SIOUX CITY — It’s a brand-new season, and the Sioux City Musketeers are happy to be a part of it.
The Musketeers are the No. 3 seed in the Clark Cup Western Conference semifinals, and they’ll travel down to Omaha for a three-game series against the Lancers that starts at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night in Baxter Arena.
Game 2 is at 4:05 p.m. Sunday and Game 3 (if necessary) is at 6:05 p.m. Monday.
The Musketeers and Lancers split the eight-game season series, and Sioux City won three games on home ice.
This series, however, won’t be on home ice. All three games are in Omaha, but coach Luke Strand is OK with playing on the road.
“There’s a new level of play that comes out and there’s a new level of coaching that comes out,” Strand said. “There’s a higher level of expectations that come out. I think we have to stick with what gave us some success. As you grow through the year, there some things that you grow into and you tweak those things.”
Omaha did win three home-ice matches against the Musketeers, but the Musketeers had the second-best winning percentage in the conference at .574. They scored 31 points on the road, tied for first in the West along with Fargo and Tri-City.
Strand said that he expects the Lancers to have “their best period of the month” when the puck drops on Saturday, but the Musketeers have been well-prepared all week.
“I think our road record is good and I think our road prep has been good,” Strand said. “We’re embracing the next opportunity we play. If it’s at home, great; if it’s on the road, we’ll make good with being on the road.”
There weren't any playoffs at all last year, so to be back in the mix in 2021 is something Strand and the Musketeers aren’t taking for granted.
“For the USHL, period, to have a successful season,” Strand said, “you look all over the world, and you see leagues that have come up short in playing successful seasons, No. 1, it’s a hats off to the league. Two, we’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities, like dinners, time out (together). We had to be cognizant of what was going on around us. We get this opportunity and it’ll be fun to play it out.”
Chase Bradley, Brian Carrabes, Justin Hryckowian and Bennett Schmiek are the top-four goal scorers for the Musketeers.
Bradley leads the team with 22 goals. Carrabes has 21 goals, and those two are the only ones with more than 20.
Shai Buium leads the Musketeers with 22 assists, while Hryckowian and Ethan Edwards both have 21 assists.
Sioux City goalie Akira Schmid has the lowest goals-against-average in the USHL, as he has a 2.01 GAA. He is one of three goalies in the league to have three shutouts.
Omaha’s top scorers are Nolan Renwick with 22 goals, while Ayrton Martino has 18 goals.
This is the first time Omaha and Sioux City have met in the playoffs since the 2014 conference semifinals.
Omaha's last playoff win against the Musketeers came in 2008.
The Clark Cup playoffs this year has four teams in each conference. In the Western Conference, Tri-City is the No. 1 seed while Fargo is the No. 4 seed.
The top-four seeds over on the Eastern side are Chicago, Muskegon, Green Bay and Dubuque.