USHL’s Clark Cup finals

By Jason Shaner

So it’s come down to this. Two teams who split duties all season long leading the Western Division of the USHL will battle it out for the Clark Cup. The Omaha Lancers are no strangers to this series as they won it 3 games to 2 last season over the Lincoln Stars. However, for the Sioux City Musketeers, this is their first trip to the finals in awhile. For the last several years, the Stars had eliminated the Musketeers from the postseason, but without Lincoln in their way they excelled. The top seeded Lancers defeated the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 3 games to 1 in a tightly fought series. Omaha again used its defensive pressure and outstanding goaltending to win the series. Sioux City lost game 1 to the Green Bay Gamblers before winning the last 3 to take the series. The Musketeers combination of offensive pressure and in your face defense have been tough to handle as the game 1 loss is the only Musketeer loss in the playoffs.

For Omaha, Dominic Vicari has been the team MVP. Going 4-0 in the playoffs, he is the top rated goaltender with a 0.65 goals against average and .955 saves percentage. During his minutes on the ice, he’s only allowed three goals. The Lancers offense is led by Aaron Slattengren with 4 goals and 6 assists. Miikka Jaske has 8 points on 4 goals and 4 assists and John Thomas has tallied twice and assisted on 5 goals. Offense is not the Lancers forte however. Behind Vicari is a top notch defensive machine. Only 12 goals have been scored on Omaha combined between their first and second round series. But Sioux City has scored an astonishing 39 goals so this will be their biggest test of the year. Would anyone want it any different?

Sioux City has been waiting for this chance for awhile and coach Dave Siciliano is ready to bring home the title for the Musketeer faithful. The Sioux City defense is rough and tough and certainly a group who you don’t want to get involved with. Art Femenella and Ryan Geris lead a solid core of defensive veterans who are intimidating but are very skilled as well. But the defense has been there for years. It’s not been until this season that the Muskies found some consistent offense. Brandon Schwartz is making a strong bid to be the MVP of the USHL playoffs as he has tallied 9 goals and 1 assist. Two of those goals were on the power play but most importantly, three of them were game winners. One of the top scorers in the regular season, Brad Zancanaro hasn’t lit the lamp, but has 9 helpers and B.J. Greaves has added 5 goals and 3 assists. Andy Franck has been steller in net going 6-1 with a 2.29 goals against average and .920 saves percentage.

My Prediction: Well this is certainly a tough call. Omaha’s defense against Sioux City’s offense. Certainly there are some interesting matchups. I have to go with Sioux City though. Their defense matches the Lancers D and the Musketeer offense has produced 15 more goals in the playoffs. This will without a doubt be a memorable series. Game 1 is Friday night in Omaha.