When the effort is there, it's a little easier to take.
Omaha’s 2-1 United States Hockey League loss to Sioux City Wednesday night wasn’t one of those easy ones for Lancers coach Mike Aikens.
“I told the guys if I truly believe we played our best game and gave maximum effort, you’ll still lose some games when the puck doesn’t bounce your way,” Aikens said. “I don’t feel that way tonight.”
The 13-25-11 Musketeers outhustled and outworked the 29-21 Lancers for most of the game played before a crowd of 2,694 at Ralston Arena, even with several of their top players sidelined by injuries.
This victory was Sioux City’s second in less than a week against the Lancers, who are battling for a top four finish and a berth in the Clark Cup playoffs. Omaha remained in fifth place following Wednesday’s setback while last-place Sioux City is six points behind Des Moines and Tri-City, which are tied for sixth.
When asked if the Lancers are playing to the standings level of their opponent, Aikens responded almost before the question was finished.
“No question,” Aikens said. “That is the difference. I don’t feel like we’ve been where we were mentally. We don’t move our feet. We just stand and watch instead of work and create. We need to be disruptive and hard to play against.”
After a scoreless opening period, Sioux City scored first when forward Nik Olsson backhanded home a shot 1:58 into the second period.
The Lancers responded just more than a minute later when they took advantage of a turnover deep in Sioux City’s defensive end. Matt Gaudreau got his stick on the puck, which deflected off a Sioux City defenseman and past goalie Connor Girard for the tying goal.
Just as it looked like the game might be headed to overtime, Musketeers defenseman Jared Kolquist blasted a goal through traffic with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
What made that goal tougher to take was that the Lancers had just whiffed on a four-minute, double-minor power play.
“We just lost to these guys last week, so there should be a greater sense of urgency,” Aikens said. “I don’t think some guys realize the value of these (standings) points.”
The Lancers are scheduled to face Sioux City again on the road Saturday after Friday’s game at Ralston Arena against Des Moines. Both games are set for 7:05 p.m.
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