Before heading home for the holidays, the Omaha Lancers delivered one last present Friday night to their fans — another shootout victory.
They didn't need Santa Claus to make the delivery — though the jolly ol' elf was one of the 3,673 who witnessed another nail-biter at Ralston Arena — as the Lancers edged Sioux City 3-2 to improve to 7-0 in shootouts this season.
With goals by Tyler Moy and Kyle Osterberg and two big stops by goalie Alex Lyon — who had 43 saves during 65 minutes of regulation and overtime — in the shootout, Omaha is 16-12 after a 2-7 start, including wins in 12 of its past 15 games.
The Lancers have 32 standings points and are tied for fourth in the USHL's Western Conference with idle Waterloo. Both teams are one point behind Lincoln and Fargo, which are tied for second with 33 points. Sioux Falls leads the West with 35 points.
Omaha coach Mike Aikens doesn't see all of these close games — the Lancers have won a league-best 11 one-goal games — as living on the edge.
“We're just finding a way to win,” Aikens said. “When we get to that situation we're confident that we can get the job done.”
Early in the game, it looked like Omaha wasn't going to need extra time as forward Robbie Baillargeon again proved that the Lancers made a good move in adding him to their roster less than a week ago.
Baillargeon, a Boston University recruit and fifth-round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators, scored Omaha's two regulation goals to increase his two-game total to three goals and one assist with the Lancers.
A perfect setup along the half boards by Jake Randolph, who made ESPN's top plays list last week, got the puck to Baillargeon at the front of the net. He finished the play with his eighth goal of the season at 4:17.
Baillargeon made it 2-0 at 3:09 of the second period when he and Drew Melanson successfully executed a 2-on-1 that Baillargeon turned into his own highlight-making goal. After his first contact with the puck, Baillargeon got his stick on it while it was in the air and slapped it into the net past Musketeers goaltender Joe Ballmer.
Sioux City (5-15-5) cut its deficit to one 35 seconds later when Tanner Pond redirected a centering pass from Nikolas Olsson inside the right post for his sixth goal of the season.
Then just over a minute later, Lyon got himself into a bit of a jam. The Yale recruit was called for two penalties in a 15-second span — tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct — to put the Lancers into a 5-on-3 for 1:45.
As Lyon has done for his mates dozens of times this season, the Lancers helped their goalie by successfully killing off Sioux City's two-man advantage.
“How many times has that kid bailed us out, this time he needed our help,” Aikens said. “We needed to bail him out, so the guys blocked some shots and cleared some pucks, and they got it done for him.”
But Sioux City tied it at 7:24 of the third period when J.T. Stenglein scored his eighth goal of the season.
“We had some good chances late in the third period and the overtime but just couldn't quite get them in,” Aikens said.
The Lancers play their next game Dec. 29 at Ralston Arena against Tri-City at 7:35 p.m.
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