Monday, April 13, 2015

The Long Goodbye

I know this will come as a surprise to most, but I am shutting down the B³ blog.  There will be no more blog updates, effective today.  6 years, 2 months and 1,363 blog articles later, I'm closing up shop.

Shutting down the blog is something I've been thinking about for awhile now.  Before anyone asks, it has absolutely nothing to do with this past season.  My close friends can attest to that because I told them before the season even started that this was likely the blog's last season.

I think it's time to move on.  I've noticed in the last year or so that the blog just hasn't been that much fun for me.  My heart is just not in it.  I wish it wasn't that way, but that's just how it is.  I always told myself that when it's not fun anymore it's time to shut it all down.  It's been a great ride but I'm ready to concentrate on other things.

When I started this blog back in February 2009, never in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow into what it is today.  My intentions at the time were to create a place online to post my thoughts after each Stars game.  I certainly didn't think at the time there would be a lot of people interested in reading my inane ramblings.

But it grew and grew....thanks to all of you.  When the local paper's coverage of the Stars continued to disappear, we grew even larger.  I'm really proud of what WE built here.  Stars fans are ravenous.  They want to know more than just the final score.  Over the years, I tried to give them what they deserve, which is more than just a few sentences from the paper from someone who wasn't even there, or a link to a boxscore.

When writing blog articles, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the common Stars fan.  What would they want to know about a game, a trade, draft, tryout camp, etc?  What information, not provided to them by the team or the local paper, would be something they'd be interested in?  At the same time, I tried to write from the perspective of a fan.  I never portrayed myself as part of the organization.  I didn't want to be influenced by other entities.  If the Stars didn't play well, I said just that.  I didn't want to just blog about puppy dogs and rainbows.  Although I was quick to offer constructive criticism, I was also quick to praise when I saw the Stars play well.

So I hope I was able to give the fans something they found useful.  I'm certainly no expert, but I'd like to think I've watched and played enough hockey over the years to successfully impart my thoughts and feelings about the sport on this blog.

Without a doubt, the absolute best part of the growth of this blog has been the opportunity to meet and befriend so many great people over the years.  I am truly, truly blessed in that regard.  Stars staff, players, parents, family members, fans, fans of other USHL teams, etc.  This blog has allowed me to build friendships that I'm sure will last the rest of my life.  I am eternally grateful for that.

I thought about asking around to see if any Stars fan(s) out there wants to take over the blog, but I think the best decision is to shut it down.  I'd hate to have someone take it over and then flake out on the responsibility.  I'll probably keep the site up for the next couple of years, but I suppose eventually I will not pay the fee to renew the domain.  A lot of time and effort went into the 1,363 articles posted here and I'd hate to have to delete it all tomorrow.

I'll shut down the blog's Facebook account, but I will keep the Twitter account open.  I love Twitter too much to walk away from that.  However, I will change the blog's Twitter account to my personal one.

I have a ton of people to thank, so let's get right to that.

Big thanks go out to the original Stars' front office staff:  Jim Pflug, Steve Zoucha, Jen Morand, and Micki Buhrman.  When this blog was in its infancy, they could have easily ignored me.  When I had questions, each one of them were always responsive, kind, considerate, and informative.  Jim Pflug was great to "work" with and was always accommodating considering my role as an unofficial blogger.  Jim and his staff never made me feel like an idiot with a blog, when that's really what I was (and still am).  Micki, especially, continues to be the heart and soul of the Lincoln Stars.  You aren't going to find a more beloved front office member than Micki.  Always friendly, always courteous, and always willing to help.  Micki is, quite simply, the best.

I really didn't get a chance to "work" with much of the new Stars staff, but Jon Hull was someone that was very friendly to me from the beginning and open to questions when I had them.  I wish him nothing but success in building something special here in Lincoln.

Thanks to Brandon Anderson (BA Photos) and Barb V. (Shooting Stars Photos) for allowing me to share their incredible photography on this blog.  Words are ok, but being able to share game photos on this blog really helped me convey my message to all of you out there in Stars Nation.  Both are extremely skilled at what they do and I am proud to have shared their work here.

Big thanks to Brian Werger, Director of Communications for the USHL.  Just like the majority of the original Stars' staff, Brian never treated me like an outsider.  Whenever I had a question about anything, he was quick to respond.  The USHL is lucky to have Brian on their team.

Thanks to Stars radio announcer and historian Mike Melbye for his support of the blog.  Like everyone else with the Stars, Mike could have ignored the blog but he has always a big supporter and has asked for my input on certain things, which is appreciated.

College hockey/NHL journalists such as Chris Dilks, Brad Schlossman, and Chris Peters are guys whom I respect a ton, and I really appreciate all of their support over the years.  Each of them were always open to questions when I had them.  Scouts such as Andrew Weiss and Dan Schrader are two guys I respect a lot as well and have valued their opinions.

