In the midst of a four-game homestand that brings the top four teams in the USHL’s Western Conference to the Ralston Arena, the fifth-place Lancers figure this may be their best opportunity to make a move in the standings and gain a playoff spot with a top-four finish.
After a 5-2 win against fourth-place Lincoln last weekend, Omaha raised its record to 2-0 on the homestand and collected its fifth straight win with a 4-2 victory Friday against second-place Fargo in front of 3,671.
Ryan Tait and Drew Melanson each had a goal and an assist and Dominic Racobaldo, who was obtained from the Force in a trade earlier this season, was credited with two assists for the Lancers. Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 31 of 33 shots.
Omaha coach Mike Aikens said his team is playing well, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Lancers are a point behind Lincoln for the fourth spot in the West.
“It’s certainly difficult when you have to play the top teams, but at the same time you get rewarded so much right now with being able to leapfrog some guys,” Aikens said. “Those points are so valuable that any time you can play anybody in front of you, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get the points.”
Omaha opened the scoring 13:17 into the first period when defenseman Tucker Poolman — who entered the game having scored all nine of his goals on the power play — nabbed his 10th of the year with the Lancers up a man.
Tait made it a two-goal lead 42 seconds later as he teamed with Robbie Baillargeon for a 2-on-1 break and tapped the puck past goaltender Brendan Jensen for his second score of the season.
Omaha had a chance to break the game open when Fargo’s Jordan Nelson was whistled for slashing with 4:15 remaining to send the Lancers on their third power play of the first period. But Fargo’s Brendan Harms slashed the Lancers’ lead to 2-1 with a shorthanded goal 11 seconds into Omaha’s man-advantage opportunity.
“The shorthanded goal was disappointing, and it really changed the momentum of the game,” Aikens said. “But we did a good job of staying the course and battled through it.”
Harms tied the game at 10:56 of the second period when he jumped on a rebound and put the puck past a sprawling Lyon.
The Lancers regained the lead when Racobaldo connected with Jake Randolph on a long outlet pass from deep in the Omaha zone. Randolph skated up the left wing and in on Jensen before wristing it past the Fargo netminder for his eighth goal of the season, giving Omaha a 3-2 lead with 3:14 left in the second. Lyon was credited with an assist on the goal, his third of the season.
The Lancers upped their lead to 4-2 in the third period when Melanson banged home a centering pass from Tait for his seventh goal of the year.
The Lancers continue their homestand when they host third-place Waterloo on Saturday, and conclude the stretch at Ralston Arena against first-place Sioux Falls on Wednesday.
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