2000-2001 USHL Playoff Preview – 1st round

By Jason Shaner

2000-2001 USHL Playoff Preview

It’s that time of year again, the regular season ends and the second season begins. 8 teams enter the Clark Cup Playoffs with aspirations of winning it all and heading to the Junior “A” National Championships. The Lincoln Stars won the Anderson Cup as the regular season champions. The Stars lost only 1 home game all season en route to the distinction of being the best team in the league without a doubt. Here is a preview of the matchups in the 1st round of the Clark Cup Playoffs. Each series will be a best of 5 set.

Lincoln Stars vs. 8. Sioux City Musketeers
This matchup seems to take place every season. The Stars have eliminated Sioux City from the playoffs the last few years and barring an upset, should do it again this year. Lincoln is led on offense by Brandon Bochenski (47-33-80) and Chris Fournier (26-57-83). The offense doesn’t stop there, but these two gamers lead the charge. Defensively Lincoln is the toughest team in the league and is led by two very physical defensemen in that of John Snowden and the infamous Nick Fouts. In net the Stars have the spectacular tandem of Justin Johnson (18-3-2, 2.35 GAA, .912 %) and Beau Fritz (19-3-2, 2.44, .915%) For Sioux City they are a team who focuses more on the defensive aspect of the game. Their showcase players on offense are Scott Polaski (18-26-44) and Brian Kerr (13-23-36). Sioux City’s game is one of checking and goaltending. On defense the Musketeers have the ever-present Art Femenella who was amassed 252 penalty minutes this season. Also on defense is Tim Judy. These 2 are as physical as they get. Jake Brandt (14-5-5, 2.79 GAA, .903%) will tend to net for the Muskies, oddly enough Brandt started the season with Lincoln before a midseason trade sent him packing. Prediction: Lincoln is just too much for Sioux City. The Stars are stocked from top to bottom. Their 2nd and 3rd lines are as good as anyone else’s top lines in the league. Sioux City will use their small rink to their advantage but Lincoln wins this series in 5.

Green Bay Gamblers vs. 7. Tri-City Storm
Green Bay won the Eastern Division once again and earned the 2nd seed in the playoffs. The Gamblers are not as good as they have been in the last few years but they know how to win and they find different ways to do it. Luke Stauffacher (13-33-46) and Andy Contois (18-24-42) are the offensive fireplugs for the Gamblers. These 2 have the experience of winning and they use it to their advantage. Dan Calzada and Jesse Baraniuk are two brutal defensemen who will pound you all night long but the star of the team is goaltender Jure Penko (28-8-10, 2.39 GAA, .914 %). Penko will be the difference for a very susceptible Gambler squad. Tri-City is formerly known as the Twin Cities Vulcans, a team who finished 2nd in the Clark Cup playoffs last year and won the Junior A National Title in their final season in the Twin Cities. Bottom line is, they know how to win too. Konrad Reeder (34-24-58) is the offensive juggernaut for the Storm, pair him with Brad Thompson (19-28-47) and you got yourself a couple of players who will beat you any chance they get. Greg Zemple is the big man on D and he is literally, the big man!!! Zemple is an intimidating force in front of the net of Bernd Buckler (15-8-3, 2.48 GAA, .918%). Prediction: Jure Penko is just too good for the Storm. Tri-City has some good offensive weapons but not enough to beat a goaltender with the skill of Penko. I go with Green Bay in 4 games.

3.Sioux Falls Stampede vs. 6. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
This could be a good matchup in the 1st round. Maybe one of the most exciting. Sioux Falls is offensively loaded, more so than any other team in the league by far. Cedar Rapids is tough so it will make for an interesting matchup. Sioux Falls stars are Mike Doyle (32-46-78) and James Massen (37-38-75). These guys can and WILL beat you if you give them the open ice or any room to make a play for that matter. Jamie Mattie and Eric Werner hold the fort down on the defensive front and although they are not physical, they are very fundamental. Zach Sikich (19-5-2, 2.86 GAA, .915%) is in between the pipes. For the RoughRiders they unfortunately lost one of their top forwards due to injury in that of Darren Partch. Cedar Rapids makes up for that though as David Moss (20-18-38) and Danny O’Brien (14-24-38) can light the lamp. The catalyst for this team is Gerry Hickey (19-18-37). Hickey is the leader and as he goes, so goes the team. Defensively Derrick Johnson and P.J. Atherton lead a bunch of eager and hungry young players who are itching to put you into the boards at a moments notice. The big man on campus for the ‘Riders though is Bobby Goepfert (25-12-4, 2.92 GAA, .916%). Bobby has become famous this season with his glove and with his flair, he is only 17 years old and has played about as good as anyone can in net this season. Prediction: Cedar Rapids is my dark horse this playoff season. Sioux Falls offense cannot match the Cedar Rapids defense or the skill of Bobby Goepfert. I go with Cedar Rapids in 5 hard fought games.

4.Omaha Lancers vs. 5. Des Moines Buccaneers
This by far is the most exciting matchup in the playoffs. The Lancers and Buccaneers are bitter rivals and their rivalry ranks at the top of the list in the league. Both teams had good seasons this year but still managed to finish in the exact same place as they both did last season. Riley Riddell (30-34-64) and Dan Welch (30-27-57) are 2 pieces of the offensive puzzle for Omaha. They have plenty of people who can score and they come at you in waves. Keith Ballard and Jason Krischuk lead a very talented group of defensemen. The D won’t be beat easily; it takes time and effort to get around them. Omaha also has a talented duo in goal. Ray Fraser (19-10-3, 2.42 GAA, .909%) and Marty Magers (16-5-3, 2.32 GAA, .910 %) rotate in net. Magers is currently the top rated goalie in the league. No matter which one you face, they are tough to beat. The Buccaneers have had an up and down season. They started off hot then cooled midway through but with some midseason acquisitions they have heated up once again at the right time. Doug Meyer (29-27-56) and Ryan Bennett (28-24-52) are two very physical forwards who can take it to the net all night long. They bring their game with them and are ready to play. Luke Irwin and James Jernberg lead a big, physical defensive squad. Some of the newcomers midway through the year were defenders and this group on the blueline is now about as good as anyone’s with the exception of Lincoln. Mike Mantua (21-16-1, 3.46 GAA, .896%), the human highlight reel is the heart and soul of this team. Mantua as said many times before is about as entertaining and skilled as anyone in the league. He certainly can hold his own. Prediction: This is a toss up, both teams are evenly matched and both teams dislike each other a great deal. Motivation to win will be high. I pick Des Moines in another hard fought 5 game series.

That is it, the preview of this season’s 1st round matchups in the Clark Cup playoffs fresh off the press along with my prediction of how the series will end up. Look for matchup previews of the semi-final round as soon as the teams are determined. Email me at jns1974@hotmail.com with any additional comments. Thanks!!!

Also be on the lookout for parts 2 and 3 of the Top Prospects list coming soon. The offense and defense both will be examined and I’ll give you my picks for the top 15 forwards in the league and the top 10 defensemen as well.