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Ludtke makes leap early into year two in USHL

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Tanner Ludtke was just sharpening his skates as a rookie in his first season with the Lincoln Stars.

Ludtke is off to a hot start in year two with four goals and five assists through Lincoln's first six games of the season. The Elko, Minnesota native recorded just one goal over a 24-game span in the 2021-22 regular season.

"Last year we had a lot of big guys here that played important roles that left," Ludtke said. "I knew that I wanted to fill some of those roles, and that led to a big offseason. I feel like I got a lot bigger, faster (and) stronger. I just carried that momentum into the season here."

The 6-foot, left-handed forward knows how to handle the puck, but Stars head coach Rocky Russo makes sure all five guys on the ice are doing more than just their skill set.

"Last year I learned how to play without the puck and more in the defensive zone," Ludtke said. "If I wanted to play, that was how I was going to get my ice time. Bringing that into this year and also combining that with the skill to produce, but I think the biggest thing was just how to carry yourself and know that you have to prove yourself every day." 

Ludtke has recorded at least one point in all six games this season and recorded two multi-goal nights. He had two goals against Cedar Rapids in the season opener and is fresh off a two-goal game against Tri-City.

"I think we have a really deep group this year," the Stars forward said. "All lines can go. What we talked about this week is the offense has been really good, so we have to dial it into the defensive zone here. Make sure we are picking guys up.

"As far as the offense goes, we just have to keep playing the way we are supposed to play. Stick to the basics and things will go well."

And when the Stars score, they smell blood in the water.

Lincoln has scored six goals in four of their six games this season, including three games in a row. Lincoln leads the USHL Western Conference in goals for (30), while also the least amount of goals against (11).

The last time Lincoln accomplished six goals in three consecutive games came in 2019. The Stars defeated Sioux Falls 6-4 (Oct. 5) and 7-4 (Oct. 11) and a 6-1 victory over Omaha (Oct. 12).

"The guys feed off each other," Ludtke said. "When things are going well we feed off each other. When things aren't going exactly how we want it to be, a line steps up and makes a big play and gets the rest of the guys going.

"But I think the most fun is showing up every day. I kind of took that for granted last year. I've showed up every day and it's been a blast."

Lincoln hosts the Des Moines Buccaneers Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Ice Box.

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