Behind the scenes, there are a number of people whom I can't thank publicly but they know who they are. These are people I exchanged emails/notes with almost daily.  A lot of these people would keep me informed of Stars related news to make sure I hadn't missed anything.  Keeping Stars Nation informed of the latest news can be a lot of work, but these friends helped me out tremendously.

My good friend, Scott C., from Omaha is someone I met because of the blog and he has helped me with a lot of graphics stuff behind the scenes.  Scott and his wife commute from Omaha for every Stars home game. You won't find two more committed Stars fans than them.  Much thanks to Scott for his help and more importantly, his friendship.

Although I only met Jason O. recently, he has helped me with a lot of Stars related stuff behind the scenes on the blog.  He has been a great resource and someone with whom I could bounce ideas around.

Thanks to my valued friend, Ryan W., who is someone I met through hockey about 10 years ago or so.  Ryan's "Unofficial USHL Blog" had a huge influence on me, and was a big reason why I decided to create this blog back in February, 2009.

Huge thanks goes to my friend, Nate (aka BellTolls), who has helped me with the blog since almost the beginning.  A lot of what he helped with was the behind the scenes stuff, but his assistance and friendship over the years has been invaluable.

Without the love, support, and patience from my incredible wife, Trishia, I would have quit a long time ago. She frequently joked that I was married to the blog during hockey season.  She has been my rock and I want to make up to her all the time I lost during my "marriage' to the blog.

Lastly, I'd like to thank the best junior hockey fans in the entire world; the die-hard, true-blue fans of Stars Nation.  You folks are the best.  I've said it a million times, but without the fans, I'd just be talking to myself on the blog.  You were the fuel that kept me going all these years.

Thanks again to everyone who made this blog a daily stop on your internet rounds.  I truly appreciate all of your support over the years.  It was a blast, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Go Stars.

-Tim Sattler (Yeti)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

B³ Lincoln Stars 2014-15 Season Recap

Here we are at the end of another Lincoln Stars season.  If you would have told me back in October that this Stars team would finish dead last in the USHL, I'd probably would have had a good laugh.  But that's how it turned out.

I had a feeling this team might struggle early on, especially since they were bringing in a new head coach, new-ish GM, new management, new front office staff, and the youngest roster in the USHL, but I did not think this team would finish the way they did.

When fans asked me what I expected of the 2014-15 Stars before the season ever started, I said they probably wouldn't be a playoff team, but if the young kids on the roster gelled quickly and caught fire, they might made a run of it.  I figured this would probably be a .500 club, but I also thought they could surprise me and be a little better.  However, the team struggled with consistency all season long, and missed the playoffs for second straight season, which has never happened in franchise history.

A lot contributed to the second worst season in Lincoln Stars history, and we'll talk about that here in a bit.  I'm a bit of a statistics junkie, so I first want to review some numbers from this past season.  I'm not trying to be negative here, but these numbers are certainly not fun to look at.  But I truly believe there is truth in numbers.

I don't believe it's fair to compare this team to the 2009-10 team that finished dead last in the USHL, but I'm going to post some statistics below to illustrate the two worst seasons in franchise history.  Again, I'm not trying to pile on here.  Believe me, I would much rather be recapping a playoff season for the Stars.

2014-15 Regular Season
Overall record:  18-37-5 (2nd worse record in franchise history)
Winning percentage:  .342 (2nd worst winning percentage in franchise history)
Home record:  10-20-2 (most regulation home losses in a season in franchise history)
Road record:  8-17-3 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season)
Goals scored:  150 (2nd lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against:  242 (most goals allowed in franchise history)
Shots on goal:  1,594 (least amount in franchise history)
Shots on goal against:  2,131 (2nd most in the USHL this season)
Penalty minutes:  1,183 total minutes (lowest amount since the 2002-03 season)
Power play percentage:  14.3% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Power play goals scored:  31 (least amount in franchise history)
Power play goals against:  58 (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Penalty kill percentage:  74.9% (15th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals scored:  6 (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Shorthanded goals against:  9 (8th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team shooting percentage:  .094 % (11th place out of 16 teams this season)
Team save percentage:  .886% (16th place out of 16 teams)
Average attendance:  3,197 (first time in franchise history the team did not finish in the top 3 in league attendance)

