There have been nights this season where the Omaha Lancers have been outplayed but still found a way to pick up a victory.
Then there are nights like Saturday when the Lancers weren’t rewarded for one of their better overall performances.
Thanks to 19 saves by Tri-City goalie Justin Quale — who wasn’t even listed in the game program — and misses on a handful of quality scoring chances, Omaha dropped a 3-2 United States Hockey League game to the Storm.
“I was very happy with our effort,” Lancers coach Mike Aikens said. “There aren’t many times where I’ve walked in the locker room after a loss where I thought we deserved to win. We just didn’t make many of our Grade-A chances.”
The loss before a Ralston Arena crowd of 3,765 snapped a four-game home winning streak and was the fourth consecutive setback for the Lancers (16-13) against the Storm (13-13-4).
Quale was called into duty when Tri-City starting goalie Johan Mattsson was injured on Omaha’s first goal. This game was Quale’s first USHL appearance, and he made several stops in the third period that even had Lancers fans applauding his efforts.
Tri-City opened the scoring at 6:28 with forward Jared Linnell’s fifth goal of the season. It was a wrist shot from below the goal line that deflected off players around the goal crease before it rolled past Omaha goalie Alex Lyon.
That lead doubled at 15:49 on an odd-looking shot by defenseman Garrett Cecere that bounced, wobbled and found just enough space past Lyon’s pads for his second goal of the season. It was an unassisted goal.
“It was uncharacteristic for Alex to give up those kinds of goals,” Aikens said. “But he battled back.”
The Lancers got one back 34 seconds later when Connor Chatham won a battle for a loose puck in the Storm goal crease to knock home his team-leading 10th goal of the season. Jake Randolph and Dominic Racobaldo earned assists on the goal.
Omaha tied the score 2-2 in the middle of the second period when Drew Melanson redirected a centering pass from Ryan Tait up and under the cross bar for his fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Matias Cleland also earned an assist with his pass to Tait.
Tri-City scored the game-winner less than two minutes into the third period when John Hrabovsky sent a left point slap shot through traffic for his third goal of the season. That goal handed Lyon a loss for just the second time in his last 11 appearances.
The Lancers wrap up the 2012 portion of their season Monday night at Sioux City before returning to Ralston Arena for a Friday-Saturday doubleheader against Fargo.
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