What started as a night of celebration quickly melted into disappointment for the Omaha Lancers.
Following a sparkling opening ceremony to welcome the 3,643 attending the first sporting event at the Ralston Arena, the Lancers took the ice Friday and gave a listless performance in a 3-0 USHL loss to the Tri-City Storm.
There were plenty of firsts in Omaha's inaugural game at its third home in five seasons, but the one fans in the sold-out arena wanted to see most — who would be the first Lancer to score a goal in Ralston — will have to wait until at least Sunday's 5:05 p.m. game against Des Moines.
Lancers coach Mike Aikens was apologetic to those who attended the game and spent so much time getting the building ready for opening night. He also was beyond disappointed and frustrated at the effort given by his last-place team.
“I don't feel like I should have to be a master motivator on a day like today,” said Aikens, whose team dropped to 2-7. “I could feel it this morning in our pregame skate. I'm hugely disappointed, and this is embarrassing.
“It's one thing if you got out and lose if you play hard, but we didn't win any battles and gave them a lot of their offense. It's a lack of effort and a lack of attention to detail.”
The Lancers opened the season with eight road games but didn't seem at all excited about showing the progress they had made the past three games.
This loss — their second to Tri-City after beating the Storm 8-3 last Friday — was the third time in nine games that the Lancers have been shut out.
The Storm were the aggressors from the moment the first puck dropped at 7:23 p.m. Less than five minutes into the game, forward Trevor Moore settled a bouncing puck in the slot before launching a shot from inside the right circle past Lancer goaltender Alex Lyon for his fourth goal of the season.
That was the goal that disturbed Aikens the most.
“They had two guys in the zone and we had five,” Aikens said. “We found a way to not get a hold of the puck and whacked it right back to them in the slot. There should have been zero chance of getting even a chance to shoot the puck.”
At 14:30, Tri-City doubled its lead when forward Brian Ward picked up a loose puck near center ice and broke ahead of two defenders on the left wing for another Ralston Arena first: a short-handed goal.
With no one but Lyon in his path, Ward pounded the puck so hard into the back of the tightly strung net that it bounced back beyond the goal crease.
Tri-City then added the final goal of the game less than four minutes into the second period when Ward grabbed a rebound on the left side of the goal and again found the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
Now the Lancers get two games in 25 hours against a surging Des Moines team that has already beat them once this season. The Lancers travel to Urbandale to face the Bucs Saturday at 7:05 p.m. before the return engagement Sunday in Ralston.
“We know we're going to make some mistakes every night. That's a given,” Aikens said. “When that happens with hard work, effort and battling, we can live with that. When it doesn't happen with those things, it's very frustrating.”
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