2009-10 Regular Season
Overall record:  16-36-8 (franchise low)
Winning percentage:  .333 (franchise low)
Home record:  8-18-4 (least amount of home wins in a season ever)
Road record:  8-18-4 (tied for least amount of road wins in a season ever)
Goals scored:  143 (2.38 average goals per game - lowest total in franchise history)
Goals against:  220 (2nd highest total in franchise history)
Shots on goal:  1,829 (6th place out of 14 teams)
Shots on goal against:  1,832 (8th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty minutes:  1,775 total minutes (most in franchise history)
Power play percentage:  14% (12th place out of 14 teams)
Power play goals scored:  42 (11th place out of 14 teams)
Powerplay goals against:  69 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Penalty kill percentage:  79.46% (11th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals scored:  5 (12th place out of 14 teams)
Shorthanded goals against:  11 (7th place out of 14 teams)
Team shooting percentage:  .078 % (franchise low)
Team save percentage:  .880% (franchise low)
Average attendance:  4,146 (first place overall-fourth straight season the Stars led the USHL in attendance)

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's interesting to look at the parallels between the two worst teams in franchise history.  The 2009-10 team was hit hard by injuries.  That particular roster was a revolving door of players.  This year's team didn't have that problem.  They stayed relatively healthy.

The young, inexperienced roster, a rookie head coach, a new GM and owner probably all combined to contribute to what we saw this season on the ice .  We can only hope those in charge learned a lot of lessons this season, and know they can't make them again next season.

GM Jon Hull's vision was that this would be a puck possession team.  Unfortunately, that didn't come to fruition and the stats above are indicative of that.  The shots totals specifically indicate that this team spent more time chasing the puck than they did with possession of the puck.  If you don't have the puck on your stick you can't shoot it on net.  That's not rocket science.

In my opinion, team defense was a big reason why this team failed.  I don't want to single out just the defensemen because defense is a team aspect.  All players have to buy in and play together as a unit.  However, the inexperience on Lincoln's blueline coming into this season played a big part.  Of the seven defenseman on the roster who started the season in Lincoln, only Connor Frantti had prior USHL experience.  I've said for years that if you don't have USHL experience at that position, you're going to struggle.  I don't care how good your goaltending is.

Speaking of goaltending, it wasn't consistent in 2014-15, but I definitely think the problems I mentioned in the paragraph above had a LOT to do with why Cam Hackett and Peyton Jones struggled at times this season.  Game in and game out, they faced a shooting gallery.  They didn't get much help from their teammates.  They saw more rubber than roadkill on O Street in Lincoln.  Honestly, without Cam Hackett, I wonder if this team would have won 12 games.  He'd get my vote as team MVP.  His end of season numbers might not be pretty, but neither was the defense in front of him.

I'm hopeful that the defensemen coming back next season, now with a full year of USHL experience under their belt, will strive and we'll see much better play overall as a defensive unit.  That obviously will help the goaltenders as well.

Special teams was an issue the entire season, unfortunately.  The Stars never got into a groove this season with the man advantage.  Uncharacteristically, Lincoln's penalty-kill unit this season was just as disappointing.  In past season, even when the Stars were the most penalized team in the league, the PK unit was in the top third of the league.  The penalty kill unit, along with the Stars' power play, never improved during the season, in my opinion.  In fact, I'd argue that it got worse as the season transpired.  The numbers above show that special teams wise, this was the worst performance in Stars history.

Three players on Lincoln's roster played all 60 games this season:  forwards Dominick Sacco, Patrick Polino, and defenseman Ryan Jones.  Big props to all three.  To make it through an entire season and not miss any games, considering how fast and physical the league is, is very impressive.

It certainly wasn't the season we as fans wanted to experience, but we are all very proud of our Stars here in Lincoln.  I want to thank each and every player on the roster for busting their ass and sacrificing so much for our entertainment this season.  Their effort will not be forgotten.  I also would like to thank all of the player parents for sending their sons to Lincoln.  It was a pleasure watching them this season, and they will always be a part of our extended Stars family.

Thanks again to all of you who make this blog a frequent stop on your internet rounds.  It has been an honor keeping this blog active for all of your Lincoln Stars needs.  I've said it a million times, but without you, I'd still be talking to myself.  So thank you for your patronage.

Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that I'll be making a big announcement on the blog tomorrow (Monday), around noon.  I can't let the cat out of the bag just yet, but make sure you come back here around noon on Monday to check it out.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

B³ Weekend Recap: 4/10 & 4/11

Stars celebrate a win in Omaha on Saturday
Thanks to Devan for the photo
The Lincoln Stars finished out the 2014-15 regular season with back-to-back games against the Omaha Lancers this past weekend.

On Friday at the IceBox, the Lancers skated past the Stars by a score of 6-1.  At Ralston Arena on Saturday, the Stars responded with a 2-1 OT shootout win to close out the season on a positive note.

4/10:  Omaha 6, Lincoln 1
4/11:  Lincoln 2, Omaha 1 OT shootout

The Lincoln Stars finished the 2014-15 regular season with a record of 18-37-5 (41 points).  The Stars were 10-20-2 at home this season, and 8-17-3 on the road.

Lincoln finished in last place in the USHL western conference, and last place overall in the league.  Click here to view the final league regular season standings.

