USHL’s Clark Cup Finals – The Battle of Nebraska

By Jason Shaner
Only 2 are left standing in the USHL playoffs. One mild surprise visitor and the team everyone expects to win it. Can you say drama? Two teams separated by less than 100 miles and neither team likes each other one bit, especially when the Clark Cup Title is at stake. The top seeded Lincoln Stars handled the 6th seeded Tri-City Storm easily by sweeping them 3 games to none while the 4th seeded Omaha Lancers pulled a mild upset in beating the 3rd seeded Sioux Falls Stampede 3 games to 1. Both the Lancers and Stars dominated their series against their respective opponents. Now they face each other, this matchup has definitely got the makings of a great series. The winner not only gets the Clark Cup trophy but they also stamp their ticket to the National Junior “A” Championships where they will compete for the coveted Gold Cup.

The Stars and Lancers are two teams that are stockpiled with talent from top to bottom. On offense for the Stars you have the likes of Brandon Bochenski and Chris Fournier. The Lancers will bring forth Dan Welch and Riley Riddell. All 4 are in the top of the scoring list and each has extraordinary talent. Defensively the Stars have the edge from the physical standpoint but both the Lancers and Stars have very solid defense. The Stars have physical bruisers such as Lee Marvin, Andy Schneider and of course, Nick Fouts. Omaha answers with the likes of Keith Ballard, Jason Krischuk and Bryce Lampman. What all of this means is that we could be in for a stalemate as both teams high powered offenses could be grounded by the top notch defenses. What it could all come down to is goaltending and each team has a talented duo that they like to use. Lincoln has Beau Fritz and Justin Johnson in between the pipes and they have split duty so far. Omaha has Ray Fraser and Marty Magers. Magers was the top rated goaltender in the league this season but so far Fraser has seen all the goaltending duties. Ultimately this series could be decided by a number of factors, but if each team brings their game as they have so far in the playoffs, it could come down to desire. Who wants it more and who executes the best. Prediction: Lincoln won the Anderson Cup for the best regular season record and so far they have been unstoppable in the playoffs, as they have not lost a single game. Omaha has lost only once and they have just as much momentum as the Stars do. I see a five game battle in Nebraska that will see more drive and determination than you will see in most USHL series. I pick Lincoln to come home with the hardware though as they get to play 3 home games and they lost once all season long at home. That’s tough to beat.

Once the series is done I will put out who won it all and will begin with overviews of the season for all the teams as well as my much anticipated 2nd and 3rd parts of my Top Prospects preview. Thanks to everyone who has emailed me so far regarding that and other articles, keep the feedback and questions coming. As always, my email is [email protected]