SIOUX CITY | There’s something about facing the Eastern Conference that appeals to Cole Koepke.
Sioux City Musketeers captain Brady Ferner is just as effective against teams from the East such as the Youngstown Phantoms, but for a more unique reason.
Koepke’s goal with 9:05 left in the third period gave the Musketeers a brief 2-1 lead Friday night during United States Hockey League action. Youngstown tied the game on Michael Joyaux’s goal with 4:58 left, but about a minute after Ryan Leibold’s goal with 2:23 left that snapped the 2-all deadlock, Koepke assisted on Bauer Neudecker’s goal that concluded a wild third period in a 5-2 United States Hockey League win at the Tyson Events Center.
Koepke had two goals and an assist and now has 18 goals and two assists on the season. An alternate captain for Coach Luke Strand’s 18-14-6 Musketeers, Koepke has 12 goals and one assist against Eastern Conference teams.
When Ferner, a right defenseman and captain of the Sioux City Musketeers assisted on Randy Hernandez’s goal 3 ½ minutes into the first period of Friday’s United States Hockey League game against Youngstown, it marked yet another of his accomplishments.
A Dakota Dunes native, Ferner first broke into the USHL in mid-December of 2015 and Youngstown was the Musketeers’ opponent at the Tyson Events Center. He was designated as an emergency player as the squad, then coached by Jay Varady, were needing players and incidentally, the Musketeers won both games that weekend, 2-1 in a shootout and 9-4.
Ferner scored his first point ever in five games against Youngstown and has one goal and seven assists against Eastern Conference competition this season. Tallying his third goal of the campaign for a team that’s a season-best four games over .500, Hernandez scored his first point in eight games.
Winning goaltender Matt Jurusik (17-11-4) took a shutout into the third period for the fifth time this season and finished with 22 saves. He was backed by a pressure-packed penalty kill that was perfect in three chances.
With two goals and nine assists heading into tonight’s second game of the series against Youngstown, Ferner has already surpassed his point total from a year ago when he had two goals and eight assists. Overall, the RPI recruit has four goals and 23 assists in 124 career games with the Musketeers.
Sioux City has scored the first goal in each of its last four games and is 11-1-3 in that category on the season. Hernandez, a native of Miami, Fla., and perhaps the first Musketeer with parents of Cuban descent, became the 10th Musketeer to score the first goal this season.
Coach Luke Strand has guided the Musketeers to a 13-3-3 tear that began with a 2-1 shootout win over Central Illinois on Dec. 15. That span includes an 8-0-1 record on home ice where Jurusik (17-11-4) has allowed just 13 goals.
Sioux City, now 10-7-4 at the Tyson, defeated a Youngstown opponent that is one of the USHL’s best on the road with an 11-6-3 record. The Phantoms feature one of the league’s top four scorers in Matthew Barry, who has USHL highs with 31 assists and 16 power-play assists.
Barry’s five-game scoring streak came to an end. The same was true of one his two linemates, left wing Chase Gresock. Regush, the center of the line who extended his scoring streak to six games with the third period goal that knotted the game 1-1, made it 39 goals for one of the league’s solid lines.
Regush was tangled with Musketeers’ defenseman and alternate captain Keegan Mantaro in the closing seconds of the second period. Regush’s teammate, Dalton Messina, responded by taking on Mantaro to the boards and in the process, received a roughing penalty.
Following Saturday night’s finale against Youngstown, the Musketeers will continue their home stand when they host Sioux Falls next Friday.