It may be a small step, but it was a step in the right direction for the Lincoln Stars, with many more to go.
The Stars had suffered mightily on the power play early on in this USHL season but have improved significantly over the past month of play, bringing their season-total to 17 power-play goals this season.
Noah Laba tied for the league lead in rookie power-play goals Saturday in the Stars' 8-2 loss to Sioux City at the Ice Box. It was the Stars' third power-play goal in the past two games. Lincoln is still last in the USHL in power-play percentage, but has brought that number up to 12.6.
Laba now has two man-advantage goals in Lincoln's last two contests and four on the season.
“It's simple. It's five guys outworking four guys,” Stars associate head coach Nick Peruzzi said. “You have to be in a shot mindset. We preach that a lot here. We've been preaching it a lot since the start of the year, and now you start seeing these guys have belief of evidence.
“You look tonight at (Laba's) goal, comes a little too late, but as far as the process of what we look for in a successful power play, you want to go out and build momentum for your team. That ultimately was a huge bonus and what we strive for every time we go out for a power play.”
Lincoln was slow out of the gate again Saturday, allowing the Musketeers to take a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Sioux City built that lead to 5-0 before Nikolai Mayorov gave the Stars a glimmer of hope with a breakaway goal, his fourth of the season.
“Looking at it (Saturday) and last night (a 3-2 shootout loss Friday to Sioux City), as far as starting and certainly the result, you go down one, two and this case three, a lot of that is self-inflicted,” Peruzzi said. “I know we are getting sick of the same things, but when you play behind the eight ball and are doing things that are very controllable in my opinion, it's tough to play in any league. Especially this league and our conference.
“It's something we are going to have to keep addressing with these guys. Some of that goes back to a little bit of guys learning on the go. Some of the mistakes being made are by guys that have never played in this league before. They are learning, we are a team and we win-lose as a team. Our starts are something we have to clean up 100%."
Laba's goal with just over five minutes left in the third period made it 7-2 before the Musketeers tacked on a late goal against Aidan McCarthy.
Ryan Ouellete made 17 saves for Lincoln in the start, but was replaced at the start of the third with a 5-1 deficit.
Lincoln plays its third game in three days Sunday, hosting the Fargo Force at 3 p.m. at the Ice Box.