Photos by Hickling Images
Des Moines Buccaneers at Omaha Lancers
Saturday: 7:05 EST (HD)
The Buccaneers head into the weekend alone in second place in the Western Conference standings following a win on the road over the Fargo Force on Tuesday night. For the Lancers, this will be their fifth home game in their last seven contests, and they will look to get a boost from the Ralston Arena crowd to knock off one of the better road teams in the league, as Des Moines is 10-6-0-1 this season away from Buccaneer Arena.
The Buccaneers are paced up front by David Keefer. The Michigan State commit leads the team with 29 points (15G, 14A) in 35 games this season. Kobe Roth has also been a solid offensive presence in his second USHL season, as he's scored 22 points (8G, 14A) in 28 games. Julian Napravnik, Isaac Johnson and Christopher Berger (17 PTS each) have also been solid contributors to Des Moines strong offensive play this year. Defenseman Mario Ferraro has been a rising star since the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he tallied a pair of assists to help Team West to a 4-0 shutout victory.
For Omaha, it is a mix of young players and veterans leading the way up front. Recent Notre Dame commit and alternate captain Pierce Crawford has led by example this season, as he leads the team with 24 points (12G, 12A). He will return to the lineup on Saturday and look to provide a spark for the Lancers offensively. Veteran Austin Alger has also played well, as he has 23 points (11G, 112A) this year.
Des Moines has two goaltenders who have played exceptionally well this season. Both Jan Ruzicka (2.16, .920) and Nick MacNab (2.23, .917) sit in the top-10 among all USHL netminders in both GAA and SV%. Omaha will be led between the pipes by Tommy Nappier, who has played the bulk of the games for the Lancers since coming over in a trade with the Chicago Steel earlier this season.
The Buccaneers have gone 5-0-0-0 against the Lancers this season, but it's always a hard-fought battle between these two Western Conference rivals. The last three contests between the teams have each been decided by one goal, so it will be an entertaining battle between Des Moines and Omaha.
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Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.