SIOUX CITY | Almost every team in the USHL’s Wild, Wild West was hot at one time last month and the Sioux City Musketeers were no exception.
Coach Jay Varady’s Musketeers took a four-game winning streak into the second week of the month. Two straight wins included a 3-1 decision on Jan. 14 over a Lincoln squad that maintained first place in the Western Conference despite going 0-6-1 in the games prior to slamming Sioux City 7-0 on Jan. 22.
Lincoln (23-17-1) has since won four straight and has a 47-44 points lead over second-place Tri-City (17-11-10), which two weeks ago was tied for the conference lead.
Look up and down the division. Fourth-place Waterloo (19-15-2) won three straight after losing three in a row and now trails third-place Omaha (19-15-3) 41-40.
“Our winning streak is just our level of compete,” said 13-year veteran Waterloo Coach P.K. O’Handley following Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Musketeers at the Tyson Events Center.
“I thought in all three games, we competed extremely hard. We were smarter that we had been in the past with some things. It’s a great division. In this league, you can find yourself close to first on a weekend, then you can find yourself close to the bottom on a weekend. It makes for great hockey.”
Waterloo, in fact, was within two points of last-place Des Moines before its winning streak. Sioux City (18-18-1, 37 points) leap-frogged one place over Sioux Falls (17-19-2) to take fourth following Friday’s 3-2 win over Dubuque, but is now fifth following consecutive losses to Des Moines and Waterloo.
Tied with Fargo and Sioux Falls (1-8-1 in the last 10 games) for last in the West with 36 points, Des Moines has won two straight and like Fargo, has won six of its last 10. Sioux Falls hasn’t won since Jan. 15, when it took second place following a 3-2 win over Fargo.
There’s no weak team in this division. Sioux City has won five of its last 10 going into this Friday’s home game against Chicago (16-18-6).
Basically, the Musketeers will play with the hand they’ve been dealt with. Four players are sidelined with injuries, but still, that gives others playing time they might not have expected.
“It’s part of life, you either whine about it or you go out and go to work,” said Varady. “We choose to go out and go to work.
“There’s 23 games left,” he added. “There’s a small margin of separation (in the Western Conference). We lost a little traction this weekend, but we have to recover, we have to rest and we have to get ready for next weekend.”