Omaha 6, Lincoln 1

The final score might indicate otherwise, but I thought the lopsided 6-1 win for the Lancers was a much closer game than people might think.

The momentum turning play came very late in the first period.  With the game scoreless at 0-0, the Lancers were able to get a puck past Stars goaltender Cam Hackett with only 12 seconds remaining in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead.

I thought the Stars had played very well in that first period, and the late goal was a killer.  The Lancers used that momentum to scored three unanswered goals in the third period to basically put the game outside of Lincoln's reach.

It was a typical rough and tumble type of game between these two teams that really don't like one another.  The 2nd period alone saw 61 penalty minutes called, including one big fight between Biagio Lerario and Anthony Angello, and a spearing major (and game misconduct) by Lancers goaltender Kris Oldham.

In the third, the Lancers scored two more goals before the Stars finally got on the scoreboard to ruin the shutout bid by Omaha..  With the Lancers leading 6-0 at the midpoint of the third period, Stars forward  Sean MacTavish collected a rebound from an Ethan Price shot and fired it past Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll.

As I said above, I really don't think the Stars played that bad in this game.  I've certainly seen them play much worse at the IceBox this season.  They had plenty of opportunities to score goals in this game, but puck luck wasn't on their side.  Meanwhile, what chances the Lancers had, they made the most of them.

One big key to this game was the special teams play of both teams.  Omaha went 2-for-4 on the powerplay, and also scored one shorthanded goal.  Lincoln went 0-for-4 on the powerplay and were never able to solve Omaha's terrific PK unit.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett stopped 24 of 30 in the loss.  Lancers goaltender Kris Oldham stopped 18 of 18 before he was ejected for the spearing major.  Zach Driscoll stopped 6 of 7 shots in relief of Oldham for Omaha.

Tough game to end the home season at the IceBox, but I was happy to see a near sellout crowd.

Lincoln 2, Omaha 1 OT Shotout

The Stars showed a lot of resolve in fighting for a 2-1 OT shootout victory Saturday night at the Ralston Arena over the Omaha Lancers.

I wasn't able to watch this game in person, or on FASTHockey, but I did listen to the radio broadcast.

This was a much different game than what fans saw on Friday night.  It obviously wasn't as high scoring, and although there was some penalties called, it wasn't as frantic as Friday evening's game.

The only goal the Lancers scored in this game came in the latter half of the first period when Ryan Donato scored and even-strength goal to give his team a 1-0 lead.  After that, it was all Peyton Jones as the rookie goaltender stood on his head and did not allow another puck get past him.

The score would remain 1-0 in favor of the Lancers until the 8:11 mark of the third period when Stars defenseman Dylan Woolf scored his second goal of the season to knot the game at 1-1.  Wyatt Kalynuk and Sean MacTavish picked up the assists on Woolf's game-tying goal.

From the sounds of it, the Stars dominated the third period and had many more quality chances than the Lancers.  However, the Stars were not able to score the game winner in regulation.

After a scoreless five-minute OT period, this game went to a shootout.  Lincoln first two shooters (Dominick Sacco, Michael Gillespie) both scored, while Peyton Jones stopped the only two shooters he faced to seal the 2-1 victory.

Really happy to see the boys end the season on a high note with a win against Omaha on their own ice.  I'm sure that felt good.

Peyton Jones stopped 30 of 31 shots to pick up the win.  Very happy for him to finish out the season with a big win.  Lancers goaltender Zach Driscoll stopped 26 of 27 in the loss.

I'm going to take a bit of time here to try to recap the town hall meeting the Stars hosted this past Friday at the IceBox.  Stars GM Jon Hull was on hand to answer any questions fans might have.  I arrived just a few minutes late, but I tried to record most of what was said on my cell phone.  I'd say there was between 200-250 Stars fans in attendance at the town hall meeting, much more than what I expected.

I'm highlight what I thought were the more important questions asked, and then the answers from Jon Hull below.  As I said, I missed the very beginning so if I forget to include anything that was said below, please leave a comment.

-Question/concern about how the Stars players have developed over the course of this season.
Jon Hull:  "Development" is a tricky word.  I see big strides in a lot of areas.  One area we have failed in was that we have lost hockey games in small stretches this season.  We seem to be a team that starts well, gets a lead, and in a 4-5 minute stretch, things have gone against us.  Some players have gotten better and grown, and some haven't.  We as a staff have to do a better job at fostering these players and making sure we give them every opportunity to succeed.

-Question/concern about a disconnect between the coaching staff and the players.
JH:  Chris Hartsburg and I are a young coach, GM duo. We need to grow together for this team to be successful.  As a manager, I need to do a better job of supporting him, and pushing our style of play so that he can connect more with the players.  I believe that if there is any fault between our coach and our players, it's on me. I have to do a better job at managing this club.  I have to do a better job at making sure we want to play the way I say we want to play every night.  I intend to do those things.

