Lincoln Stars forward Luke Johnson will probably be rushing out late for warmups for Saturday’s outdoor hockey game because he’ll be taking the ACT college admission test earlier that day.
Johnson will take the test at Omaha Central High School, which is less than two miles from the TD Ameritrade Park. The test is scheduled to be finished about noon. The hockey game starts at 12:35 p.m.
Johnson has committed to play college hockey at North Dakota, which plays in the second game of the doubleheader, and needs to take the test to qualify for college.
His dad, Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach Steve Johnson, will probably be waiting to drive him to the stadium.
“He’ll have a little time to get his Superman suit on,” said Stars coach Chad Johnson, who is Luke’s uncle. “I shouldn’t compare him to Superman, but he’ll be ready. You can get dressed in five minutes, get out there and get a couple laps and be ready to go.”
Only minor equipment changes needed
Playing an outdoor game will only mean minor equipment changes for the players.
Team athletic trainer and equipment manager Corey Courtney ordered a turtleneck shirt for the players to wear under their jerseys. He considered buying stocking caps to wear under the helmets, but other players in outdoor games rarely used them.
Courtney will be able to make adjustments to players' skates during the game if the ice conditions change because of warm weather or rain.
The Stars have special jerseys for the game, which fans have already been able to purchase.
Some coaches in the NHL’s Winter Classic have worn fedoras for outdoor games, but that probably won’t be the case for the Stars' Chad Johnson.
“We've got some good deer hunting stuff that we could wear, if needed,” Johnson said.
North Dakota and UNO have USHL connections
One of the goals for players in the United States Hockey League is to earn scholarships and move on to play college hockey, and there will be a strong USHL influence in the second game of the doubleheader, between North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha.
Nearly 60 percent of the players for North Dakota and UNO are USHL alums, 18 for UNO and 12 for seven-time NCAA champion North Dakota. The rest of the college players come from the North American Hockey League, various Canadian leagues or straight from high school.
Andrew Schmit of UNO is the only former Lincoln Star playing for either university. The sophomore forward has played in 18 of 28 games for the Mavs this season and has one assist.
Both head coaches were once head coaches in the USHL. The Mavs’ Dean Blais led Fargo for one season, and North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol was with Sioux City. Former Stars head coach Steve Johnson is an assistant at UNO.
Seventh-ranked North Dakota and No. 14 UNO will also play Friday to open an important weekend series. Both teams are near the top of the WCHA standings and trying to build their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
If you’re going to the game …
* About 23,000 tickets were available, and more than 11,000 have been sold. One ticket is good for both games.
* Fans will be able to exit and re-enter the stadium once during the day.
* The Diesing Hospitality room near Gate 1 will be open for fans to keep warm.
* Lot D will be available for public parking for hockey fans, along with people attending the Omaha Home and Garden Expo at CenturyLink Center. The lot will open at 9 a.m., and tailgating will be allowed.
* There will be special downtown bus service to the stadium. Buses will run every 10 minutes from different downtown locations and a ride costs 25 cents.
— Brent C. Wagner