Lincoln disposed of the Tri-City Storm 5-2 in their second and final preseason game. Here are five things that happened:
1.) PENALTY KILL PERFECTION
Eleven. That’s how many penalties the Stars killed this preseason without surrendering a power-play goal. The Stars penalty killers did a terrific job of blocking shots and clearing the front of the net with their bodies and sticks. Too many high-danger chances were allowed in 2020-21 by Lincoln’s PK, leading to their 79.4 percent efficiency rate.
This weekend, Lincoln stood up opponents at the blue line and forced attackers into vulnerable areas, leading to easy exits. Dalton Norris, Michael Mastrodomenico, Noah Laba and Christian Kocsis stood out when the Stars were put at a disadvantage.
2.) DEPTH, DEPTH & MORE DEPTH
Secondary scoring was on full display in Sioux City as eight different Stars lit the lamp throughout their two games. Of those eight, five were new additions to the team. If this trend translates into the regular season, it will bold well for Lincoln, coming off a season in which they scored 2.96 goals/game (8th in the Western Conference).
The offense generated opportunities at even-strength, on the power play (three goals) and even on the penalty kill. Gleb Veremyev had the best shorthanded chance of the weekend thanks to a breakaway on Sunday while Laba was a menace on the forecheck. Mason Marcellus scored at 5-on-5 and at 5-on-4.
3.) MULTI-POINT MASON
Speaking of Marcellus, he piled up the points in his first two USHL preseason games. The 19-year-old scored twice and added three assists this weekend, notching a goal in each game. Marcellus’ success came from carrying the puck up the ice and driving to the net. His ability to get to the soft areas was also noticeable; his goal Sunday against Tri-City exemplified that concept.
Following an initial rush led by the former Drayton Valley Dragon (BCHL), Marcellus fed the puck to the slot and snuck to the far goal line. Moments later, Luke Johnson sent a quick pass to him for an easy tap-in to make it 4-1 Lincoln. Overall, it was a perfect first impression for Marcellus in his Stars debut after being acquired from the Youngstown Phantoms last month.
4.) DEFENSIVE LOCKDOWN
The Stars back-end is loaded on paper. From newcomers like Jo Lemay and Joey Pierce to familiar faces Carter Schade and Henry Nelson, there were plenty of individual performances to talk about after Lincoln’s pair of victories.
However, the biggest takeaway was seeing Stars forwards buy in on the back-check this preseason. When Stars defensemen committed to a step-up on the blue line, wingers were there to support and retrieve loose pucks. Gap control was key in halting odd-man opportunities from the Stampede and Storm: two teams that are no stranger to scoring off the rush.
And when the blueliners needed a save, goaltenders Kaidan Mbereko, Cameron Whitehead and Jackson Baker were there to make stops. Don’t be surprised if Lincoln’s goals-against average is among the best in the USHL in 2021-22.
5.) ON TO PITTSBURGH
Lincoln secured four points out of four this weekend, but none of that will matter on September 23rd in Cranberry Township, PA when the Stars face the Phantoms in the USHL Fall Classic. Aside from a couple of slow starts, the Stars coaching staff was pleased with the two efforts in Sioux City. The team's trek to Pennsylvania can’t come soon enough. The key until then? As head coach Rocky Russo says: developing good habits.
“For us, that’s what we’ve talked about during intermissions is making sure that our process is proper and our habits are good," Russo said. "When you’re doing all those things, then your results take care of themselves."
Both the Stars and the Phantoms will be hungry to start off the regular season on a high note following disappointing campaigns in 2020-21.
7th Star members, you don’t want to miss the scrimmage on September 17th at the Ice Box after you pick up your season tickets. Doors open at 5 p.m. to snag all your gifts and the scrimmage starts at 6 p.m. After that, meet the team by the front entrance and get to know some of the new guys (and welcome back the returners, too)!