Omaha produced its best overall performance of the season against the best team in the United States Hockey League, coming away Saturday night with its biggest win of the season.
The Lancers turned in a smothering defensive effort to produce a 4-1 victory over Cedar Rapids before a Ralston Arena crowd of 3,540.
“We had good discipline, we played with urgency and I just thought we executed well for the most part,” Lancers coach Brian Kaufman said. “I thought we did a good job of pursuing pucks in the offensive zone and our defense did a good job of limiting their odd-man rushes.”
It’s the second time this season the Lancers defeated the RoughRiders 4-1. Omaha has swept its season series with Cedar Rapids for the second straight year.
Despite the setback, the RoughRiders (28-11-3) still lead the league with 59 standings points. Cedar Rapids leads the Eastern Conference by four points, while the Lancers (22-16-3) are in third in the Western Conference with 47.
Omaha never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Matt Meier’s fifth goal of the season.
RoughRiders goalie Zack LaRocque stopped a shot but wasn’t able to get his glove over the puck to force a faceoff. The puck sat momentarily unattended just outside of the goal crease to LaRocque’s left.
Not having heard a whistle, the Lancers kept trying to get the puck before Meier got to it and shoved it between LaRocque’s leg pads with 1:18 remaining before the first intermission.
The Lancers made it 2-0 early in the second period when captain Nick Rivera moved his scoring streak to nine games with his 20th goal of the season.
Rivera took the puck down the right-wing side of the ice before cutting to the net and lifting the puck over LaRocque’s left shoulder 1:19 into the period. Rivera, with nine goals and three assists during his scoring streak, has 32 points on the season.
Cedar Rapids scored on a power play after snuffing a short-handed breakaway opportunity. Jack Ahcan moved to the top of the circle and whipped a shot past Lancers goalie and UNO recruit Kris Oldham to make the score 2-1 at 11:34 of the second.
That was the best chance the RoughRiders had all night as the Omaha defense limited Cedar Rapids to 14 total shots on goal.
Jake Massie’s first career USHL goal and an insurance goal by assistant captain Brian Williams — in a span of 2:17 in the middle of the third period — secured the victory for the Lancers.
Omaha will take its three-game winning streak into a six-game road swing featuring stops at Fargo, Lincoln, Tri-City, Muskegon and Team USA before returning home for six games at the beginning of March.
The Lancers leave Sunday for a rare Monday game, a 6:05 p.m. matchup with the Fargo Force.
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