When the U.S. Hockey League. An Amateur Association for Players under 20 years of age, announced last May that the Omaha Lancers would become its newest team, community interest ran high. More than a third of Hitchcock Park Arena's 900 seats were sold as season tickets. But the excitement began to wane when Omaha lost its first preseason game 15-2. As loss followed loss, Hitchcock Park became a sadder, emptier place, and by mid-January the Lancers were behind on the rent. Omaha's inaugural season ended on Sunday, five months, three coaches, 48 losses and not a single win—not even a tie—after it began.
"We came up short on recruiting," says team owner Tom Edwards, a vice-president of a local bank. "And we didn't draft well last spring."
Things could have been even worse for the Lancers. The USHL has a unique rule that awards a bonus point for reaching the overtime period. So even though Omaha was winless in all 48 games, by twice losing in sudden death—9-8 to the Dubuque Fighting Saints and 5-4 to the North Iowa Huskies—the Lancers finished with two points in the standings. "We've had chances to win," says Les Lundberg, the team captain and leading scorer, with 11 goals. "But then we'd have one of those spells where we'd give up four or five quick goals." Indeed, a bad night for the Lancers would have been a bad week for some teams. Omaha averaged only 2.2 goals a game while allowing 9.4.
"If we had won a game, it would have been like winning the Stanley Cup," says Shawn Jones, who left a high school coaching job to take over Omaha last month. Jones says he's proud that this year's Lancers never quit on him, but he's also a realist: He has already begun to recruit new players for next season's team.
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