The colors of the Lincoln Stars' uniforms — black and blue — have taken on a whole new meaning to start the season.
It has defined the Stars' style of play for more than 20 years, especially at the Ice Box against the Omaha Lancers, where a high number of penalty minutes is not uncommon.
No one wants to be hit or knocked down, said Lincoln goaltender Tyler Johnson, who finished with 40 saves and picked up his second win last Friday in the Stars' 4-2 victory over Omaha.
Instead of asking for some retaliation, Johnson asked for a different approach from his teammates in front of him, as several times Johnson needed a few extra seconds to get up after being bulldozed in the crease.
“I'd rather just put the boys in the best possible position,” Johnson said. “Getting run over is never fun, but it is part of hockey. It's a physical sport and I just don't think it is fair to them to have to come to my rescue and play 4-on-4 when we could have the power play.”
The Stars delivered on Johnson's request, scoring on the first power play of the game on Shane Pinto's team-leading 12th goal of the season just 13 seconds after Omaha was called for a charging call. Lincoln finished 1-for-4 on the man advantage and allowed only one power play to the Lancers.
“That is just the definition of (Johnson), and being that kind of player,” Stars defenseman Justin Lee said. “He is putting the team first in that situation; to take the advantage of the power play and try and put one in the back of their net.”
That team chemistry has things going in the right direction for the Stars as they play two games at the Ice Box on Friday and Saturday, Lee said.
“That win was huge for our group,” Lee said. “It just showed our character there.”
Lincoln will host Sioux City on Friday, before hosting Des Moines on Saturday. Saturday's game is the annual Teddy Bear Toss, when stuffed animals will be donated to families in need in Lancaster and Saunders counties.
Pinto was selected to play in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game hosted by the Stars on Jan. 8. Through 20 games, Pinto leads Lincoln with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) for 11th place in USHL scoring. Pinto is also representing Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge next week in Bonnyville, Alberta.