Monday, February 2, 2015

B³ Weekend Recap: 1/30 & 1/31

Peyton Jones - Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography
It was another up-and-down weekend for the Lincoln Stars as they split their series against the Des Moines Buccaneers with an overtime shootout win, and a regulation loss at the IceBox.

1/30:  Des Moines 2, Lincoln 3 OT shootout
1/31:  Des Moines 3, Lincoln 1

Lincoln earned 2 points over the weekend and now have a record of 13-19-5 (31 points) and are still in seventh place in the USHL western conference, two points ahead of the last place Waterloo Blackhawks (29 points).

The Stars are currently 12 points out of a playoff spot in the western conference, with 23 games left in the regular season.  The Stars are 2-3-0 in five games against Des Moines this season so far.  Click here to view the current league standings.

As has been the case all too often this season, consistency was Lincoln's main issue this past weekend.  On Friday, I thought the Stars played pretty well considering they were going against a Bucs team playing pretty well and fighting to stay relevant in the USHL western conference playoff race.  Lincoln was rewarded with two points for their effort on Friday evening.  However, on Saturday it almost felt like it was a different team that I was watching as the Bucs controlled the game from beginning to end to win in regulation.

1/30:  Des Moines 2, Lincoln 3 OT shootout

Before this game was five minutes old, the Stars got behind after a Bucs powerplay goal made it 1-0.  Heading into this game, the Bucs had done very well on the PP against the Stars, scoring 7 times in 17 opportunities (41% success rate on the PP).

Despite the slow start, the Stars responded with two goals in the remaining 3:39 of the first period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.  Ethan Price got the Stars on the board with a very pretty goal at the 16:21 mark to knot the score at 1-1.  After a turnover in the Bucs' zone, Price skated in and got possession of the puck before firing a laser past Des Moines goaltender Ryland Pashovitz.  It was a quick, bang-bang play that Price finished in a hurry with a tremendous shot.  The goal was Price's first in a Lincoln Stars uniform.  Nice to see him get that first USHL goal out of the way.

Stars forward Michael Gillespie added another goal with only 40 seconds remaining in the first period to give Lincoln a 2-1 lead and all of the momentum heading into the first intermission.  Shots in the first period were 14-9 in favor of Lincoln.  I thought it was probably Lincoln's best period of the entire weekend.

Both teams went scoreless in the second period with the Bucs outshooting the Stars 14-10.

In the third period, the Bucs notched the intensity up a bit and were finally rewarded with the game-tying goal with only 4:10 remaining in regulation on a fluke play.

Neither team scored in the five-minute overtime period, so it went to a skills competition to name a winner.  In the shootout, Stars forwards Biagio Lerario and Ludvig Hoff both scored, while Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones stopped two of the three shooters he faced to get the two points.

Shots were even at 36 a piece for each club.  Des Moines went 1-for-5 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-3.

The #1 star of this game was definitely Lincoln goaltender Peyton Jones who stopped 34 of 36 shots on goal to get the win, his fourth of the season.  As was a common theme this weekend, without Jones' play, this definitely could have ended much worse for Lincoln.

Overall, I thought Lincoln was the better team for the majority of this game and deserved the two points.  There were some times, especially in the third period, that the Bucs took over control of the pace of this game, but in the end the Stars found a way to hold on and get the two points.

1/31:  Des Moines 3, Lincoln 1

In what I thought was one of their worst efforts in front of the home crowd this season, the Stars put it on autopilot and let the Bucs skate to an easy 3-1 victory.

Honestly, I really don't know if I want to go into a whole lot of detail with this particular game.  I worry that I sound too negative as of late, and I don't like feeling that way.  I don't want to pile on after a bad loss like this.  Nobody wants to read that.

Lincoln's only goal in this game, which was shorthanded, came from Joe Lappin with only 31 seconds remaining in the third period to spoil Bucs goaltender Ryan Ruck's shutout attempt.  That was really the only positive from this game.  Lincoln wasn't shutout.

I didn't see any sense of urgency from the Stars in this game.  None.  As one Stars fan on Twitter told me, "this is not the team that played last night."  It's like they flipped a switch.

Without Peyton Jones in net, this could have easily been a 6-1 or 7-1 type of game.  The final score was definitely not a good indication of how close the game was.  The Stars were never in it.

Consistency has been one of Lincoln's biggest problems this season, and that was definitely on display this weekend.  There are games in which this team can play with and beat the top teams in the USHL.  There's no doubt about that.  However, there are other games they wouldn't beat most NAHL teams.  Mentally, physically, they are not there.  Why and how that happens, I have no idea.  Someone much smarter than me can answer that question.

