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Madison vs. Lincoln Stars, 1/5/18

Lincoln Stars forward Dominick Mersch (center) knocks over Madison Capitols goalie Dryden McKay as Stars’ forward Collin Peters (3) looks on during a January game at the Ice Box. The Stars host the third game of their playoff series against Waterloo at the Ice Box on Wednesday.

FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO

A little R&R may be just what the doctor ordered for the Lincoln Stars.

After some rest and recuperation, the Stars are done with the hotel life for now and are ready to bring the Western Conference semifinals against the Waterloo Black Hawks back to home ice.

Following a split in the first two games of the series in Waterloo, Iowa, the Stars have a chance to clinch the best-of-five series at the Ice Box.

“The Ice Box is a tough place to play and a lot of fun as a home team to try and make a team come in here and play against us,” Stars captain Dominick Mersch said. “We are trying to make it a goal for us to finish (the series) off and not go back to Waterloo."

The Stars finally got two days' rest between games and returned to Lincoln for the first time since April 16, before the Stars opened the first round of the Clark Cup playoffs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Even though you got two days of rest, there's bumps, there's bruises, and it's very easy to be the group that makes excuses,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said. “Whatever it may be, we have to refuse to be that group. We have all year and our fans can fuel us in those situations where it is decision time.”

Lincoln feels good about its chances against Waterloo, the Anderson Cup winners for being the top team in the regular season. The Stars are returning home and ready to play in front of the home crowd for the first time since April 7.

Walking out of Waterloo with at least a split was something the Stars felt they needed to accomplish.

“Huge,” said Paul Cotter, who scored the overtime goal to upend the Black Hawks in the first game of the series. “We definitely wanted one, and I think the second game we were exhausted mentally and physically.

“To get (a win in Waterloo) and come back to a home crowd is definitely going to be an advantage for us.”

In Game 2, when the Stars looked tired, Waterloo used its Olympic-sized sheet of ice to its advantage. Now that the series has moved to Lincoln, the Stars feel the smaller playing surface at the Ice Box plays in the Stars' favor.

“We want to play on a smaller sheet. We want to use our speed and use our physicality,” Mersch said. "We are used to playing at the Ice Box with a smaller sheet, where Waterloo has a big rink and our game can be hard at times on a sheet like that.”

Game 3 of the series at the Ice Box starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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