Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Barry-ing" His Chance

The Omaha Lancers have won the 2007-2008 USHL Clark Cup. In a back and forth game, Omaha finally got the job done in OT on Barry Almeida's second game winning goal in two games.

In the first period, Omaha played very well and kept Waterloo on their heels. The Hawks were unable to mount any sort of offense that period, while Omaha received a goal from Jake Hauswirth. Omaha led the game 1-0 following 1 period of play.

The 2nd period was all Waterloo, as Omaha seemed to be confused out on the ice. Brett Olson got on the board for the Hawks on the power play, knocking home a loose puck. Towards the end of the period, a Waterloo defenseman (MacKenzie I think) kept the puck in the zone and moved the puck around a Lancer. The puck ended up on Siim Liivik's stick, and he waited patiently before throwing it out front to fellow Fin, Jan-Mikael Juutilainen for the goal. Waterloo led after 2 by a score of 2-1.

The 3rd period saw Omaha and Waterloo go back and forth, with no one really having a clear advantage. Ben Arnt tallied early in the period to tie the game up at 2. A little later, Waterloo was getting called for a penalty, so Palmisano raced off for the extra attacker. Patrick Wiercioch got the puck at the point and blasted it by DiGirolamo. Wiercioch may have one of the best shots from the point I've seen this season. Omaha took the 3-2 lead. The Lancers were whistled for a penalty, and Waterloo took advantage of another scrum out in front of the net. This time, Chad Billins sneaked in from the point to knock in the loose puck. The game was tied at 3 apiece, and headed to OT.

In OT, Omaha had a few golden chances early, but DiGirolamo was up to the task. Waterloo was dominating this OT period and were putting lots of pressure on the Lancers defense. Waterloo even managed to get a 4-on-1 break, but failed to get off a quality shot. That shouldn't be happening in OT of a playoff game, but Waterloo should have capitalized on that opportunity. They waited too long, and Omaha was able to get back just in time to prevent any quality shot from getting to Palmisano. After some more Waterloo pressure, the Lancers were able to clear the puck and break out of the zone. Barry Almeida got the puck on his stick along the boards and carried it into the Waterloo zone. He stick handled through a couple defenders and found himself all alone out front. He went to his backhand and roofed the shot over DiGirolamo's left shoulder. Great game ended on a beautiful goal.

It was a great game and series. I don't think the league could have asked for anything more from these two great teams. As Gino said, this was probably one of the best series the league has ever seen.

More on Almeida:
Almeida was over a point per game player during the regular season, but seemed to disappear in the playoffs. He had 8 points in 14 games (60 points in 57 games during the season.) Almeida, though, was clutch when he needed to be. His first goal of the playoffs was the game winner in game 2 at Lincoln. In Game 4 with Waterloo, Almeida once again came up huge, scoring both Omaha goals. And last night, Almeida was fairly quiet until the Clark Cup Finals GWG. So in the end, Almeida wasn't putting up points like he did in the regular season, but he was clutch and came through when he was needed the most.

Hard Luck DiGirolamo:
Waterloo goalie, Matt DiGirolamo, is now 0-3 in games where Waterloo could have won the Cup. He was in net last season for the 3-0 loss to Sioux Falls.

Omaha becomes the first team to win the Anderson Cup and the Clark Cup since 04-05 when Cedar Rapids did the same, although they shared Andy with Omaha. Prior to that, Lincoln in 02-03 was the last time to win both Cups outright.

As for the reffing. I thought McCreary did a great job and just let the players play and decide the outcome. He let a LOT go for BOTH sides, so neither side should give him any grief.

Photo courtesy of Robert J. Meyer.

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