Owner Ryan Schiff was interviewed on the radio by Stars announcer Mike Melbye after this game, and he brought up the fact that Lincoln has one of the youngest teams in the USHL when talking about the Stars' struggles as of late.  I mentioned this on Twitter, but considering the lack of improvement through 30+ games so far this season, I'm not sure I'm buying the youngest team in the league excuse anymore.  I know he wants the best for this franchise and I'm sure he's just as frustrated as we all are.  This is an organization used to winning hockey, and making the postseason every season.  As a fan, I suppose I wouldn't be as frustrated if I saw improvement from day one, even if it was a gradual improvement.  You could argue this team has regressed, actually.  Anyway, I'm rambling so I'll cut my rant short.

The Stars will continue their long homestand this upcoming weekend with games against Tri-City (Friday) and Bloomington (Saturday).  More on those two games later this week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.


Anonymous said...

I can't remember the last night I left a home game before it ended but I did it on Saturday. That was beyond embarrassing. I'm glad the new owner was there to see it.

nutz4puckz said...

I don't think you are being negative at all, it's just getting frustrating to see this group do the same things over and over, night after night. I have said it before and will again, that I really expected them to struggle at the start of the season but to get better as the year progressed. Right now it seems like one step forward and then one step back. Not really sure what the issues are, but just hoping they get them figured out soon and can start moving this thing forward.

lincolnfan said...

i also am no longer buying the 'young team' excuse. sometimes i wonder how teams like Omaha can start out the season so bad but manage to turn it around and be in the run for the playoffs. why aren't we able to do that? it obviously can be done. it is a long season and i don't think there is any excuse for continuing to make the same mistakes and showing no signs of improvement. it is not even so much that we are losing games, it's how we are losing them... showing no sense of urgency or anything.

i agree with you Yeti, i think the only reason we aren't seeing more 8-1 or 7-1 games is that our goaltending is actually decent. that's about the only thing that doesn't need some serious improvement. someone else mentioned this, but we don't seem to be trying to make any adjustments.. for example, we run the powerplay the same every game even though it obviously doesn't work. i don't get the sense that these are mistakes that will go away in a month or two; we seem to play each game about the same when obviously that system isn't working.

sorry for the rant. i am not meaning to criticize the players (or the coaches), i know they want to win more than any of us fans. i'm just a fan who wants the team to do well, and it just seems like we need to wake up and make some changes and get this figured out.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely been a frustrating season so far for Stars fans, I can only imagine how the players and management feel at this point.
I don't like to sound negative either, but right now the only bright spot I see on this team is the goaltending. On paper I know it looks like we give up a lot of goals, and we do, but thats because opposing teams spend so much time in our zone and rack up shot after shot (it's literally like target practice sometimes).
Yes we're younger, more inexperienced, and a bit smaller than most teams but I really thought we'd be showing improvement by now. We're still playing poor defense and not generating much offense. Gotta think some big changes are on the way, just hope management figures it out soon.
Go Stars!

Anonymous said...

I also don't think you're being too negative, yeti. As a fan watching at the Ice Box I think we've all seen how inconsistent this team has been. I'm no expert so I have no idea what the problem is. Whatever it is I hope it changes soon. That game on Saturday was really bad. I left early also. No sense in sticking around if the players didn't want to be there.

Jason O said...

The issue, especially of late is lack of defense and turnovers in their own zone.

Average shots against by month:
Oct - 29.2
Nov - 35.1
Dec - 37.5 (!)
Jan - 34.3

Also consider, LNK is 4th in the league in PIM and 3rd to last in PK%, another contributor to increased shots against. They're middle of the pack in time shorthanded, but near the bottom in PP goals against, meaning they're getting scored on *earlier* in the PP, i.e. defense.

For a team coming in preaching possession and discipline, this isn't showing up on the ice and it's what's killing them.

Please don't take that as an indirect slam on our defensemen. That can be system as much as anything.

Yeti said...

Thanks for those stats, Jason. Interesting stuff.

I didn't realize how bad Lincoln's SOG against totals were from month to month. That definitely hasn't improved at all.

Surprised also to see that Lincoln is 4th in the league in PIM. I wouldn't have expected that.

JARHEAD said...

The thing that i notice is that we have a GM and a Head coach and int he past that has never worked in this league, the coach should be calling the shots or we will end up what the Lumberjacks use to be instead of what the Stars should be. Ever team in this league rebuilds every year so that's not a reason but just a excuse of what is going on. I really think this coach has the passion and knowledge to build a very good team but if he has no control it will never happen. if the GM and Coach thing worked every team in the league would use this system, but it doesn't. OK rant over now hopefully the boys will find a way to dig deep and turn it around for the rest of the season, as a longtime season ticket holder i will always believe and yell for the Stars regardless of the record. GO STARS