The Lincoln Stars hit cruise control before Saturday's game ended in mania and a little Nikolai Mayorov celebration dance at center ice.
Mayorov provided the eventual game-winning goal in the third period on a slick feed from Carter Schade from the Stars red line to the Sioux Falls blue line in Lincoln's 6-4 victory at the Ice Box.
“I saw Carter Schade saw me and came down the left side,” Mayorov said through a translator. “I ripped it. I saw the spot open and just shot there.”
The Stars' Noah Laba added an empty-net goal for the final score, and Mayorov gave the fans a treat after the game by dancing at center ice for the Lincoln crowd.
“(Nick) Nardecchia, it was his girlfriend's birthday yesterday,” Mayorov said. “It was kind of a salute to her. She watches every single one of our games, and it was an appreciation to the fans.”
The Stars also played the Russian national anthem for Mayorov, who is Russian, ahead of the game. It was the first time Mayorov had heard it in three years before a game as he became the second Stars player this season to score when their home country's anthem is played at the Ice Box.
“It's my nationality. It's an honor for me to represent it,” Mayorov said.
Mayorov's goal came after the Stars blew leads of 3-0 and 4-2 as Sioux Falls stormed back in the second period with a four-goal outburst. Lincoln led 3-0 after 20 minutes of play.
“We'll leave what was said in the locker room in the locker room,” Stars head coach and general manager Chris Michael said. "It probably stemmed back from the last eight or nine minutes of the first period. Once we got out 3-0, we saw what we usually see in this young generation, and that's, 'We got our three-goal lead, now it's my turn to go get something. It's a point night.' … We came out as poor as could be in the second period.”
Henry Nelson gave the Stars a 1-0 lead with his first USHL goal in the first period in just his third career game. Minutes later, Luke Mittlestadt cushioned the Stars' lead to 2-0 with his first goal of the season.
Mittlestadt and Nelson are former Minnesota high school rivals. Their schools went head-to-head in the Minnesota state hockey tournament earlier this month, with Mittlestadt and Eden Prairie prevailing 6-5 in overtime in the state semifinals. Eden Prairie went on to win the state tournament.
“It was huge for our team to get going there,” Nelson said. “I just jumped up in the play and got a good pass from (James) Stephan there and buried it. It was a great place to do it at home and in front of some amazing fans.”
The Stars will head to Waterloo, Iowa, to face the Black Hawks on Tuesday before returning to the Ice Box on Friday for the final home game of the season.