Lincoln Stars forward Cole Craft can laugh about it now after his team fought tooth and claw Saturday at the Ice Box.
The Stars scored the final two goals against Tri-City on "Tiger King" Night to avenge a 5-0 loss Friday to the Storm in Kearney with a 2-1 victory Saturday.
Craft missed a wide-open net late in the third period Saturday before deflecting a Clay Hanus shot that gave the Stars a 2-1 lead with 1:30 left in regulation. The goal was originally awarded to Hanus, which would have been his first USHL goal of the season.
“It's hockey, right? We are here to have fun,” Craft said of watching Hanus celebrate. “Having (Hanus) celebrate right away, not knowing I got a stick on it, it's kind of laughable now. … It's just good to pull that one out.”
Lincoln (7-10-1) scratched its way out of a first period that started with a Storm goal.
Cole O'Hara put Tri-City on the board 5:17 into regulation as the Storm was on a six-goal run over the course of the two games. Moments later, Stars co-captain Stanley Cooley received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross checking.
“Obviously we weren't totally thrilled with the call, but it happens,” said Craft, who is Cooley's roommate. “When we get put in situations like that, it's all about overcoming adversity, and our (penalty) kill was able to kill it off for five minutes. That's huge. It's big for our group and we were able to get out of the period down one (goal) and climb back into it.”
Lincoln killed off all four Tri-City power plays and capitalized on a man advantage of their own early in the second period to knot the score 1-1.
It took more than 80 minutes between two games for the Stars to get the puck past Tri-City goaltender Todd Scott, but Dominic James found the back of the net on the power play 3:31 into the second frame for his third goal of the season.
“They stepped their game up. It wasn't pretty and I felt (Tri-City) tilted the ice a handful of times there,” Stars coach Chris Michael said. “But you know what, they gutted it out. Right now, with this group, that's what we are going to have to do. Just gut things out, play hard and play for each other."
Adversity nearly struck for the Stars about a minute before Craft scored the game-winning goal.
Lincoln netminder Aidan McCarthy, who finished with 27 saves in his season debut with the Stars, was pushed into the net and Tri-City players celebrated what they thought was a go-ahead goal. It was waved off after review and the Stars took the fight right back at Tri-City.
“Hockey is a game of momentum swings,” Craft said. “For us, it's all about sticking to the process, and luckily we were able to pull out a gutty win.”
The Stars have a three-game homestand beginning Friday at the Ice Box against the Sioux Falls Stampede.