Question/concern about the head coach's lack of ability to take responsibility for losses
JH:  I don't want to be in the habit of speaking for Chris. If there is a general feeling from our fan group here that that's what he does, then that falls on my shoulders and I need to do a better job.  I need to make sure he doesn't throw our players under the bus and he supports our team, because I do.  That's going to change.  That's on my shoulders.

Question/concern about key player skills he (Jon Hull) wants to improve on heading into next season.
JH:  I feel we have a group of talented defensemen coming back next season, with 7 guys returning.  One area we've lacked some depth this season is at center.  I think we've lacked some size, but more importantly some skill at center this season.  Goaltending has been inconsistent at times.  If we have the opportunity to get a high end goaltender, we will.  If we have the opportunity to build through a couple more forwards and depth at center, we will.  Overall skills we need to improve on is that we need to possess the puck more, a lot more.

Question/concern about the lack of attendance this season at the IceBox.
JH:  Obviously, a winning team fills a rink.  I will say in the large picture, there are things that happen ever day in our club that people aren't aware of.  We chose to operate the whole season with no sales staff.  Zero.  None.  Because we've tried to fix things in the front office.  We've tried to hire the right personnel.  Standing to my right is our new executive director, Kate Hrnicek, who is going to lead all of our sales from now on forward.  Ryan Schiff's (Stars owner) theory was that he had time, and he wanted to wait until he found the right person to handle sales and growth in those areas.  In our estimations and our numbers, if we would have had a sales staff, we wouldn't be down in attendance this season.

Question/concern about the the communication lines between the head coach and the GM.
JH:  I have to be involved, and be here more, if I want to have more of an impact on this hockey team day-to-day.  That's what I intend to do.  We have the next five months (offseason) here to learn, get better, and spend a lot of time together.

Question/concern about the players who can return next season, are they excited to return?
JH:  The general comment I've gotten from players is that they are excited to return to Lincoln next season. These are good signs. Biagio Lerario, who recently committed to Brown University, could have went to college this fall but chose to come back to Lincoln to get better.  Players love playing in Lincoln.

Question/concern about if the team has a goaltending coach.
JH:  We do have a goalie coach.  His name is John Helkin (sp?) whom we fly in from Toronto once a month.  He spends around 4 days here working with our goaltenders in practice.

Question/concern that it would be nice to have the head coach at the town hall meeting to talk to fans.
JH:  His (Hartsburg's) vision moving forward has to be mine.  We have to grow together, and I'm a big part of that.  I have to have a big footprint on that next year.  If there are shortcoming this season, that's on me.  It's not on Chris.  He's a young coach.  I feel that he's done a good job in some areas. He has the intangibles to make this hockey club good.  But I feel that a lot of it has to come from me, and I need to be more involved.  If there is an area that we have failed, the ownership is on me.

Question about at what point next season, if we don't progress, do you cut the cord on the head coach?
JH:  For me to talk about a timeline on our head coach is very premature.  I know it's frustrating.  I know you want to win more games.  I'm in it, trust me.  I moved my family across the country.  A wife that didn't want to move, that had never been away from her family.  I care about this team.  I really care about this group.  Our focus is getting better now.  I don't think putting a timeline on our coach is realistic.  We want to take steps forward.  We want to get better and we think we've put the right pieces in place to do that.

Question/concern about the possibility of adding bigger players next season.
JH: I don't equate big with physical.  If you look at our team this season, were in the top 3 in fighting majors, and near the top in overall penalty minutes.  By standards, we're near where prior Lincoln Stars teams have always been.  The game of hockey is trending in a different direction.  In every league, there is more emphasis put on puck possession, and skill.  If I have the opportunity to bring in a player that is big, strong and physical, we will do it.  Maybe the perception of this team having a lack of physicality is because we've chased the puck a lot this season.

Question/concern about does the team draft players for our system, or to match our coach.
JH:  Big picture is we want those two things to be the same.  We always want speed, skill and aggressiveness.  We always want those things.  But there are times when I see a kid play and I think that he would play well under Chris.

Question/concern about the low shot totals this season.
JH:  We chase the puck a lot.  We don't possess the puck, therefore we can't shoot it.  That's a problem we're trying to remedy.

Question/concern about the possibility of the team hiring a second assistant coach next season.
JH:  There's probably some merit to that.  It's been discussed a couple of times with our ownership staff and myself.  As long as the coaches are all on the same page, another set of eyes would certainly help.

Question/concern about if ticket pricing will be going up next season.
JH:  Ticket prices are NOT going up.

