The Lincoln Stars finally won an overtime game in the USHL playoffs. And because of it, the Stars live to see at least another three days in the first round.
Cedar Rapids won the first two games of the first-round series in overtime, including game two on Friday that lasted a USHL-record 126 minutes, 45 seconds. Dirk Southern made the Stars’ comeback complete, redirecting a shot by T.J. McElroy into the net for a 3-2 win against Cedar Rapids in game three at the Ice Box. Southern’s game-winner came 7 minutes, 12 seconds into overtime.
“They made a rare mistake and left our man unattended in front of the net, and Dirk was in the right spot and was able to get a stick on it,” Stars Coach Steve Johnson said. “Hopefully we can build off this and it helps us play a complete game. I thought Cedar Rapids outplayed us again, but we just found a way to get it done tonight.”
Southern won a draw to the left of Cedar Rapids goaltender Bobby Goepfert and tipped the puck back to McElroy at the blue line. As McElroy sent a wrist shot toward the goal, Southern slipped in front and got his stick on the puck for the score. It appeared to be deflected with a high stick. Goepfert argued to no avail and broke his goalie stick as he left the ice. Riders Coach Mark Carlson also went out of his way to give the referee some comments at center ice after the goal was scored.
Cedar Rapids leads the best-of-five series two games to one and has a chance to wrap it up in game four Tuesday. In what seems to be a forming pattern, the Riders took a penalty at the end of the game, which allowed the Stars to force overtime with a late third-period goal for the third straight game. Billy Hengen, playing in his first game since Jan. 8, tied the game at 2-2 with his power-play goal at 15:07 of the third.
It also came after Johnson challenged the Stars in the second period to either take care of business or go home. “The way we played in the second, I told them to prepare to shake their hands,” he said. Said Southern: “It fired us up big-time. We didn’t want to shake their hands in our building tonight.”
Cedar Rapids scored two power-play goals in the second period to take the lead. Chris Snavely tied the game at 1-all with a slap shot from the middle point that shot past Stars goaltender Nate Ziegelmann. Later, Chase Watson scored on a goal mouth scramble to give the RoughRiders the lead.
The Stars couldn’t figure out how to beat Goepfert during 66:45 of extended hockey during Friday’s four overtime game. Matt Wavra needed 19 seconds to do it Friday, scoring on a breakaway to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.