A 3-1 Lincoln Stars lead turned into a haunting 5-3 loss to the Chicago Steel on Saturday at the Ice Box.
The Steel (6-1-0), defending USHL Clark Cup champions, scored four straight unanswered goals in the third period to flip the script on the struggling Stars. Lincoln (3-4-0) has now lost four straight games.
“We just slipped from our game. I think last night (a 6-1 defeat to the Tri-City Storm in Kearney) we talked about we played 10 minutes really well and tonight we probably played 45 minutes really well,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said. “They scored and got some momentum and we didn't have enough push-back to stop their momentum.
“They were able to build off it and we kind of shrunk from it.”
Former Steel player Austen Long put Lincoln ahead 2-0 in the second period, but it was another former Steel player who had a costly turnover in the third that helped the Steel tie the game 3-3 after Wyatt Aamodt lost the puck in front of Stars goaltender Tomas Vomacka. The Steel's Blake McLaughlin picked up the puck with the toe of his stick and put it over Vomacka's left shoulder.
“We had a great start last night that we were able to finish on and build off it tonight,” Chupp said. “We talked about last night how important it is to score and get that momentum in your favor and we were able to do it tonight. We stayed on that pressure in the second (period) and weathered a little bit of a push and came out in the third period and got right back on them again.
"They got a goal, we deflated a bit and (they) built off that momentum. It's another learning experience for us, and it doesn't suck any less than last night, but we have to take the good with the bad right now and there is a lot of good; the bad is just the painful part.”
McLaughlin would go on to assist on Chicago's go-ahead goal by Jack Dugan with five minutes left. Dugan added an empty-net goal 3 minutes, 14 seconds later to seal Lincoln's fate and the Steel comeback victory.
Despite a five-minute lapse in the third period, the Stars controlled the pace early on. Phillipe Lapointe put Lincoln ahead just past midway through the first and Long added to it with a power-play goal in the second, stuffing home a rebound off Chicago goaltender Oskar Autio.
After the Steel tallied a second-period goal, Lincoln's Josiah Slavin put the Stars back up by two 4:45 into the final frame before the Steel went on the four-goal run.
The Stars travel to Sioux City to face the Musketeers at 7 p.m. next Saturday.