By Richard Roeder
The Lincoln Stars completed their second three game sweep of an opponent in the Clark Cup playoffs, defeating the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in three games to advance to the Clark Cup championship round. The name may have changed, but the opponent is the same as the last time the Stars made the finals, the River City Lancers. Lincoln dominated the semi-final series from beginning to end. Cedar Rapids took their first lead in game 3, and Lincoln limited the Roughriders top scorers to one game three goal by Chase Watson.
Next up for Lincoln, the River City Lancers. Game one is scheduled to be played in Lincoln on Saturday, pending league approval. Lincoln has played its best hockey of the year in the playoffs, and both the Stars and Lancers are dominating opponents thus far in the playoffs. It should be a tremendous series for bragging rights between the two teams once again.
Game 1 – @ Lincoln 4/11/03
Any chance of a game one upset by the Riders was quickly set to rest. Dan Irmen got the Stars on the board at the 3:47 mark, and things quickly got out of hand, as far as Cedar Rapids goalie Joe Fallon was concerned. Just past the halfway point of the first period, Lincoln was up 4-0, and the period ended with Lincoln holding a 5-1 advantage. Lincoln outshot the Roughriders 16-7 in the first period, and the period really set the tone for the rest of the series. After a scoreless second period, Cedar Rapids did manage to close to 5-3, but Ben Gordon scored on the power play at 9:27 to remove any doubt on the outcome. Matt Hayek continued his strong play in this years playoffs, scoring two goals and delivering several crushing checks. Tyler Magura also chipped in with a goal and two assists.
Richard’s three Stars –
3rd Star – Dan Irmen (LIN)
2nd Star – Tyler Magura (LIN)
1st Star – Matt Hayek(LIN)
Game 2 – @ Cedar Rapids 4/12/03
The Riders came out hard in the first period, outworking the Stars and knocking Lincoln back on their heels throughout much of the period. Lincoln goalie Nate Zieglemann was up to the challenge, and made several nice saves to keep the Roughriders off the scoreboard. Lincoln’s Per Mars got his stick on a blueline shot by Stars defenseman Jesse Lindenberg with 1:42 left in the period, and the puck trickled into the net to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Lincoln’s lead eventually grew to 3-0 after great individual efforts by Chris Porter and Ryan Potulny, both found the back of the net. Porter went nearly the length of the Ice and beat Fallon on the backhand at 15:50 of the second, and Potulny scored :10 into the final frame to give the Stars some breathing room. They would need it, as the Roughriders pressured the Stars throughout the final period. Mike Manley got the Riders on the board early in the third, and the Riders played desperate “back-against-the-wall” hockey for the remainder of the game. After pulling Fallon for an extra man, Cedar Rapids made it 3-2 on a Mike Pasley goal, but they failed to get the equalizing goal in the final :11. Lincoln returned home up two games, and looked to close out the series at home.
Richard’s three Stars –
3rd Stars – Ryan Potulny (LIN)
2nd Star – Mike Manley (CR)
1st Star – Nate Zieglemann (LIN)
Game 3 – @ Lincoln 4/15/03
After an even first half of the period, Cedar Rapids went up 1-0 on a Chris Snavely wrister that crossed up Zieglemann and gave the Riders a big boost by scoring first. But Lincoln evened the score heading into the first intermission on a power play goal by Potulny at 17:06. Cedar Rapids regained the lead just :36 seconds into the second, but John Snowden answered quickly again for Lincoln, scoring just 1:07 later to again knot the score at two. Snowden may have provided the final nail in the Roughriders season later that period, roofing a rebound from the middle of traffic in front of the net to put the Stars up for good with :18 seconds left in the second. Gordon and David Backes added third period goals and Lincoln was one step closer to their final goal.
Richard’s three Stars
3rd Star – Chris Porter (LIN)
2nd Star – Ben Gordon (LIN)
1st Star – John Snowden (LIN)
Clark Cup Preview
Lincoln is firing on all cylinders heading into the finals. No longer leaning so much on Irmen and Potulny, each night in the playoffs a different player seems to step into the spotlight and make a difference. Irmen and Potulny are still the key to stopping Lincoln, but the Lancers must be wary that the Stars are deep offensively and on any given night any player may hurt you. The Stars need to adjust to the Lancers style of play, as it is better suited for playoff hockey. But all things being equal, I believe Lincoln has more talent and depth than the Lancers. If they can match River City’s intensity and desire, they will be hoisting the Cup at the end. The wildcard in the mix is Lancer coach Mike Hastings. A master motivator who’s hockey philosophy is geared toward the playoffs, he will have his team ready. Lincoln must be ready as well, or prepare to once again watch the Lancers skate away with the final prize after another successful season.
Lincoln in 4