Too many odd-man rushes, blown faceoffs and a general lack of drive Friday contributed to the Omaha Lancers’ 3-2 USHL loss to Des Moines.
Before reviewing things the Lancers didn’t do right, Omaha coach Brian Kaufman saluted the strengths of the Buccaneers — things he hoped he’d see from the 22-5-4 Lancers.
“Give credit to Des Moines, they outplayed us tonight,” Kaufman said. “They wanted it more and they outworked us.”
Those last two points were especially frustrating for the Lancers coaches. Another factor that made the loss to the 11-13-3 Bucs so tough — Omaha outshot Des Moines 39-18.
The complacent approach wasn’t around in the first period, when the Lancers took their only lead of the game.
Omaha opened the scoring at 10:46 when defenseman Matt Nelson grabbed the rebound of a blocked Jake Randolph shot. The Princeton recruit was waiting on the other side of the Des Moines goal crease and punched the puck past Bucs goalie Ryan Ruck.
After tearing off 15 shots in the first period, the Lancers got a bit sluggish in the second frame. Both teams attempted eight shots, Des Moines managed to score twice.
Bucs forward Danny Elser tied the game with his seventh goal of the season 4:11 into the period by taking advantage of a terrifically placed bounce. Then with 26 seconds to go before the second intermission, Ruslan Rakhmatov whipped a shot past Lancers goalie Cole Bruns from the left circle.
That middle 20 minutes highlighted an area where the Lancers still have some work to do — mental toughness against teams behind them in the standings.
“When we want to play, we play,” Kaufman said. “I think we just got complacent after that first goal. We thought that we would just show up and get the job done.”
The Lancers did tie the game at 7:33 of the third period when forward Anthony Angello scored his fourth goal of the season off feeds from Tucker Poolman and Luca Frigo.
But the Lancers let up again on the defensive end, and R.J. Burns scored the game winner 11:35 into the period with his first goal of the season.
“We gave up too many odd-man rushes, our defensive zone face-offs were atrocious,” Kaufman said. “When we let them do that our coverage wasn’t very good.”
Omaha will get a chance to straighten out these issues in Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Lincoln Stars at Ralston Arena. The Lancers have suffered overtime setback the last two meetings against the 7-16-5 Stars.
Saturday’s game is TeamMates Night and will feature a ceremonial puck drop by TeamMates co-founders Tom and Nancy Osborne. The Lancers will be auctioning their special TeamMates jerseys after the game to raise money for the mentoring program.