Lancers claim USHL’s Clark Cup

By Jason Shaner
The 2000-2001 season is finally over with the Omaha Lancers grabbing the Clark Cup for being the playoff champion. The Lancers defeated the Lincoln Stars, quite possibly their biggest rivals, who won the regular season title and claimed the Anderson Cup. In getting to the final series Omaha ripped the Des Moines Buccaneers in a 3 game sweep of their best of 5 series. All series this season were 5 games. Omaha then handed the Sioux Falls Stampede their lumps beating them in 4 games. Lincoln also went through the playoffs with relative ease sweeping the Sioux City Musketeers and the Tri-City Storm en route to the Clark Cup finals. Then came the finals.

Omaha and Lincoln played a series that will be remembered for years as one of the best finals in USHL history. Lincoln, defending their home ice in game 1 won 6-1. In game 2 Omaha proved they could defend their turf too handing the Stars a 6-2 loss. Although the scores were pretty one sided, the games were not. Every game in this series was played with ferocity that could not be matched during the regular season. Game 3 saw the games get even tighter as Lincoln was victorious at home 4-3. With the Lancers season on the brink of ending they went home to Ak-Sar-Ben Arena and fought hard to win 4-3 to set the stage for the 5th and deciding game in the series. In Lincoln, most felt the Stars would take the Cup as they had only lost 1 game at home during both the Regular season and Playoffs. But as we know, when it is playoff hockey time, the home ice advantage really doesn’t make a difference. The Lancers would prevail 3-1 and take home the Clark Cup and earn a birth into the Junior “A” Nationals in Chicago next weekend.

Statistically wise the Lancers were led offensively this post season by their 2 stars, Dan Welch (U. of Minnesota) who scored 9 goals and had 13 assists to lead the USHL in playoff scoring with 22 points. His partner in crime, Riley Riddell (Bemidji State) scored 7 goals to go along with 10 assists for 17 points. As was the case this entire season, the Lancers solid defense was led by many, specifically Keith Ballard (U. of Minnesota) and Bryce Lampman (U. of Nebraska-Omaha). In net Ray Fraser led the way which speaks volumes at how deep the Lancers were in between the pipes as the backup goalie was Marty Magers, who was the top rated USHL goalie at the end of the regular season. Fraser went 9-3 in the playoffs and carried a sparkling 2.32 GAA to go with a saves percentage of .926.

For Lincoln their offensive plugs came from Preston Callendar (U. of New Hampshire) scoring 7 goals with 6 assists for 13 points and Brandon Bochenski (U. of North Dakota), who had 5 goals to go along with 7 assists for 12 points. The Stars defense, considered by many including myself to be the best in the league was led by Andy Schneider (U. of North Dakota) and Nick Fouts. In net the Stars had a wonderful duo of Justin Johnson and Beau Fritz who shared duties throughout the regular and playoff seasons. During the postseason Johnson was 4-1 with a 2.56 GAA and .910 saves percentage and Fritz complimented that with a 4-2 record and sporting a 2.66 GAA and a .904 saves percentage.

Each of these 2 teams is fully loaded with Superstars who are moving on to the collegiate level next season, but as has been the case since these 2 teams have been in the league, they will reload for next season without a problem. Both of these 2 teams were at the top of the league all season long and as the season wore on, there never was doubt that both clubs would be in the mix in the end of the postseason. Congratulations to Omaha for winning the series as a slight underdog and also Congratulations to Lincoln. Both teams had spectacular seasons and now the Lancers are off to Chicago to show the rest of the Junior Hockey world what the USHL is all about.