A more determined defensive effort in the third period Sunday helped Omaha rally for a 6-5 USHL victory against Muskegon.
The Lancers battled back from two-goal deficits to tie the game, and their first lead didn’t come until the 56th minute in front of 2,785 at Ralston Arena.
Omaha coach Brian Kaufman, whose team climbed to 9-1-1, said the third-period turnaround began in the locker room during the second intermission.
“You could feel the energy in there, the way the captains got everybody focused,” Kaufman said. “There’s no question our guys have showed they have a lot of heart.”
Muskegon led 2-0 after the first period thanks to a pair of goals by forward Scott Pooley. The Lancers erased the Lumberjacks’ advantage midway through the second period with a goal by Gage Hough at 10:17 and the first of defenseman Tucker Poolman’s three goals at 14:41.
But that rally was negated by two more Muskegon goals, the first coming by forward Frederik Tiffels 48 seconds after Poolman’s equalizer. C.J. Smith scored the ’Jacks lone power-play goal at 18:03.
Omaha’s second two-goal burst didn’t take nearly as long to develop, and showed the Lancers’ determination coming out of the second intermission. It took Poolman 38 seconds to score Omaha’s third goal, and forward Anthony Angello scored his second goal of the season at 2:12 to tie it 4-4.
Just more than six minutes later, the 6-5-1 Lumberjacks grabbed their last lead on a goal by Matt Iacopelli. Then Poolman got his hat trick by pumping a shot from one step behind the blue line past goalie Eric Schierhorn with 7:01 remaining in regulation to tie the game for the third time.
“For a defenseman to have a hat trick, it’s a rare occasion,” Kaufman said. “He was bound and determined to lead the way back tonight with that rally.”
Another unusual feat is scoring four goals in one period after squeezing out two in the previous 40 minutes.
Omaha’s fourth goal came with 4:17 remaining in regulation off the stick of defenseman Jimmy Schuldt. He was one step in front of the blue line in the middle of the ice when he whistled a shot past Schierhorn for his second goal of the season.
The Lancer defense was strongest at the finish as the home team had to get through the final 1:12 with Muskegon on a power play. The Lumberjacks had three good looks at goal, but all three were steered away and the Lancers sent the puck toward the empty Muskegon net twice.
After finishing the first month of the season with six games in 11 days — and going 4-1-1 in that stretch — the Lancers couldn’t have asked for a much better start, Kaufman said.
“That was our third win where we’ve had to come from behind in the third period,” Kaufman said. “I’d like to see us get better with our process and not have to come from behind so much. The leadership has been great to this point, and that has played a big part in how well we’ve done so far.”