by Andrew Hoyle
It wasn’t a sweep, and at times it wasn’t pretty, but the River City Lancers got the job done. They beat the defending Clark Cup champion Sioux City Musketeers 3-1 in a best-of-five series to advance to the second round of the 2003 USHL playoffs. More shots on goal equated to more scoring, as River City averaged 41 shots on goal and 3.25 goals a game compared to Sioux City’s 25 shots on goal and 2.25 goals a game.
Offensively, the Lancers were paced by forwards Mike Howe and Drew Miller (4 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS, +/- 0, 1 PPG for each player). The only statistical difference was that Miller had 2 penalty minutes and scored a shorthanded goal in the third period of game one to blow the game, and eventually the series, wide open. Team captain T.J. Jindra was happy to take on a supporting role during this series (4 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, +3), including a three-assist night during the decisive game four, but don’t look for a repeat of this during the next round. Nate Raduns (4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, +2, 4 PIM) rounded out the scoring leaders for the Lancers during the first round. Raduns played exceptionally well in the second game of the series, where he had a goal and an assist on the night.
Defensively, the Lancers once again relied on goaltender Dominic Vicari (4 GP, 3 W, 1 L, 241:07 MIN, 8 GA, 1.991 GAA, .920 SV%) to keep them in the game. Vicari faced an even 100 shots in the series, and steered aside 92 of them, giving him a 92% save percentage overall. The awards continue to pile up for this fine young man, as he was recently named the USHL’s top goaltender for the 2002-2003 season. Over a two year career, Vicari has 53 wins and a 1.91 goals against average, arguably some of the best stats ever for a USHL goaltender during a like period. Vicari will move on to Michigan State after he finishes his USHL career, where’s he’s sure to be finalist for the Hobey Baker award in the near future. The motto on his helmet says it all: safe, reliable, courteous.
Vicari wasn’t the only Lancer to garner an award at the end of the regular season; Matt Carle was named the USHL’s top defenseman for the 2002-2003 season. Carle ( 12 G, 30 A, 42 PTS, +26, 5 PPG) has been instrumental in helping the Lancers keep the lowest goals against total in the league. He’s probably the most well-rounded defenseman out there, and a vital part of both the penalty kill and power play units. The University of Denver will be glad to get this NHL Top Prospect player.
Up next for the Lancers is a semi-final series against the dreaded Waterloo Black Hawks. Waterloo owned the Lancers during the regular season, going 6-0 against them. Having home ice to begin with looks to be a huge advantage for the Hawks, where the average score against River City has been 6-2 in favor of Waterloo this season. But don’t let the regular season be any indication as to how the playoff round will go; River City has been a perennial playoff powerhouse, and Waterloo has just won its first playoff series in team history. The Black Hawks are moving into uncharted territory, and the Lancers figure Waterloo is ripe for the upset. Look for the Lancers to jump out early in this one, trying to take advantage of their wealth of playoff experience and to take the crowd out of the game. They need to get at least one win at Waterloo to get two games at the Mid America Center, where they’ve played the Hawks quite a bit closer than on the road this season (lost by one in regulation, lost in overtime, and lost in shootout). If they can’t, it’s likely to be a quick finish for them. Unlike my esteemed colleague from Waterloo, I think this one will be a sweep for one team or the other, in the hopes of having a long break before playing what is quite likely to be the Lincoln Stars for the USHL championship.