The Omaha Lancers were the lowest-scoring team in the USHL last season, a factor in the franchise missing the playoffs for the first time in 24 years.
If Friday night's season opener is any indication, that problem seems to have been addressed.
Omaha scored three goals in a five-minute span in the first period, outshot Fargo 30-8 through two periods and cruised to a 5-0 victory in front of 2,676 at Ralston Arena.
“I love the way our guys came out,” forward Jake Randolph said. “It was a group effort, and we got scoring from all the lines. It was fun to play, and the guys really showed what we're capable of doing.”
Randolph was one of five players who scored goals, Tucker Poolman and Tyler Vesel each had two assists, and Cole Bruns made 17 saves as the Lancers sailed into a Saturday night game at Des Moines on a promising note.
In fact, it was hard to determine which was better — the Lancers' offensive firepower or defensive domination.
“Our focus is the defensive side of the game, but the guys need to produce (on offense), too,” Lancer coach Brian Kaufman said. “Our main thing was to try to make sure we were on the defensive side of pucks and not cheat offensively. We don't want to sacrifice any defense to create offense — and I don't think we did that.”
Omaha's first-period deluge came in the final 10 minutes.
“It's so nice to bury three in the first period,” Bruns said. “We've got a lot of lethal weapons up front. As a goalie, that's amazing. You know they're going to score — it's just a matter of when.”
First Brian Williams took a pass from Jimmy Schuldt at the blue line and stickhandled around a defenseman, moving the puck from his backhand to his forehand and then beating goalie Cameron Johnson high to the blocker side at 10:07.
“That first goal was unreal, and it really got the boys fired up,” Randolph said.
Three and a half minutes later, Ryan Tait raced toward the goal, waited as a prone defenseman slid past him, then fed Luca Frigo at the opposite post. Frigo tapped it in at 13:31.
Only 96 seconds later, Cornell recruit Anthony Angello worked his way through traffic and found 6-foot-6 forward Louis Rowe alone in the left faceoff circle. Rowe's one-timer to the short side beat Johnson before he could cover the open net.
Omaha outshot the Force 15-3 in the first period and 15-5 in the second.
A boring night at the office for Bruns?
“Yeah, but you've just got to be careful,” Bruns said. “You can't get too comfortable. You can't get lazy. With our guys, it's hard not to get lazy — the puck is in the other end the whole game.”
The Lancers' UNO connection teamed up for a second-period goal. Vesel grabbed a turnover in the Lancer offensive zone and put a shot on goal, then the rebound kicked out to Randolph in the left circle. Randolph quickly fired it past Johnson, rattling a shot over his right shoulder. Both Vesel, a newcomer, and Randolph, the Lancers' leading scorer last year, are UNO recruits.
“Pretty lucky rebound, right on my stick,” Randolph said. “That's always nice — and I had a little time to shoot it.”
The Lancers' final goal was a nifty tic-tac-toe combination near the end of a five-minute power play. Vesel took a pass in the slot and tapped it to Poolman in the left circle, and then the North Dakota recruit and Winnipeg draft pick slid it to Omaha native Gage Hough at the right post for the tap-in.
“We're going to try to score by committee — which we did tonight,” Kaufman said. “We're going to try to get scoring from all four lines and the blue line. We're not going to rely on one player or one line.”
Fargo (1-1) ............................ 0 0 0—0
At Omaha (1-0) ............................ 3 1 1—5
First period: 1, O, Williams 1 (Rauter, Schuldt), 10:07. 2, O, Frigo 1 (Tait, Williams), 13:31. 3, O, Rowe 1 (Angello, Poolman), 15:07. Second period: 4, O, Randolph 1 (Vesel), 10:47. Third period: 5, O, Hough 1 (Poolman, Vesel), 18:20 (pp).
Shots on goal: F 3-5-9—17, O 15-15-7-37. Power plays: F 0-4, O 1-4. Penalties-minutes: F 9-32, O 8-19.
Goalies: F, Johnson 1-1 (37 shots-32 saves), 60:00. O, Bruns 1-0 (17-17), 60:00. Att.: 2,676.