When you score your first goal, it is always special. When it is the game-winner, it is even sweeter.
Wyatt Schlaht's goal in the third period, the first of his USHL career, proved to be the difference as the Lincoln Stars took a gritty 2-1 affair Wednesday over Cedar Rapids at the Ice Box.
“It's always fun to score, but this one took a little longer than I probably would have wanted,” said Schlaht, who went goal-less in 34 games. “It's obviously really special because it is our second win (in a row) and we are heading in the right direction.”
The Stars have won two consecutive games and have recorded five points in their last three games. It's the most points the Stars have picked up in a three-game span this season dating back to Oct. 27-Nov. 9, when Lincoln picked up four points in a shootout loss (Tri-City), overtime loss (Omaha) and a victory over Sioux Falls.
“For a guy like Wyatt to finally get rewarded for his first is great,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said. “He has been here all year, and he has put in the work. Opportunity has started to come his way and for probably the last three games in general he has been effective when he has been out there (on the ice).”
Schlaht's goal 14:06 into period three gave the Stars a 2-0 lead just before Cedar Rapids struck back just 25 seconds later on a goal from Chase Hamstad.
The RoughRiders' quick burst of momentum did not last long as a solid defensive performance by Lincoln the rest of the way kept Cedar Rapids at bay. Playing hard especially in the defensive zone was one of the key messages, Chupp said.
“We have to do a better job managing the puck in transition and managing the puck in general," Chupp said. "Especially with a lead.”
Hunter Skinner netted his first goal in a Stars uniform and fourth of the season after joining Lincoln from the Muskegon Lumberjacks to give Lincoln a 1-0 lead in the second period. Josh Lopina found a wide-open Skinner while both teams were skating 4-on-4. Skinner capitalized in the right slot with just the RoughRiders' Troy Kobryn to beat in net.
Samuel Hlavaj picked up his second victory, coming in back-to-back contests, stopping 29 Cedar Rapids' shots.
“I loved our effort, and that is the biggest thing to me,” Chupp said. “We've talked about it a lot as of late especially, but the 'how' is the most important thing to me, and we committed to the work throughout, like I said, major portions of this game.”
The Stars hit the road this weekend, first facing Sioux Falls at 7 p.m. Friday before facing Omaha on Saturday.
The Stars traded goalie Tyler Johnson to the Fargo Force for future compensation Wednesday. Johnson logged 970 minutes in 18 games in net for the Stars this year, posting a 3.34 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage. The Stars, in last place in the USHL's Western Conference, traded away their top two scorers in recent weeks.