a screened Smith to give Lincoln a 3-2 lead.
Just like Friday night, the Stars took a one goal lead into the third period against Madison and kept it to earn the two points. The Capitols outshot Lincoln 12-4 in the third period but once again, Cam Hackett stood tall. With about one minute left in the game, with the Stars fighting to keep that one goal lead, Hackett made an absolutely incredible diving stick save to preserve the win. The Stars posted video of the save, which I will include below.
Hackett stopped 29 of 31 shots on goal for the win, but for some reason he was not one of the three stars of the game. Not sure how that can happen when you consider the amount of big saves he made in the third period to keep Lincoln in the lead. Regardless, it was Cam's fourth straight win for the Stars. In his last five starts, Cam is 4-1-0 with a 2.20 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
Lincoln went 1-for-3 on the powerplay, while Madison was 0-for-2.
Overall, this was a great win for the Stars to build on. Madison had been playing very well as of late, especially on the road. The players should be very proud of their effort.
The theme of the weekend in my opinion was the Stars making the very most of their offensive opportunities, despite the low shots on goal. Lincoln converted 6 goals on 49 shots over the weekend, which is a respectable .122 shooting percentage. It was also encouraging to see the Stars score the first goal of each game this weekend, which is something they've struggled with a bit this season. The Stars never trailed in either of the two games, also.
These two wins this weekend sets up what could be the biggest game of the season so far for Lincoln this upcoming Friday when they host the red-hot Omaha Lancers at the IceBox. Games between these two teams are always intense, regardless of their respective records, but the Lancers are riding an incredible nine game winning streak. Just a couple of months ago, Omaha was in dead last in the USHL western conference. Now they are only three points out of first place. As always, it should be an incredible atmosphere at the IceBox this Friday when these two teams butt heads.
Thanks for reading. Go Stars.