Any doubt about how Lincoln would respond to River City’s domination in Game 2 was answered in the first five minutes of Game 3. Lincoln came out hard, dictated play, and skated away with a 4-1 victory to move within one victory of the coveted Clark Cup championship. You don’t need three guesses to figure out who provided the spark for Lincoln. Once again, Ryan Potulny and Danny Irmen stood out and led Lincoln to a playoff victory. Both ended the game with a goal and an assist. Lincoln finds itself in a similar situation to the 2001 finals, when the Omaha Lancers rallied to win the final two games of the series to skate the Clark Cup on Lincoln ice. Don’t think Lincoln wouldn’t love to return the favor in Game 4.
A capacity crowd of 4,610 was electric and got into the game from pre-game introductions to the final horn. Such a commotion had not been seen in Lincoln since Game 1 of the finals in 2001, and you would have to go back to Lincoln’s inaugural playoff run to find any other crowd that comes close. A lot of Stars fans plan to follow the team up to Council Bluffs for Game 4.
No team has tallied a goal in the first period so far in the finals, and the trend continued Saturday night. Lincoln drew first blood early in the second. After River City’s Mike Howe went into the box for a tripping minor at :55, it took the Stars all of ten seconds to take a 1-0 lead. Potulny’s slap shot from the blueline avoided traffic in front and found the back of the net to set off a thundering roar from the sellout crowd. River City did manage to tie it up ten minutes later, when a Jason Dest centering pass found the skate of a Lincoln defenseman and took a right turn past surprised Lincoln goalie Phillippe Lamoureux. If giving up a goal to the Lancers without an opposing player being within ten feet bothered Lamoureux, it didn’t show. He was solid the rest of the way, and it was rewarded before the period ended. A backhand shot by Irmen beat Lancer goalie Dominic Vicari on a breakaway feed from Potulny to regain the lead, followed by a power play goal by Mike Eickman in the final minute of the period to make it 3-1. Eickman’s goal was a result of tremendous pressure and scoring chances by the Stars, which left Vicari out of position and plenty of net for the shot from the slot to light the lamp. Lamoureux and the Lincoln defense took over from there. Ben Gordon added an empty net goal in the third to seal the deal.
Look for the same effort in Game 4 from the Lancers that produced the Game 2 victory. The Lancers know winning two in a row to win the cup can be done. If the Lancers hold home ice on Tuesday, it will set up another one game showdown in Lincoln for all the marbles. If Lincoln wins Game 4, one hopes the class shown by Lincoln to the Lancer team in 2001 will be remembered, and the favor returned.
Roeder’s Three Stars
1st Star – Danny Irmen (LIN)
2nd Star – Ryan Potulny (LIN)
3rd Star – Phillippe Lamoureux (LIN)