2000-2001 USHL Playoffs – Semi-Finals

By Jason Shaner
The first round of the USHL playoffs is done. One team left behind is the Defending Clark Cup Champion, Green Bay Gamblers, who were eliminated by the Tri-City Storm in 4 games. Top seeded Lincoln swept their best of 5 series with the Sioux City Musketeers. The 4th seeded Omaha Lancers also swept their series taking 3 in a row over the 5th seeded Des Moines Buccaneers. Finally, the 3rd seed, Sioux Falls Stampede disposed of the 6th seeded Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in 4 games. That leaves 4 teams left standing, all from the rough and tumble Western Division. In the semifinal round the 2 matchups are very exciting. Anderson Cup champion Lincoln will take on the Defending National Junior “A” Champion Tri-City Storm. In the other series the smoking hot Omaha Lancers will face off against the Sioux Falls Stampede. Sioux Falls finished somewhat weak in the regular season but seemed to rise back to form against Cedar Rapids. Here is a preview of the semi-final series.

Lincoln Stars vs. Tri-City Storm

Power against skill is what this matchup boils down to. Lincoln is hands down the top team in the league and wants nothing less than the Clark Cup title. Tri-City, who is in their first year of existence after moving from the Twin Cities where they finished 2nd overall in the playoffs last year and won the Junior “A” National Championship want to continue their surprising run. They knocked off the Eastern Division Champion Green Bay Gamblers and would like to take out the Western Division Champion as well. One thing stands in the way….Lincoln. The Stars, led offensively by Brandon Bochenski and Chris Fournier come at you in waves. There is no shutting down this offensive machine; you simply have to outscore them. Nick Fouts and Andy Schneider lead a defense that is rock solid. The Storm is certainly not without its weapons. The Storm has Konrad Reeder and Brad Thompson on offense and they lead a group of experienced players who are more than capable of playing with anyone. Greg Zemple is the Storm’s big man on defense and his role will be key in keeping the Stars offensive rush out from in front of the crease. In net, the Stars and Storm are in good shape. Bernd Buckler, a midseason acquisition has been absolutely fantastic in net for Tri-Cities but the Stars may have a bit of an advantage with two stellar goaltenders in that of Beau Fritz and Justin Johnson. All in all it makes for a great series. Prediction: I have to go with Lincoln here, their offense is just too deep. The Storm may be able to shut down one or two of the Stars lines but they have 4 solid offensive lines as well as a defensive corps that is the best in the league. I see Lincoln winning this one in 4 games.

Sioux Falls Stampede vs Omaha Lancers

What a series this could turnout to be. Sioux Falls is in their 2nd year of existence in the league. Last season they were ousted in the 1st round after a sensational season. They did not want that to happen again and they showed it in the 1st round disposing of Cedar Rapids. Omaha KO’d their biggest rival by sweeping them right off the ice winning 3 games in a row over Des Moines. Each team is hot right now and both teams are eager to stay hot. Omaha has Riley Riddell and Dan Welch who lead a talented bunch of offensive players for the Lancers. The Stampede’s offense can run right over you if you let them. Mike Doyle and James Massen are 2 of many stars on offense. The Stampede, very similarly to Lincoln have what seems to be and endless bench of offensive players who have the know how to score. However, their downfall may be their defense. Jamie Mattie and Eric Werner stand tall on the blueline for Sioux Falls and their defense is very fundamental. However, they are not a physical bunch, which means that if a dogfight breaks out, they may end up on the shorthanded side. Omaha’s defense is better than the rest with the exception of those same Stars from Lincoln. Jason Krischuk and Keith Ballard lead a cast of many who play defense hard nosed and go after every lose puck as if it could cost the game. In net the Lancers have a great duo of Marty Magers, the regular seasons top rated goaltender and Ray Fraser. Fraser played all 3 games in the first round and may stay in net as long as he is hot. Sioux Falls counters with Zach Sikich in between the pipes and Kellen Briggs backs him up if need be. This will be a very good series. These are the 2nd and 4th best teams in the league and both of them carry a very talented roster from top to bottom. Prediction: I hate to say it, but I see an all Nebraska Clark Cup Championship series. Omaha is just too good from top to bottom both on offense and on defense and are playing some inspired hockey. This series will go to the limit with Omaha having to win 1 on the road, which they can and will do.

Well, there it is, the semi-final round of the USHL Clark Cup playoffs previews and predictions. As mentioned before the Top Prospects list of offensive and defensive players will be out soon. Shoot me off an email with any comments or questions at [email protected]