The world of minor hockey is where young players dream of making it big in their sport. It is where they learn the fundamentals, hone their skills and fuel their passion for the game. One such team that has a rich history and has produced some unforgettable moments is the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL). From upsets to championship wins, the Lincoln Stars have left a lasting mark on the minor hockey scene, and their legacy continues to inspire young players.
Founded in 1996, the Lincoln Stars quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the USHL. In their first season, they made it to the Clark Cup playoffs, and in their third season, they won the championship, becoming the youngest team ever to do so in the league’s history. This set the tone for what was to come for the Stars – a journey filled with unforgettable upsets and wins.
One of the most memorable and historic upsets in the Lincoln Stars’ history was their defeat of the powerhouse Des Moines Buccaneers in the 2007 playoffs. The Buccaneers had dominated the league that season, finishing with a record of 45 wins and only 9 losses. They were a formidable opponent, and many predicted that they would easily sweep the Stars in the first round of the playoffs.
However, the Stars had other plans. Led by future NHL players such as Matt Bartkowski and Dakota Joshua, the Stars fought hard and won the series in a stunning upset, sending the Buccaneers packing. This upset not only showed the talent and determination of the Lincoln Stars but also highlighted the competitive landscape of the USHL, where any team can rise to the occasion and take down the top dogs.
But it wasn’t just upsets that defined the Lincoln Stars’ history – they also had some historic wins that left a lasting impact on the team and its fans. In 2009, the Stars captured their second Clark Cup championship, defeating the Indiana Ice in a hard-fought series. The win was significant not only because it was their second title in franchise history, but also because it marked the end of an era for the Lincoln Stars.
The 2009 championship would be the last for the Stars in their original form. A year later, the franchise was sold and relocated to become the Waterloo Black Hawks. The move left many fans heartbroken, but it also marked the end of a successful chapter in Lincoln Stars’ history.
However, the team made a triumphant return in 2012, when the league announced the addition of an expansion team – the new Lincoln Stars. And the new team wasted no time in making their mark. In their first season, they won the Anderson Cup – awarded to the regular-season champions – and made it to the Clark Cup playoffs. The Stars had officially announced their return to the USHL with a bang.
Since then, the Stars have continued to make history and add to their legacy. In the 2015-2016 season, they won the Anderson Cup again, becoming only the second team in league history to do so twice in four years. They also made it to the Clark Cup finals that season, although they lost to the Tri-City Storm.
But perhaps one of the most historic moments in recent years for the Lincoln Stars was the signing of Jack Hughes, the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Hughes, a highly-touted prospect and potential future superstar, played for the Stars during the 2016-2017 season – the team’s first season back in Lincoln – before moving on to the U.S. National Team Development Program. His time with the Stars was short, but it solidified the team’s reputation as a top development program and a place for young players to showcase their skills and get noticed by NHL scouts.
The Lincoln Stars may be a minor league team, but they have left an indelible mark on the world of hockey. From stunning upsets to historic wins, the Stars have captured the hearts of their fans and inspired the next generation of hockey players. And as they continue to make their presence known in the USHL, their legacy is sure to live on for years to come.