Friday’s win and two standings points are nice, but several warts need to be excised if Omaha hopes to experience similar success Saturday.
Lancers coach Mike Aikens said his team’s performance in a 4-3 victory against the Team USA under-17 squad wouldn’t be good enough to produce a victory Saturday against the Lincoln Stars.
“We need to work harder, work smarter and be more disciplined to stay out of the penalty box,” Aikens said.
Though the Lancers outshot Team USA 39-23, Aikens labeled Omaha’s defensive performance and effort “terrible,” and said players aren’t doing enough for their other five teammates on the ice.
“Guys are not willing to sacrifice themselves to make plays,” Aikens said. “We were terrible in our own end covering people, and even though we only gave up 10 shots in the first two periods, most of those were quality chances.
“That can’t happen against a team like Lincoln. We’re not doing things the right way for 60 minutes, and that has to change.”
There were some good things that came from the win that improved the Lancers to 12-11 in front of a Ralston Arena crowd of 2,790. The home team had its fans shouting, jumping and doing their special dances with a six-minute stretch of the first period that was one of the Lancers’ most productive of the season.
Omaha scored three goals after Team USA scored the first goal of the game 20 seconds in.
Sonny Milano forced a turnover in the offensive zone before whipping the puck past Lancers goalie Cole Bruns for his fourth goal of the season.
That forced Omaha to pay attention and forget that the under-17 squad was 1-10-1 against USHL competition. Though the Lancers needed a little more than nine minutes to get their first goal, they made it worth the wait with three in a stretch of 6:25.
Two of those goals were power-play conversions. The first came at 9:25 when Tucker Poolman took a perfect pass from behind the net by Kyle Osterberg for his fifth goal of the season.
Omaha took its first lead at 11:53 when Kenny Gillespie and Eli Lichtenwald successfully executed a 2-on-1 that ended with Gillespie’s sixth goal of the season.
Goal No. 3 came less than three minutes later when Osterberg moved to the right wing and popped the puck past USA goalie Edwin Minney for his fourth goal of the season. Frank Schumacher and Bruns earned assists on the 5-on-3 power play.
“A lot of times in the offensive zone I thought we were pretty good,” Aikens said. “Several guys made some nice plays.
The only goal of the second period came at 3:45 by USA forward Chris Wilkie, an Omaha native whose father, Dave, is one of the Omaha AAA hockey program’s coaches. Wilkie’s one-timer on a power play turned into his fifth goal of the season.
Then, as it did in the first period, Team USA came out and caught the Lancers napping, scoring another goal early in the third period to tie it 3-3. Ryan MacInnis found himself alone at the top of the Omaha goal crease, and he chipped home his third goal of the season at 1:08.
The Lancers got the game winner less than three minutes later when Osterberg scored on a side-angle shot from the left wing at 3:56 for his second goal of the game and fifth of the season. Matias Cleland earned the only assist on that goal and his second of the game.
The doors for Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Stars will open at 5:30 p.m.
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