Atte Tuliara was far from his Helsinki, Finland, home.
But learning the ropes of American culture and life in Lincoln, 4,726 miles from his home, was almost easy for Tuliara. His teammate and defensive partner, Eero Teravainen, was in the same situation last season. Teravainen, also from Helsinki, had previously played with Tuliara with Finland's Jokerit hockey team before joining the USHL and the Stars last season.
"It's different, but it is a nice place," Tuliara said, something he quickly learned after joining the Lincoln Stars as a defenseman this season.
"For me it was a bit easier to come here," Tuliara said. "When you know a person from Finland, that definitely helped me adjust to culture here and the play style."
When they are both on the ice, the communication is different between them. Both speak Finnish to call out outlet passes or explain where the opponent pressure is coming from, adding a different element on the ice.
"I don't know if it helps that much, but for us it is easier," Teravainen said.
The defensive duo also has a similar play style, helping the coaching staff see an early connection between the two.
"Maybe the fact they have the same cultural background and are from the same city as European players might help that, but I think they both have attributes that help feed off each," Stars' coach Cody Chupp said. "That's why they play together, and have been decent together. They have some differences and similarities in their style of play."
Having that extra sense of comfort on and off the ice is something Tuliara and Teravainen will need to continue with their defensive unit being shorthanded.
In Tuesday's 5-3 victory over Des Moines at the Ice Box, the Stars had four active defensemen with forward Zach Dubinksy helping out on the defensive end. To make things even more complicated, being shorthanded meant for a lot of ice time for Lincoln's defensemen. Carter Long was on the ice for more than half the game, logging 31 minutes of ice time.
"That is a massive amount of minutes for anyone to take on," Stars' head coach Cody Chupp said. "To be any bit of effective at the end of those 31 minutes is impressive to me.
"It's very difficult to match up (defensive) pairs with lines when you don't have very many of them. You are going to play against everybody and in all situations."
The Stars defensive core will continue to try to stay on their feet, facing the Waterloo Black Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ice Box.
Westlund commits to Buckeyes
Lincoln Stars forward Gustaf Westlund announced his commitment to Ohio State on Tuesday, joining teammate Collin Peters and Stars alum Tanner Laczynski and Miguel Fidler.
"I really wanted to go to a school where I knew that the opportunity (to play) was one of the main factors and where I felt a good connection to the staff," the Stockholm native said. "When I went there for my visit, I just felt like this is a good place to be."
Westlund has five goals and 11 assists through 28 games for the Stars this season.