Thursday, February 12, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Chicago Steel

The Lincoln Stars will be back at the IceBox once again this weekend looking to snap out of their current funk with back-to-back games against the USHL eastern conference Chicago Steel.

Pucks drops at 7:05pm CST for the Friday, and Saturday games.

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 Stars enter this weekend with a record of 13-21-5 (31 points) and are in last place in the USHL western conference.  Lincoln is 2-8-1 in their last 11 games, and those two wins came after regulation.  Their last regulation win was more than one month ago on January 3rd against Madison (a 3-2 victory).  Lincoln's current winning percentage of .397% is dead last in the USHL.  Click here to view the current league standings.

Lincoln's only opponent this weekend, the Chicago Steel, are in seventh place in the nine-team USHL eastern conference with a record of 17-19-3 (37 points).  This will be only two times the Stars and Steel will face one another in the 2014-15 regular season.  

The Steel are a better road team than they are a home team, based on their stats through 39 games this season.  Chicago has a 5-8-1 home record, but for a seventh place team, they have an impressive 12-11-2 road record.  The Steel are 4-3-1 in their last eight road games.  Chicago has lost two straight games heading into their weekend series with Lincoln.

Don't be confused when you look at Lincoln's schedule on Poinstreak.  See the screenshot below.  Although it shows the Friday game as being in Chicago, it is obviously not.  The Stars bought that game from the Steel so they could have back-to-back home games.  So even though Friday's game will be played at the IceBox, technically it will be a road game for the Stars.  Clear as mud.

Inline image 1

The big news out of the Windy City this week was a change made at the top of the Steel coaching staff.  Head coach and GM Scott McConnell was fired by the team yesterday.  Click here and here to read more about that.  McConnell took over as the Steel head coach very late in the 2010-11 season.  In parts of five seasons with the Steel, McConnell had a career record of 100-124-16 in Chicago and his teams never made the USHL Clark Cup playoffs.

Scott McConnell was actually a name I heard quite a bit when rumors were flying around last spring when the Lincoln Stars were searching for a head coach.  I can't say whether or not the Stars were interested in McConnell at the time, but it was a name I heard more than others.  Again, it was just a rumor and you know how people like talk.

So the first two games the Steel will play in the post-Scott McConnell era will come this weekend at the IceBox.  It will be interesting to see how the Steel players respond to such a big change in personnel.  According to the articles linked above, assistant coach Dan Boeser (a former USHL player) will take over as interim head coach for the Steel.

Like many prior years with Chicago Steel teams, this year's squad has very good depth at the forward position.  The Steel have 8 players who have scored at least 20 points so far this season.  Chicago leading scorer Mason Bergh is tied for 3rd in USHL scoring with 44 points (17g, 27a) in 33 games, while Fredrik Olofsson isn't too far behind with 38 points (18g, 20a) in 36 games.

Steel forward Robby Jackson, whom is probably the most talented forward on the roster and a surefire NHL draft pick in 2015, is coming back from a recent injury that forced him out of the lineup for about two months in December and January.  Jackson has scored 4 points (2g, 2a) in five games since his return from the injured reserve list.  Robby was the USHL Rookie of the Year last season with 42 points (28g, 14a) in 60 games.  The St. Cloud State commit is certainly a player the Stars will want to key on when he is on the ice.

As for the Stars, they are coming off yet another disappointing weekend in which they lost back-to-back games at the IceBox against the Tri-City Storm and the Bloomington Thunder.  They have not put a full 60 minute effort together in at least a month or two.  At this point of the season, the playoffs are out of the question, but I'm hoping they aren't using that as an excuse to allow the season to fall completely apart.  Personal pride should be something they can rally around.

Stars defenseman Dylan Woolf was suspended three games by the USHL due to his high-sticking major against the Tri-City Storm on 1/6/15.  Woolf served the first game of his three-game suspension last Saturday against Bloomington, so he will be out of the lineup for both tilts against Chicago this weekend.

These are two teams really struggling right now to find their identity, so it will be interesting to see what happens this weekend at the IceBox.  

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

No comments: