While their time with the Lincoln Stars may have come and gone, former players having success at the next level excites the Stars organization.

Take the Northeastern men's hockey team, for example, which started the season with four former Lincoln players: Brandon Schultz, former Stars' captain Biagio Lerario, Grant Jozefek and Cayden Primeau. Schultz would transfer from Northeastern early in the season.

Every year Northeastern sets three goals: win the Bean Pot Trophy, the Hockey East Conference championship and the national championship. The Huskies have already accomplished the first two this season and will begin the trek toward the third goal when they play Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

It may be hard to see how the success translates back to the Stars, but for head coach Cody Chupp, it's as clear as day.

“Essentially that is why we are here as an organization and as a staff,” Chupp said. “Obviously wins and losses and championships are important to us, but ultimately we measure our coaching and our ability to develop based on what guys do when they leave here.

“We are extremely proud of every Lincoln Star that has moved on and had success at any level of college and pro hockey. We watch very intently, like I'm sure most organizations do leading up to the NCAA Tournament.”

The trio was part of a Huskies team in 2018 that ended a 30-year Bean Pot drought. Now they have two and hope to help carry Northeastern to Buffalo, New York, and claim the first Northeastern men's hockey national championship.

“Before I came in, (Northeastern) won the Hockey East Championship, and that was kind of the start of everything,” Lerario said. “Then to be part of a team to beat the powerhouses like BU (Boston University), BC (Boston College) and for us to kind of take over Boston; it's bragging rights, it really is. … We're not done yet and we want to win more.”

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Jozefek is one of five Huskies to reach double digits in goals (10), while Lerario has chipped in with four goals and four assists.

Then there is Primeau, the former Stars netminder and a Montreal Canadiens draft pick. Primeau, a sophomore, picked up the Hockey East Tournament Most Valuable Player Award and is a two-time finalist for the Mike Richter Award — awarded to NCAA Division I hockey's most outstanding goalie.

It's not just at Northeastern where former Stars are excelling.

Wyatt Kalynuk was just named team captain for the 2019-20 season for Wisconsin, and Penn State's Peyton Jones, a junior, already owns the Nittany Lions' all-time wins record as a goalie.

“A lot of times, in most instances (being named captain) is voted on by your teammates,” said Chupp, who was a two-time captain at Ferris State. “It's extremely important to have the respect of the guys in the room and to be viewed as leader both on and off the ice is a massive honor.”

Only a few Stars players' USHL eligibility expires at the end of the season. One is Samuli Niinisaari, who is committed to Brown, but even he knows the importance of what former players are doing for the Stars organization.

“It's great to see the path that I'm on now; guys have been on it before,” Niinisaari said. “They are accomplishing what I want to do in the future, and it gives me a lot of hope.”

Niinisaari and the Stars will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to face the Buccaneers at 7 p.m. Friday.

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


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