OMAHA | Consider it safe to say that the Sioux City Musketeers would have been a tough opponent had they reached the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Coach Luke Strand’s Musketeers gave Omaha a battle throughout Saturday night’s action at Ralston Arena. Cole Gallant extended his scoring streak to eight games when he assisted on Brendan Furry’s second-period power play goal to tie the game at 2-all.
Ryan Savage then scored the winning goal in a sudden-death shootout as the Lancers edged the Musketeers 3-2. Omaha finished the regular season with a 39-16-5 record and clinches a first-round bye as the second-place team in the Western Conference.
Sioux City ended with a 26-26-8 record. Two of the four games in the series against Omaha went to a sudden-death shootout with Micah Miller scoring the game-winner in a 4-3 win at Ralston on March 18 while Musketeer fans won’t forget the New Year’s Eve game where Parker Ford’s overtime goal turned into a 2-1 win over the Lancers.
The Musketeers had winning records against four other teams which reached the Clark Cup Playoffs. Wednesday’s 6-0 shutout at Sioux Falls gave Strand’s squad a 4-3-1 record against its rival to the north. They were 3-1-3 against Tri-City, a team they edged Friday by a 3-2 score.
Four consecutive January wins over Fargo led to a 5-3 advantage in the series. Sioux City also posted a 2-0 record against Green Bay, a playoff qualifier from the Eastern Conference.
Younger players from the Musketeers shined in Saturday night’s season finale. Ford, who scored two goals Wednesday against Sioux Falls, knotted the game up at one goal when he scored off the first of defenseman Luke Johnson’s two first-period assists.
Sioux City took a 2-1 lead when Johnson assisted on Micah Miller’s 24th goal of the season, a power-play goal with one second remaining until the first intermission. It was Miller’s fourth man-advantage goal of the season.
Incidentally, Miller will continue his hockey career at St. Cloud State (Minn.), a program which on Friday announced the hiring of former Musketeer head coach Brett Larson as its new head coach. Larson, who coached the Musketeers in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, was an assistant coach for Minnesota Duluth teams that won the Frozen Four in 2011 and on April 7 when it defeated Notre Dame 2-1 at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Another young Musketeer who excelled during the week was the USHL’s youngest goaltender, Ben Kraws (5-4-4), who got his third straight start. The 17-year old Kraws converted 87 of 91 saves in regulation this week and had five saves in the shootout before Savage’s game-winner.