These were the highlights, in my opinion.  A lot of folks really didn't have specific questions, and just wanted to vent.  I'm not going to include ever single thing said in the meeting here on the blog.  The meeting itself lasted 45+ minutes long.  That's just way too much info to post it all here.

I'm going to post a 2014-15 season recap article later tonight.  Stay tuned for that.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

B³ Weekend Preview: Lincoln Stars vs. Omaha Lancers

Former Stars forward Danny Irmen
Thanks to Layla for the photo
The Lincoln Stars will wrap up the 2014-15 regular season this weekend with a home-and-home series against the Omaha Lancers.  

Friday's contest will take place at the IceBox in Lincoln.  Saturday evening's game will be played at the Ralston Arena in Ralston.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST for each game.

The Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 17-36-5 (39 points).  

Lincoln is 1-7-0 in their last eight games played and were outscored 45-19 in those eight contests.

The 36 losses by the Stars this season ties the team record for the most losses in one season with the 2009-10 team that finished with a record of 16-36-8.  Click here to view the current league standings.  

The Omaha Lancers are firmly in third place in the USHL western conference with a record of 33-17-8 (74 points).  

These games this weekend will be the seventh and eighth times the Stars and Lancers will have met this season.  Lincoln is 2-3-1 in the past six contests against Omaha this season.  Stars forward Ludvig Hoff has 9 points (3g, 6a) in the six games vs. the Lancers this season.  Lancers forward Shane Gersich also has 9 points (5g, 4a) in six games vs. the Stars.

The Lancers cannot finish the season any higher or lower than third place in the west, so it will be interesting to see how competitive they are this weekend considering they may not have a lot to play for.  Omaha has had a recent rash of injuries and their head coach was actually suspended one game by the USHL "for his team receiving their 3rd instigator penalty of the season."

I've been told by an acquaintance who is a Lancers fan that leading scorer Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson will likely not play this weekend against the Stars.  JFK hasn't played for the Lancers since 3/13/15, so I assume he's injured and the coaches are saving him for the playoffs.

As for the Stars, they have called up two of their more talented younger players on their affiliate list in '98 forwards Ethen Frank and Dominick Mersch.  Both will play the final two games of the season against Omaha.

Frank was selected by the Stars in the 2nd round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  The native of Papillion, NE tips the scales at 5'10", 175 pounds.  Ethen was called up by the Stars for one game back in December of 2014 where he scored 2 points (both assists) in Lincoln's 7-5 win over the Musketeers in Sioux City.  Frank scored 90+ goals this past season for the Omaha AAA U16 program.  Ethen has committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan University, but he will be back in Lincoln next season and should play a prominent role as a top six forward.  Frank will wear #39 this weekend.

Mersch was selected by the Stars in the 1st round of the 2014 USHL Futures Draft.  The native of Park Ridge, IL tips the scales at 6'0", 175 pounds.  Dominick will be playing in his first USHL games this weekend for the Stars.  This past season for the Chicago Mission U16 program, Dom scored 16 points (12g, 4a) in 25 games played.  Dominick has committed to play college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, but like Ethen Frank, Mersch will be back in Lincoln next season and will be another young player counted on to do big things.

With the addition of Ethen Frank to the lineup, for the first time ever, the Stars will have two Nebraska natives (Frank, Ethan Price) in the lineup.  Coincidentally, Frank and Price both played for the Omaha AAA program.

Stars forward Waltteri Hopponen will miss the final two games this season as he will be participating in the World U18 Championships, representing Team Finland.

A reminder, the Lincoln Stars are hosting a town hall meeting on Friday, April 10th at 5:15pm at the IceBox.  Stars GM Jon Hull will be available to answer questions from the fans who attend.  Lincoln owner Ryan Schiff will not be in attendance.  Free pizza will be provided.  You must have a ticket to Friday's game to attend the town hall meeting.  If there is anything you'd like to get off your chest about what has transpired this season, on or off the ice, this is your time to do it.  

I get a ton of anonymous comments left on this blog when things don't go right for the Stars (yet I hardly ever get comments when they are winning), so I hope all those anonymous people show up to the town hall meeting this Friday and voice their concerns.  Voicing them here on this blog as an anonymous entity doesn't do much, honestly.  The Stars' front office personnel may or may not read the comments here, but even if they do, it's hard to take them seriously when there is no name behind them.

Also, the Blueline Booster Club will be having their annual player plaque spring auction during the game on Friday.
The starting bid on all player plaques will be $50.00, and the "Buy It Now" option will be $125.00 per plaque. 

Bidding will begin at 6:00pm and go until 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd intermission.  

The auction sign-up sheets will be located in the south hallway of the IceBox.  Proceeds from the auction will go to the cost of the trading card packs.  

Click here to view photos of all of the player plaques up for auction.  I've included a photo to the left of what your typical player plaque will look like.

