The Stars opened the regular season with a 3-2 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms. Here are five things that happened:
1.) MBEREKO REMAINS UNBEATEN VS. YOUNGSTOWN
Kaidan Mbereko shined in his regular-season debut as a Lincoln Star, stopping 26 of 28 shots en route to a victory. His play stood out particularly in the third period as he was forced to make 11 saves in the final frame. It was the Colorado College commit's fourth win against the Phantoms in his USHL career (4-0). His last appearance against Youngstown was on March 21st, 2021 when he posted an 11-save shutout as a member of Team USA.
2.) offense from the defense
As we saw in the preseason, Lincoln's defensemen have the ability to find success in the offensive zone. Michael Mastrodomenico scored the Stars' first goal of the 2021-22 season 3:07 into the second period, tying the game at one.
The goal developed after Mastrodomenico laid the puck back for Yu Sato at the left point, causing the defenseman to dip along the left-wing half-boards. Sato sent a pass across to the right point for Henry Nelson, whose shot was deflected by Lucas Wahlin before hitting the pad of goaltender Owen Bartoszkewicz.
Mastrodomenico was prepared for the rebound at the near-side circle, burying his third career goal in the process.
Nelson gave Lincoln a 2-1 lead less than six minutes later, knocking a pass from a Youngstown defender at the deep slot of the offensive zone before firing the puck past the blocker of Bartoszkewicz.
Carter Schade and Dalton Norris also had great looks at the net on Thursday night, adding a dangerous element to Lincoln's offensive attack.
3.) NET-FRONT DRIVE
Both head coach Rocky Russo and assistant coach George Lewis praised their team's presence at the front of the net before Yu Sato's eventual game-winning goal in the third period.
Russo mentioned the importance of Aidan Thompson's quick decision to direct the puck on goal instead of into the corner. Lewis credited the "double-lane drive" by both Sato and Griffin Jurecki, causing havoc by drawing defenders in tight with a bouncing puck.
It was a simple, yet fundamental play that led to Sato's goal at 13:08, propelling Lincoln to a late lead.
4.) NEXT COACH UP
With Russo back in Lincoln with his wife Melissa following the birth of their second daughter, the rest of the coaching staff stepped up to deliver Lincoln's first win of 2021-22. Lewis, Curtis Brown and Artt Brey manned the bench in Lincoln's victory, which didn't come as a shock to Russo.
After all, it's not the first time Lewis has had to take over main duties behind the bench. He previously filled in for Russo for the birth of his first child during Games 3 and 4 of the South Division Finals in 2019, winning both games in Russo's absence. That trend continued Thursday night as the Stars collected two points.
5.) WIN NO. 800
And speaking of that victory, it marked the 800th win in Lincoln's franchise history. Following the game, the coaching staff presented athletic trainer and equipment manager Corey Courtney with the game puck. This season marks Courtney's 23rd with the Stars and 26th in the USHL.
Russo remarked postgame that Courtney is a "consummate professional whose work often goes unappreciated."