KEARNEY, Neb. | Believe it or not, the Sioux City Musketeers still have a chance to end the season with a winning record.
All it would take is a victory Saturday night at Omaha. Goaltender Ben Kraws took a shutout 15 minutes into the third period and the Musketeers posted a 3-2 win over the slumping, yet playoff-bound Tri-City Storm Friday night during United States Hockey League action at the Viaero Event Center.
A triumph at Ralston Arena will give Sioux City a 27-26-7 record. Coach Luke Strand’s squad is 2-1 against Omaha (38-16-5) this season, winning each of the last two games in the series, 2-1 in overtime on New Year’s Eve and 4-3 in a shootout on March 18 at Ralston.
Kraws (5-4-3) was coming off Wednesday’s 6-0 win at Sioux Falls, recording 32 saves. The 6-foot-2, 159-pound Miami (Ohio) recruit from Cranbury, New Jersey has been almost unstoppable in his last three games, recording a streak of nine consecutive periods dating back to a 3-2 shootout loss at Des Moines.
Kraws received plenty of offensive support from his teammates. Ryan Leibold scored his first goal in the last eight games as Sioux City (26-26-7) took a 1-0 first-period lead.
Bauer Neudecker scored his fifth goal of the season 41 seconds into the second period. Neudecker, who has five goals and 15 assists in 35 games for the Musketeers since coming from Des Moines, enters Omaha having scored in three of his last four games.
Cole Koepke increased his team-leading goal total to 28 when he turned in his fourth power play goal of the season about 7.5 minutes into the third period.
Kraws had stopped his first 25 shots before Adam Goodsir scored off a rebound with 5:01 remaining in the game. Teammate Hugo Blixt scored with 2:48 left, but the Storm, despite outshooting the Musketeers 13-7 in the third period, suffered its sixth straight loss.
Tri-City (29-26-4) has been outscored 23-8 in those six games. However, the Storm, the lowest-scoring team in the USHL with 137 goals, are the sixth seed in the Western Conference and potentially could meet third-place Fargo (36-16-7) when the Clark Cup Playoffs begin next week.
Second in the West, Omaha trails Waterloo (37-14-8) by a slim 82-81 points margin. A win over the Musketeers, combined with a Waterloo loss to last-place Des Moines (20-32-7) will give Omaha the West title.