Devlin McCabe and Paul Cotter are both rookies for the Lincoln Stars. Their paths to the United States Hockey League were different, but they have both found early success in the league.
Cotter leads the Stars with four goals after a two-goal performance last Saturday at the Ice Box against Sioux Falls, and McCabe leads Lincoln in points with eight in nine games.
“It is a huge credit to those guys and the work that they are putting in on a daily basis,” Stars' coach Cody Chupp said. “To get themselves prepared every night and right from the get-go, those were guys that came in with expectations of themselves that did not include a warmup period into the league.
“They put high demands on themselves, and it is a huge credit to our leadership with the intensity we have had in practice that allows the younger guys to get up to speed quicker.”
Cotter's path comes from another developmental league playing in the North American Hockey League last season with the Brookings Blizzard. The Canton, Michigan, native tallied 28 goals and 32 assists in 59 games, helping him earn NAHL Rookie of the Year honors, something Cotter hopes will transition into the USHL.
“If you change league-to-league, I think you need to adjust your game at least a little bit,” Cotter said. “For me it was just dealing with the speed a little bit. I had to work on more of my quickness and transitional speed.
“The NAHL is a great league and a growing league, but the USHL is the best couple players in the U.S., really. It's obviously a jump, but it is not as big as I expected. Just holding yourself a little more accountable and being ready to play game-in and game-out is a little bit tougher in the USHL."
Unlike many players in the league, McCabe played high school hockey out of St. Paul Academy and lived at home in North Oaks, Minnesota.
In many junior leagues, players live with billet families playing away from home and for McCabe it was an eye opener at first, but he didn't let it effect his game.
“It's been nice, but at the same time it has been tough not having those comforts of home,” McCabe said. “It's been really fun, and it is making me into a man.”
McCabe scored the Stars' first goal of the season, a penalty shot with all eyes on him in a pressure-filled moment. One thing Chupp says has helped McCabe adjust is the mental aspect he brings to the game.
“His IQ, I think, is something that separates him from a lot of the league,” Chupp said. “It's one thing that translates very quickly to our league, guys that are able to adapt maybe faster than others. A lot of it has to do with their hockey IQ, and his is extremely high.
“I think he makes everyone around him better and his ability to read situations and read the game; because of that he has adapted quickly and found himself in a good spot in our lineup where he's playing with skilled guys.”
McCabe and Cotter, along with the Stars, host the Fargo Force at the Ice Box at 7:30 p.m. Friday.