Monday, January 19, 2009

USHL Report Card: Lincoln Stars

Team Record: 21-10-1

Total Points: 43

Goal Leader: Ryan Kretzer, Kirt Hill - 15

Assist Leader: Kirt Hill - 24

Points Leader: Kirt Hill - 39

PIM Leader: Michael Sdao - 79

+/- Leader: Ross Henry - +19

Wins Leader: Kevin Murdock - 12

Lincoln's goalie situation couldn't be any better right now. Lincoln boasts two of the best (statwise) goalies in the league right now. Kevin Murdock, a veteran, is performing quite well. Newer addition, Anthony Borelli, is right along with Murdock and they continue to push each other, and as a result, both have eye popping stats for the Stars. Borelli may remind many of David Reekie from last season. Lincoln brought in Anthony part way through the season, and he has just exploded on the scene, posting an 8-3-1 record with a 1.83 GAA. Murdock carries a 12-6-1 record and a slightly worse GAA of 2.29. Murdock had a battle with mono around the Christmas time, and that allowed Borelli to get his feet wet with USHL competition and more. He won his debut and played it cool in front of thousands of screaming fans in Lincoln. I had some questions surrounding Murdock after he spent most of last season watching David Reekie put on clinics. He has been outstanding and you wouldn't even know he played in just 15 games last season.

The Lincoln defense is anchored by often unnoticed Ross Henry. Henry is probably one of, if not THE, best defenseman in the entire league. He's not going to wow you with his offensive ability, but he's back on his blue line doing his job, and doing it almost flawlessly. With his defensive ability, I gave him one of my Unofficial USHL Blog Awards last season. Don't be surprised to see Ross nab that one again. A great story on Lincoln's blue line is Mike Dalhuisen. He's not a big point producer...yet. In his first two seasons, he had 10 assists. This season, he has scored his first USHL goal as well as posted 10 points. Jimmy McGroarty was quoted in an article featuring Mike saying that he thought Mike could very easily make it to the NHL due to his work ethic.

The Stars offense has been paced by former WHLer, Kirt Hill, and Ryan Kretzer. Hill spent four seasons in the WHL, where the closest he came to his current 39 points was last season when he notched 29 in 71 games for Regina. Kretzer enrolled at UNO this season, only to decide to return to the Stars for one last season before returning to UNO. The addition of Kretzer has really energized the team and he's constantly a threat on the ice. Garrett Vermeersch has been a very pleasant surprise for Lincoln. Last season, Garrett played in 42 games for Cedar Rapids, posting just 10 points. So far this season, the Macomb, Michigan native has posted 27 points in 28 games for the Stars. I don't think the Stars have a lot of offensive guys that are going to wow you, but they have a lot of depth and they all buy into what Coach McGroarty preaches, and the product on the ice shows that. They don't need to rely on the same guys each night to win, and that should help them in the playoffs. Their defense is top notch and their goalies are probably the best duo in the league, so the offense shouldn't have to do a whole lot to get this team on top. In the pre-season, Lincoln was my pick to win the Clark Cup this season.

Team Grade: A

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