Well, the Stars won't be participating in the USHL Clark Cup playoffs this year, but you could say that Lincoln's playoffs will be this two-game series vs. the Lancers.  It's hard to know how competitive Omaha will be this weekend since they don't have a lot to play for, other than pride.  I'm sure the Lancers don't want to head into the playoffs on a losing streak, either.  

I'm hopeful the Stars can forget the losses and disappointment of this season and really come out strong this weekend against their rival and put two quality 60-minute efforts together.  Finish out the season with a bang and some positivity.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mike Melbye's Lincoln Stars All-Time Line Charts

A few weeks ago, Stars radio announcer and historian Mike Melbye reached out to me and asked if I could help him put together a list of players who would be worthy of being included on an all-time line chart(s). 

 Of course I agreed to help.

So what I did at the time was to create two different "teams," or line charts.  A first team, and a second team.  My first team consisted of former Stars players who were "no brainers."  The second team consisted of some no brainers, and some players one could argue for or against.

This past Tuesday, Mike was the guest speaker at the monthly Blueline Booster Club Meeting.  Mike unveiled his all-time line charts (which I'll include below), and brought along former Stars VP Steve Zoucha, and Stars hall-of-famer Derek Reynolds to help with the presentation and talk about some of the players on his list.

These lists are a lot of fun to about as fans, and I hope we get a lot of comments below.  There are so many great players to consider.  Mike's line charts below are pretty similar to the charts I shared with him a few weeks ago.  A few names on my line charts that weren't on Mike's were forwards Garrett Peterson, Jared Hanson, and defensemen Lee Marvin and Dax Lauwers.  I might also have Michael Bitzer on my 2nd team.

Without further adieu, here are the two all-time line charts Mike put together.  After the line charts, I'll include a note from Mike.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Ron Convey and Scott Grau for allowing me to be the speaker at the Blueline Booster Club meeting on April 7th.  Two good friends of mine had a story or two to share as well, and I appreciate Derek Reynolds and Steve Zoucha for showing up and making the night even more fun.  Thanks guys.
With Yeti’s help I came up with two ‘All-time Lincoln Stars Line Charts’ of 21 former players each and posted them at the meeting.  The line charts were for fun and to help with the story telling that went on.  I had several requests to post them, and I felt Yeti’s blog was the best place to do so.  
There had to be over a dozen guys that were left off that probably shouldn't have been, so feel free to make arguments for your picks that didn't make it.
See you all at the Ice Box on Friday night.

Congratulations to Biagio Lerario!

I'm a little late with this news that was announced yesterday, but congratulations go out to Lincoln Stars forward Biagio Lerario who will be attending Brown University starting the fall of 2016.

Biagio announced his commitment to Brown yesterday on Twitter.  Click here to read the tweet.  

Click here to read the official announcement from the USHL.

Biagio is finishing up his first full season with the Stars.  He is currently tied with Michael Gillespie as Lincoln's top point scorer with 34 points (20g, 14a) games played.  He has also racked up 110 penalty minutes.

Lerario was originally acquired by the Lincoln Stars in December of 2013 in a trade with the Chicago Steel.  In that particular trade, the Stars sent affiliate forward Gord Helmuth to the Steel for Lerario.  Helmuth never played for the Steel while Lerario has been a big part of the Stars last year, and this year.  He'll also be back in 2015-16 for Lincoln adding grit, points, and leadership to the lineup.

Biagio must have a good head on his shoulders as an ivy league school like Brown University isn't going to offer a scholarship to any schmuck off the street.  Brown University is located in Providence, RI and the Bears hockey club plays in ECAC.  Former Stars defenseman Kyle Quick was a senior on last season's Brown University Bears hockey team.

Congratulations again to Biagio!  Well deserved.  He's a kid who plays with a ton heart, and isn't afraid to back up his teammates when needed.  He's a goal scorer, but also isn't afraid to get his nose dirty in the rough areas on the ice.  He is definitely a fan favorite at the IceBox.  I'm excited to see what he brings to the team next season.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

B³ Postgame Recap: Lincoln 0, Sioux Falls 7

Friday night at the brand new Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD, the Stampede scored four goals in the first period to help trample and shutout the Stars by a score of 7-0.

Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars fell to 17-36-5 (39 points) on the season with two more games to be played.  The 36 losses by the 2014-15 team is now tied for the most losses in one season with the 2009-10 Stars team that finished 16-36-8.  Click here to view the current league standings.

For obvious reasons this recap will be brief.  I listened to the radio broadcast, but I did not watch it on FASTHockey.

As I mentioned above, this game went south early for the Stars as the Stampede outscored Lincoln 4-0 in the opening period.  Uber-talented '98 forward Kieffer Bellows, who has feasted on the Stars this season, had 3 points (2g, 1a) in the first period alone in this game.

