Special teams can change the tide of a game, and the Lincoln Stars are looking to capitalize on that fact in a two-games series on the road against the Youngstown Phantoms.
Though the Stars convert just 15 percent on the man-advantage (25-166), they may get plenty of chances against the Phantoms, who enter the series as the most-penalized team in the United States Hockey League with 732 minutes.
Youngstown averages just under 19 penalty minutes per game, while Lincoln's power play has converted on four of its last 16 chances.
“Everything has its ebbs and flows, you know?” Stars assistant coach Chris Michael said. “Things get hot, things get cold on 5-on-5, power-play and penalty kill. Throughout the course of a 62-game season, you are going to have your highs and you are going to have your lows.
“Recently our power play has been OK. We've simplified it and have done a better job getting pucks to the net, outnumbering them at the net front and just keeping it simple.”
Though the Stars have scored on 25 percent of their past 16 chances, they have failed on their last 12.
“When we struggle, it is kind of the polar opposite of that,” Michael added. “We try and force it too much or try to play dot-to-dot or through the seam. These teams that we have played lately do a good job cutting the rink in half, and when that happens, we have got to get pucks around their blockers and just simplify it.”
The Phantoms have struggled this season on the penalty kill, allowing the second most power-play goals (38) in the USHL. When the Stars last scored a power-play goal, they went 4-for-5 against the Green Bay Gamblers, who have allowed 37 this season for the third worst in the USHL.
“I thought we've been off and on throughout the whole year,” Stars defenseman Jordan Power said. “As of late, we've had some good movement, even against Omaha where we didn't capitalize (0-for-5) on the power play. We had some good shots, and personally I thought I had some good chances.”
On the flip side, Youngstown has converted on 24.6 percent of its power-play chances, second best in the league, while Lincoln's penalty-kill unit ranks third with an 83 percent success rate.
“Penalty kill is huge,” Powers said. “It's a momentum shifter either negatively or positively. Penalties are part of the game and it's going to happen every game.
“We've been doing a good job, especially on our faceoffs, of identifying our guys and identifying what we are going to do to get the puck out.”
Lincoln and Youngstown play at 7 p.m. Friday in Youngstown, Ohio.