SIOUX CITY | Here’s an example of the desperation that the Sioux City Musketeers and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders felt as Friday night’s United States Hockey League game progressed.
Dylan Mills snapped a 1-all tie as he took advantage of a Ryan Leibold assist to give the Musketeers one of their shortest leads of the season with 13:02 left in the second period. Twenty-three seconds later, Cedar Rapids’ Graham Slaggert knotted the score at two goals each.
Slaggert’s power-play goal with 28.4 seconds remaining until the second intermission gave the Rough Riders the lead for keeps in a 6-4 win at the Tyson Events Center. One of the USHL’s most-improved teams, Cedar Rapids (23-24-10) kept its slim hopes for a spot in the Eastern Conference portion of the Clark Cup Playoffs alive.
Sioux City (24-25-7), on the other hand, saw its goal for a second consecutive playoff berth continue to fade following its second straight setback. Coach Luke Strand’s squad entered the night trailing the Western Conference’s sixth-place and final playoff team, Tri-City by a 62-55 points margin.
When the Journal went to press, the Musketeers’ playoff fate hadn’t been decided. Tri-City was trailing Lincoln 5-2 with 16:38 remaining in the third period.
Even with as little as a point for an overtime loss or a shootout loss, Tri-City (29-23-4 heading into Lincoln) will earn a playoff position. Sioux City needs to win the remainder of its four games (beginning with Saturday night’s game at Cedar Rapids), but according to the USHL’s explanation of the tiebreaking procedure, any Musketeers loss or any point(s) gained by the Storm would mean a difference.
Cedar Rapids, on the other hand, pulled within 57-56 of sixth-place and defending Clark Cup champion Chicago. Eastern Conference second-place Youngstown improved to 32-18-7 following Friday night’s 7-4 victory over Chicago.
Cedar Rapids, which received a third-period goal from Kyle Looft, was nowhere near this position a year ago at this time. While the Musketeers were celebrating their first Anderson Cup championship since 1986, the Rough Riders were firmly entrenched in last place in the East, eventually finishing with a 12-44-4 record.
Cole Koepke hiked his scoring total against Eastern Conference teams to 18 points (14 goals, 4 assists). Koepke assisted along with defenseman Nate Clurman on Martin Pospisil’s goal that tied the game 1-1 with 53 seconds left until the first intermission.
Pospisil, the Musketeers’ first-round pick in last May’s USHL Phase II Draft, heads into tonight’s game at Cedar Rapids also at 18 points (6, 12) against teams from the East.
The closest Sioux City came was 4-3 as Parker Ford scored his fifth goal of the season with 4:13 remaining.