Lincoln Stars will try to stave off elimination Monday night
After falling in Game 3 on Sunday, the Lincoln Stars will try to force a fifth game in the Western Conference Finals and keep their season alive
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Lincoln Stars had it all going Sunday night.
A fast start and an early lead, an electric home crowd —announced as 3,014 fans — behind them and a 44-24 advantage on the shot counter.
However, it wasn’t enough. Despite a late push and a Mason Marcellus goal with one minute left, the Stars ultimately fell short in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, 3-2.
Now the Stars find their season on the line and Rocky Russo’s club must win Game 4 Monday night to stay alive.
“This team hasn’t had anything easy all year and why would anything change now?” Russo said after Sunday’s loss. “We’ve got our backs against the wall and it’s a little bit of adversity. But this team is very comfortable being uncomfortable.”
It’s been a constant theme throughout the season. The Stars are 14-11-1 after losses during the 2022-23 campaign and whether it's on the ice or in the standings, Lincoln has handled adversity well.
Lincoln has already faced elimination once in the playoffs too and responded by winning Game 3 in Waterloo last Sunday. The Stars had lost two playoff games before Sunday and won the next night on both occasions.
They’ll try to make it a third Monday night.
As for Sunday’s loss, Russo reiterated multiple times his team played well enough to win. The constant pressure, physicality, 44 shots and multiple scoring chances were impressive.
However, minor details and costly mistakes are what made the difference.
Turnovers led to all three Fargo goals and although 44 shots look great on paper, Russo said he’s not sure his club “did enough to get inside ice and get to the hard areas.” Many of Lincoln’s chances came from the perimeter.
There’s a lot to like about Sunday’s performance, but those inside Lincoln’s locker room know there are areas that need cleaned up. At the same time, Game 3 is already in the rearview mirror.
“We’re an adversity-driven group and we’ve kind of battled all year,” said forward Jack Pechar, who gave Lincoln a 1-0 lead 3:30 into the contest. “The vibes are gonna be there tomorrow and we’ve just got to battle like our backs are against the wall and like we’ve been doing for the past two months.”
“We’ve just got to limit mistakes and live to fight another day,” Marcellus added. “Tomorrow we’re gonna be a lot more tighter, we’re gonna be a lot more focused.”
The Stars and Force will meet again Monday night at the Ice Box. Game 4 is set for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff.
If the Stars are to knot the series at 2-2, Game 5 would be back in Fargo Thursday night at the same time.
“I believe in the group,” Russo said. “I believe in the leadership down there, I believe in every guy that’s a part of this team from top to bottom.
"I know they want to win, they want to continue to play with each other, they love each other, they love the Lincoln Stars and they’re gonna be ready to play (Monday).”