After a stretch of six straight wins and 11 in 12 games, the Omaha Lancers had ascended to third place in the USHL’s Western Conference and were feeling pretty good about themselves.
But that momentum has changed as the Lancers suffered their third straight defeat, falling to last-place Sioux City 3-1 Friday in front of a Ralston Arena crowd of 3,272.
Though Omaha took the early lead with a power-play goal by Dominic Racobaldo in the first period, Lancers coach Mike Aikens said he could tell something was amiss on the bench.
“In the first period I could feel it coming and got no response from the guys,” Aikens said. “I didn’t think we played with any emotion. I thought we stood around, and we got beat to every loose puck and lost every battle.”
Omaha entered the game tied with Waterloo in a tight race for third place, with Lincoln sitting one point behind. Only the top four teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.
Aikens said his team can’t afford to cough up points at home.
“It’s a huge game in the point standings,” he said. “We had another opportunity to separate ourselves from the teams behind us, and we stubbed our toe.”
The Lancers scored the only goal of the first period at 8:42, taking advantage of a 5-on-3 power play as Racobaldo collected his fourth goal of the season on a slapshot from the point to give Omaha a 1-0 lead.
Niklas Folin picked up an assist, and Robbie Baillargeon was credited with the secondary assist and his team-leading 37th point of the season.
Sioux City tied the game at 8:43 of the second period when David Henry received a centering pass in front of the Lancers’ goal and slipped the puck past Alex Lyon to make it 1-1.
The Musketeers struck again in the second when Michael Kapla’s slapper from the top of the left faceoff circle beat Lyon to give Sioux City a 2-1 lead with 1:39 remaining in the period.
Sioux City, which was outshot 8-6 in the first period, bounced back to fire 11 shots to the Lancers’ seven in the second.
The Musketeers made it 3-1 at 2:15 of the third period when Jared Kolquist flipped a seemingly innocent wristshot midway between the right faceoff circle and the blue line toward the goal. The puck made it through a pack of players untouched and past Lyon for Kolquist’s sixth goal of the year.
Omaha had a chance to get back into the game with 5:14 remaining when Sioux City’s Tomas Torok was whistled for checking from behind to put the Lancers on their sixth power play of the night.
But goaltender Kyle Hayton was able to steer aside the only shot on goal the Lancers could manufacture during the man-advantage to maintain the two-goal lead with time running out.
Omaha will have a chance in the next few days to pick up some points against Sioux Falls, which leads the USHL’s Western Conference with 66 standings points.
The Lancers, who have 56 points, host the Stampede at 7 p.m. Saturday and again on Wednesday at Ralston Arena.
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