Stars goaltender Cam Hackett got the start in this contest and played the first period before he was pulled.  Hackett stopped 13 of 17 shots on goal in the opening twenty minutes.  Lincoln netminder Peyton Jones played the last two periods and stopped 13 of 16 shots on goal.

Lincoln actually outshot Sioux Falls 17-16 in the final forty minutes, but the Stampede goaltending tandem of Stefanos Lekkas and Arthur Brey combined to pitch the shutout.  Maybe I missed something mentioned on the radio broadcast, but I'm not sure why both Stampede goaltenders played in this game.  I'm pretty sure Lekkas got the start, but maybe he was injured in the 2nd period?  I'm not sure.  Or maybe the Stampede knew this was an easy win and wanted to get both goaltenders some playing time.

Sioux Falls outscored Lincoln 3-0 in the second, and third periods to finish out the scoring.  Shots on goal were 33-21 in favor of the 'Pede.  Sioux Falls went 1-for-2 on the powerplay while the Stars went 0-for-5.

Stampede forward Kieffer Bellows finished with a hat trick and one assist for a total of 4 points against the Stars.  In four games against Lincoln this season, Bellows racked up 11 points (7g, 4a).

I hate to sound apathetic, but I've never felt this "happy" the season is about to end.  For a fan, it's been rough.  I can't imagine what these kids are going through, especially since the head coach continues to throw them under the bus at every opportunity during the postgame radio show.  I normally don't listen to the postgame coach's comments, but I did last night.  I was quickly reminded why I don't listen.  As a fan, it's hard to feel excited for the future at this point.

The final two games of the season will be played this weekend against the Omaha Lancers.  Friday's game against Omaha will be played at the IceBox, and the final game of the season for the Stars will take place at the Ralston Arena in Ralston, NE on Saturday.  More on those two games later in the week.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

B³ Pregame Report: Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux Falls Stampede

The Lincoln Stars will play only one game this weekend, and it will take place Saturday night in Sioux Falls, SD against the Stampede.

Puck drops at 7:05pm CST.

If you can't make it to this game, you can follow the boxscore online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on 93.7 FM "The Ticket," or watch the game live on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars are in last place in the USHL western conference with a record of 17-35-5 (39 points).  Lincoln will likely finish the 2014-15 season with the worst record in the USHL, allowing them to pick first in the upcoming USHL entry and futures drafts in May.  Click here to view the current league standings.

The Stars are coming off a couple of midweek games in which they earned two of four points.  I wasn't able to attend the Tuesday game, nor follow the Wednesday contest, so I did not post a recap article.

On Tuesday, Lincoln got a very impressive 5-2 win over the Omaha Lancers at the IceBox.  Despite being outshot 41-25, Lincoln had goals from Grant Jozefek, Luke Jaycox (his first career USHL goal), Waltteri Hopponen, Chris Gambardella, and Biagio Lerario.  Stars goaltender Cam Hackett once again saved the day as he stopped 39 of 41 for the win.

In Cedar Rapids, IA on Wednesday against the Roughriders, the Stars had a 3-1 lead after one period, but it fell apart after that.  The Riders outscored Lincoln 3-0 in the final two periods, while outshooting them 23-7, to complete the comeback and beat the Stars by the score of 4-3.  Biagio Lerario, Jack Badini, and Patrick Polino all scored in the first period for Lincoln.  Cam Hackett 33 of 37 in the loss.  You aren't going to win too many games with only 7 shots on goal through two periods.

Lincoln's opponent on Saturday evening will be the Sioux Falls Stampede, who currently sit in fourth place in the USHL western conference with a record of 31-21-5 (67 points).  The Stampede are 4-1-0 in their last games played, and are 18-7-3 at home this season.

This will be the fourth and final time the Stars and 'Pede will meet in the 2014-15 season.  The Stars are 0-3-0 in the past three meetings and were outscored 13-5 in those three games.

The Stampede have clinched a playoff spot in the west, and will likely be the #4 seed in the west.  This is definitely a team that plays much better at home, as their road record of 13-14-2 is evidence of that.  If the Stampede can steal a road game in the first round of the playoffs, they have a small chance at upsetting the #1 seed in the west.

I'm hoping the Stars will call up '98 protected forwards Dominick Mersch and Ethen Frank in these last 2-3 games to get them some playing time.  Mersch and Frank, the top two '98's on Lincoln's affiliate roster, should be full-time players with the Stars next season.  These two kids should play a BIG role in Lincoln's rebuilding process next season.

Well, folks....only three games left in this season.  The last two games will be next weekend with a home-and-home series against the Omaha Lancers.  This season certainly hasn't gone as well as we hoped, but let's support the players as much as we can in these last three games.  Despite the record, it would be nice to see the boys finish the season strong.

Thanks for reading.  Go Stars.