Sunday, January 11, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 1/9 & 1/10

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
The weekend started with a bang for the Lincoln Stars, but unfortunately it ended with a whimper.  The Stars beat the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox on Friday night in an overtime thriller by the score of 5-4, but then were embarrassed in Dubuque by the Fighting Saints on Saturday evening by a score of 7-1.

1/9:  Omaha 4, Lincoln 5 OT
1/10:  Lincoln 1, Dubuque 7

After the split weekend, the Stars have a record of 11-14-4 (26 points) and are still in seventh place in the USHL western conference.

Lincoln is 5 points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks, and 6 points behind the sixth place Fargo Force.  The Force will come to Lincoln this next weekend for back-to-back games.  More on that important weekend series later in this article.

Click here to view the current league standings.

Omaha 4, Lincoln 5 OT

Ludvig Hoff's overtime goal with only 36 seconds remaining in overtime powered the Lincoln Stars to a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox on Friday night.  The win snapped Omaha's nine-game winning streak.

The Lancers got out to a quick 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the first period, and it wasn't looking good for the Stars.  However, Michael Gillespie's powerplay goal at the 12:04 mark of the opening stanza gave the Stars some life and got the raucous IceBox crowd back into the game.

The score would remain 2-1 in favor of Lincoln at the first intermission.  Shots were 9-6 in favor of Omaha through the first twenty minutes.

Michael Gillespie made it two goals on the night at the 1:39 mark of the second period to even the score at 2-2.  Coming into this game, Gillespie had not scored a goal in 12 straight games, but his two goals Friday night snapped that streak in a big way.

Lincoln and Omaha were all tied up at 2-2 heading into a crucial third period.  The Stars outshot the Lancers 11-9 in the second period.

Just like in the first period, the Lancers got out to a quick start with two timely goals within the first 8 minutes to take a 4-2 lead.  Some time may have rolled over and played dead at that point, but the Stars played their best hockey of the game during the remainder of regulation and overtime.  Watching from the stands, it was as if the Stars turned a switch at once and completely took over the game.  It was impressive to watch.

The rally was started first from a powerplay goal from Ryan Jones at the 12:21 mark of the third period to bring the Stars to within one goal.   Then, very late in the period with the Stars scrambling to score the tying goal, newly acquired forward Waltteri Hopponen proved to be the hero with his first goal in a Stars uniform with only 1:44 remaining in regulation to knot the match at 4-4.  The crowd went absolutely nuts.

After an undisciplined double minor penalty in overtime by Omaha defenseman Michael Bigelbach, Stars forward Ludvig Hoff fired a bad angle shot from the bottom of one of the faceoff circles past Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll to send the home crowd into hysterics.  As loud as it was after Hopponen's goal, it was even louder after Hoff's game-winner.  What.  A.  Game.

I made a couple of Vines for the Hopponen goal, and the Hoff goal which I'll link below.  The quality of the video stinks, so be warned.  It's better than nothing I guess.
Hopponen's game-tying goal
Hoff's game-winning goal

Speaking of Vines, here's one of Stars goaltender Cam Hackett making a game-saving stop in the third period.  Greg McCubbins of the Stars posted this one.  Hackett's game-saving stop

Lincoln outshot Omaha 35-31 in this game.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 31 shot on goal to record his 9th win of the season, and his fifth straight.  The Stars won the special teams war by going 3-for-5 on the powerplay while limiting the Lancers to just 1 powerplay goal in four opportunities.

Stars forwards Ludvig Hoff (1g, 3a) and Michael Gillespie (2g, 2a) each finished with four points a piece.  The Hoff-Jozefek-Gillespie line was fantastic in this game.

Those of you who are reading this who were at the game will agree that this was one of the best Omaha-Lincoln games at the IceBox in a long, long time.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric.  There's no doubt in my mind that the Omaha-Lincoln rivalry is the best in the USHL, and maybe in all of junior hockey.  As a Stars fan, there are no better highs than beating the Omaha Lancers at home in front of a rowdy IceBox crowd.

Stars head coach Chris Hartsburg finally got the monkey off his back and got his first win against the team he played junior hockey for back in the day.  I'm sure he was pretty happy about that.

Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
Lincoln 1, Dubuque 7

The Stars had nothing left in their tank after the big win on Friday night, so the Fighting Saints took full advantage of that with a 7-1 drubbing of Lincoln in Dubuque, iA

I'm not going to devote a lot of time to this recap for obvious reasons.  As well as Lincoln played on Friday night, they played just as badly against Dubuque.

Lincoln's only goal in this game was scored by Ludvig Hoff, which came on a powerplay with 2:02 remaining in the second period.

Hoff would later be on the receiving end of a big hit in the waning moments of the second period and would not return for the third period.  I'm really, really hoping Ludvig is ok.  He's playing the best hockey of his Stars career the past couple of weeks.  The Stars definitely need him on the ice.

Stars goaltender Peyton Jones got the start in this game but was pulled after giving up the fourth Dubuque goal in favor of Cam Hackett.  Jones finished with 14 saves on 18 shots on goal, while Hackett stopped 14 of 17 in relief.  Neither goaltender played particularly well, but it certainly wasn't all on them.  The Stars didn't play well at all in front of Jones or Hackett, leaving them out to dry on more than a few occasions.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night while I was watching this game on FASTHockey, but the Saints were playing chess while the Stars were playing checkers.  That's the best way I can describe how this game evolved.  I'm just happy that's the last time Lincoln plays Dubuque this season.  The Saints are one of the most fundamentally sound teams I've seen so far this season.

The Stars have to put this loss away and start preparing for two big home games this weekend against the Fargo Force.  If the Stars want to move up further in the western conference standings and be a legitimate playoff threat, they'll need to win both games against a Fargo club that is only six points ahead of them.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

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