October 5, 2017 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Lincoln Stars
LINCOLN, Neb. - The Lincoln Stars have announced the team captains for the 2017-18 season, naming forward Dominick Mersch as team captain and Austen Long, Carter Long and Collin Peters as assistant captains. All four captains were decided by a player vote.
"As a staff, sometimes you tinker with [captains] a little bit and maybe there's another guy you feel strongly about, but that wasn't the case," said Head Coach Cody Chupp. "It was easy for us to say that these are the guys that the team voted on, these are the guys that we feel strongly about, and we're on the same page."
Mersch, 19, enters this season as the longest-tenured Stars player on the active roster, logging 115 games over the last two seasons while embodying the intensity and leadership expected of a seasoned veteran. His entry into the Stars organization has had high clout since the start, being selected 5th overall by the Stars in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft. After making his USHL debut with Team USA, the Park Ridge, Ill. native made his Stars debut on Apr. 10, 2015 against Omaha, which began a strong relationship with the organization and the fan base. Since then, he's amassed 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points including a 25-point season last season.
On the ice, Mersch is known for his hard-working, team-first mentality, and his hard-nosed style of play combined with consistent production has made him a favorite among Stars fans. Above all, regardless of location or situation, the University of Wisconsin commit's experience at the USHL level provides a standard and example to set for the team, and he leads both my his actions and his speech, earning the respect of the locker room to be named captain.
"He knows what it takes to be successful in this league," said Chupp. "He's spent time in this league. He knows the requirements on how to conduct yourself day-to-day, and he's been nothing but a professional since we got here on the ice, off the ice and in the locker room. He holds himself and the people around him to a high standard. At the end of the day, it was a player vote, and I think they made the right choice."
"It's a huge honor," said Mersch. "It's my third year here, and I have a little experience here. I was roommates with our captain and assistant captain last year, so I learned a lot from those guys as well as teammates in the past. I just hope to pass that along to the other guys. We want to help the younger guys get used to this level quickly, being away from home and having a tight-knit group in the locker room and on the ice. We want everyone to buy in and know that we're a family in the locker room."
All three assistant captains provide a wealth of USHL experience as well as a different mentality to their leadership role. Austen Long, 19, enters his third full USHL season following a Clark Cup Championship with the Chicago Steel in 2016-17, recording four goals and 14 assists for 18 points through 51 games. While new to the organization, Long's on-ice style of play and his locker room appeal garner him the respect of his peers.
"Shouts to the boys for believing in me and thinking I'm one of the leaders on the team," said Austen Long. "I appreciate that from them. I think having a little bit more experience can help show them what it takes to get to a Clark Cup with what we went through last year."
Carter Long, 19, enters his second season with the Stars after being drafted by Lincoln in 2015, recording four points through 57 games last year. The University of Vermont commit leads by example and lets his on-ice play and personal style shine for younger players.
"It's definitely an honor," said Carter Long. "It was a player vote, so that makes it even more special because its your peers voting for you to lead the team. The biggest thing is creating a good culture with all the veterans that we have. With a new coaching staff, they put in a new system. Everybody's learning, so we're all growing together, and I think that's a good thing."
Peters, 20, enters his final season of junior eligibility and has played in the USHL since the 2013-14 season, recording 28 goals and 26 assists for 54 points through 111 career games between Lincoln, Muskegon and Sioux Falls. With a Clark Cup Championship already under his belt from the 2014-15 season, the Ohio State University commit showcases a happy melding of talent, experience and personality to younger players as another example of conduct at the USHL level.
"This makes me feel really good," said Peters. "It's an honor to be nominated for that and lead the team. I know we've got three other great captains. It's all about experience. Once you get a few games in, you'll be playing the way you usually play and what got you here. We just have to make them feel comfortable and have them play the way they know how to play."
"The thing I like about our assistant captains is that they're all a little bit different," said Chupp. "They all have different personalities, but at the same time they're all great leaders in their own way. I think it's important to have a guy that's vocal and willing to get in other guys' faces, have a guy that leads by example, and have a guy that everyone gets along with and feels comfortable talking to. All those personalities help round out that leadership core, where whoever a young guy feels closest to I have confidence that he's a great leader."
The Stars open the 2017-18 season at the Ice Box on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7:35 p.m. against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Tickets are available by calling 402-474-7827 or going to LincolnStars.com.
Season tickets for the 2017-2018 season are now available by calling 402-474-7827. The Stars mobile app is also available in the iTunes and Google Play stores with "tap to buy" tickets, in-game push notifications and a rewards program that puts fans in the skates of a player. Download Now!
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Stars Announce 2017-18 Team Captains