Jacob Mucitelli has the keys to be the Lincoln Stars starting goaltender, but his team's slow offensive start kept him in park in a 6-3 loss to Central Illinois on Saturday at the Ice Box.
Mucitelli is in a unique situation, with teammate Samuel Hlavaj preparing for the IIHF World Championships for Slovakia. With Cristian Wong Ramos serving primarily as an emergency backup, Mucitelli will rack up major minutes in net down the stretch.
“I feel bad for Moose (Mucitelli) right now,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said. “He's as hard as anyone on himself, but right now he's really fighting the puck right now.
“We have an emergency backup in and this is his opportunity to take the reins to be the guy on a night-in, night-out basis."
Central Illinois came out flying in the first period and took a 3-0 lead on Mucitelli, including two power-play goals, before the Lincoln offense settled in and started to slowly shift momentum. The Flying Aces outshot the Stars 14-5 through 20 minutes of play.
“It's going to be a long week for him trying to get past this weekend, but ultimately we need him, too,” Chupp said. “It's a great opportunity to rebound and have a great week of practice and find his confidence and go into next week and be the guy we know he can be.”
The Stars gained momentum after trailing 5-0 in the second period. Lincoln failed to score on the power play, going 0-for-3 Saturday, but a rejuvenated offense showed signs of life.
Tristan Ashbrook cut the deficit to 5-1 with his 13th goal of the season in the second period.
Charlie Schoen of the Stars added his USHL first in the third period, but it was former Star Philippe Lapointe who stopped momentum with his second goal of the two-game series. Lapointe also had an empty-net goal Friday in the Aces' 5-1 victory. Steven Agriogianis added his fourth of the season for Lincoln for the final margin.
Lincoln will close the regular season with a home-and-home series against the Omaha Lancers beginning at Omaha's Ralston Arena at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Former Stars player Ryan Poehling had a hat trick in his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in Montreal. Poehling also added the shootout winner in the Canadiens' 6-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.