By Richard Roeder
The USHL’s Western Division leading Lincoln Stars head into this weekend with a nine point lead on the Eastern Division leading Waterloo Black Hawks, but don’t look for the Stars to be clearing a spot for the Anderson Cup quite yet. Lincoln plays seven of the next eight games on the road, and will be without the USHL’s top scorer for the next several weeks. Ryan Potulny was injured in Friday’s 4-2 loss to Sioux City and will be sidelined until early March. David Backes, Danny Irman, and John Snowden will be looking to pick up the slack during Potulny’s absence. Another bright spot has been rookie Chris Porter, providing hustle and scoring chances galore down the stretch. Brent Borgen and Ben Gordon will add scoring punch after the Minnesota high school season is completed. If the Stars come up short in pursuit of the Anderson Cup, it will not be for lack of scoring.
Lincoln also has one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in Phillippe Lamoureux. Following Saturday’s shutout of Green Bay, Lamoureux has lowered his GAA to 2.154 and a SV% of .915 (both good for 2nd in the USHL). Lamoureux is still splitting time with Nate Zieglemann, but it will be interesting to see if Coach Steve Johnson will call on Lamoureux more often as the season comes to a close.
Lincoln’s biggest question remains their defense. The Stars look solid one night, and not show up for the next. In Friday night’s loss to Sioux City the defense coughed up the puck early and often, leading to two early goals that proved insurmountable. The Stars do play physical, but it comes mostly from the forwards who provide the muscle. To grab the #1 seed and go deep in the playoffs, Lincoln must improve on the blueline and develop a mental toughness the playoffs demand. Fans will learn about this team over the next few weeks as the Stars leave the cozy confines of the Ice Box. Key games down the stretch will include February 28th @ Topeka, and March 21st when Waterloo comes to town. Count on the fact that Lincoln has February 22nd circled on the calendar as well. Sioux City is 3-0-2 vs Lincoln this year, and you can bet Lincoln would like to send a message with a win and two points versus the Musketeers at the Audi.