|Courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photography|
3/20: Team USA 11, Lincoln 3
3/21: Team USA 8, Lincoln 0
The Lincoln Stars are still in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 16-32-5 (37 points).
I attended the Friday night game, but I was unable to attend Saturday's contest. If you attended the game on Saturday, I'd appreciate if you would leave a comment below and let me know how the team looked.
Team USA 11, Lincoln 3
It was a dubious record the Stars didn't want to see broken but it happened anyway as the U-18's scored the most goals against Lincoln in one game in franchise history with a 11-3 drubbing Friday night at the IceBox. The previous record for goals against at home was 8 goals, which last occurred during the 2009-10 season.
There wasn't much doubt that the U-18's were going to win this one after the puck was dropped. They put on a clinic. Most of the first period was played in Lincoln's end, and the U-18's outshot the Stars 15-5 and outscored them 2-0 in the opening twenty minutes.
The U-18's scored the first five goals of this game before Lincoln got on the scoreboard. With only 1:42 remaining in the second period, Biagio Lerario scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season. Lerario's goal gave the home fans something to cheer about heading into the second intermission.
In the third period, the U-18's scored first before the Stars went on a mini two-goal run. Down 6-1, the Stars scored two goals in less than a minute just before the halfway point of the third period. Ludvig Hoff's powerplay goal at the 8:53 mark started the mini run, and Chris Gambardella's even-strength goal at the 9:46 mark pulled the Stars to within three goals.
Unfortunately for the Stars and the home fans, it quickly went south after that. The U-18's went on a five-goal unanswered streak for the remainder of the third period to finish out the scoring at 11-3.
Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 27 of 38 shots on goal in the loss. U-18 goaltender Jake Oettinger, who normally plays on the U-17 team, didn't see much action as he stopped 14 of 17 shots on goal to get the win.
Team USA went 1-for-4 on the powerplay while the Stars went 1-for-3.
I mentioned this on Twitter this past Friday night, but I also want to mention it here. I was really disappointed in how the coaches left Cam Hackett in net for this entire game. I really thought at the end of the 2nd period, or maybe after the first goal or two scored in the third period, Cam should have been pulled. That's not an indictment at all on Cam's play. It was a shooting gallery out there for Team USA. Cam wasn't getting any help at all.
You could tell that Hackett was getting pretty upset in the third period as the Team USA goals piled up. I don't blame him at all. I guess I don't understand the philosophy of keeping your goaltender in there to get shelled like that. I doubt it helped his self esteem. Why keep him in there for all 11 goals? I'm just an idiot with a blog, but I would have liked to see it handled differently by the coaches. I, along with any Stars fans on Twitter, were very disappointed with how that went down.
Team USA 8, Lincoln 0
For the second time this season, the Stars were shutout at home as the U-18's skated to a 8-0 blowout victory on Saturday evening.
I don't have much to post about this game since I wasn't there. Based on the boxscore, and the amount of goals against, it appears that the Stars may have played better in this game compared to Friday night. The Stars actually outshot the U-18's 23-22 in the final two periods, but unfortunately there were outscored 6-0 in those forty minutes.
Peyton Jones got the start for Lincoln and stopped 28 of 36 in the loss. U-18 goaltender Luke Opilka stopped all 32 shots he faced to record the shutout.
The U-18's definitely won the special teams war in this particular game as Team USA went 3-for-4 on the powerplay while the Stars were 0-for-6.
The Stars wore special jerseys designed by trainer Corey Courtney in this game, and those jerseys were auctioned off afterwards with the proceeds going to the American Cancer society. They Stars haven't posted the individual jersey totals, but the grand total raised was $20,850. Lincoln, NE native Ethan Price's jersey was the priciest jersey auctioned off, going for $3500.
In the past six seasons, the Lincoln Stars have raised a total of $224,125 for the American Cancer Society with their annual end of the season jersey auction. That's an incredible number. The Stars have just about raised a quarter of a million dollars for the ACS in just the past six years. Amazing. I'll post the totals from the past six seasons below.
I think most fans knew that these two games against the U-18's were really going to be tough for the Stars. In my opinion, if these two games were played back in October or November, the scores wouldn't have been so bad. The Stars were playing better hockey back then, and the NTDP hadn't really had much time to gel. Playing the U-18's this late in the season is a killer. By now, the U-18's have played against a ton of USHL, college, and international teams and are very seasoned.
Unfortunately, the Stars have seemed to regress as this season went along, and the U-18's are on top of their game. That's not a good combination. The two scores from this past weekend are evident of that. Team USA U-18's best player, forward Auston Matthews, finished with 6 points (3g, 3a) and was +6 in the two games against Lincoln. He is definitely for real. A lot of hockey scouts think he could be the #1 overal pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
The Stars will go on the road this upcoming weekend with two games in Green Bay, WI against the Gamblers. These two games will likely determine which team finishes last in the USHL overall standings. Currently, the Stars have 37 points with 7 games remaining, while the Gamblers have 39 points with 7 games remaining. More on that series later this week.
Thanks for reading. Go Stars.