Kearney, NE—The Sioux Falls Stampede are one win away from their third trip to the Clark Cup Finals after taking down the Tri-City Storm, 4-1 Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final. With the win, the Herd now lead the best-of-five series, 2-0 with Game 3 taking place Friday night at the PREMIER Center. The Stampede have taken the first two games of the series on the road against a Storm team who held the best home record of any team during the regular season and dropped back-to-back games for just the third time all season.
The Stampede trailed 1-0 late in the second period, but scored two goals 18 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead into the third and never looked back. Carl Berglund, Andre Lee, Max Crozier and Jared Westcott all scored goals while Jaxson Stauber continued his dominance in goal, stopping 31 of 32 shots on the night. Sioux Falls is now 7-1 in the playoffs.
After a somewhat slow start to the game with both teams chipping the puck out of their zone back-and-forth, the Storm were finally able to break through on a turnover and got on the board first at 17:41. The Herd tried to chip the puck up the left wing boards at center, but the puck was knocked down by Khristian Acosta who broke free over the blue line on a 2-on-1 where he found Filip Forsmark who backhanded a shot past Stauber for a 1-0 lead. The Herd got a power play late in the period, but were unable to convert and Tri-City took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. Tri-City outshot the Herd 11-7 in the period.
Tri-City controlled much of the play for most of the period, but the Stauber was solid in goal and kept it a one goal game and gave the Herd a chance to tie the game. They would do just that at 17:01 of the period. Carl Berglund drove towards the net with the puck bouncing and was able to bat the puck over the right pad of Saville and just over the goal line to tie the game at one. Eighteen seconds later the Herd scored again when Andre Lee tallied his fourth of the playoffs. Lee wristed a shot from inside the left circle that was blocked, but picked up his own rebound and fired it just under the crossbar and into the net for the Stampede’s first lead of the night to make it a 2-1 game. Blake Bride nearly made it a two-goal edge in the final seconds, but his rebound shot bounced through the crease and just wide of the net. The Storm outshot the Herd 12-7 in the period.
Tri-City tried to regain some momentum in the third, but Stauber continued to play outstanding between the pipes and kept the Storm off the board. Sioux Falls got some cushion when Max Crozier extended the lead to two goals at 7:45. Crozier took a pass from Ryan Johnson at the right point and lasered a shot through traffic and into the upper right-hand corner of the net to make it a 3-1 game. Tri-City was never able to respond and the Herd put the game away for good at 18:40 when Jared Westcott scored a power play, empty-net goal.
Tri-City outshot the Stampede 9-8 in the period and 32-22 in the game. Sioux Falls finished the night 1-for-5 while Tri-City went 0-for-3.
The series now shifts to Sioux Falls for Game 3 on Friday night when the Herd entertain Tri-City at the PREMIER Center. Fans are invited to a free tailgate party from 5-6:30 PM outside the Birdcage. Doors will open at 6 and the first 2,000 fans through the main entrance will receive a free Stampede playoff rally towel, compliments of Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital and Orthopedic Institute. Puck drop is set for 7:05 PM and tickets are available through the PREMIER Center or any Ticketmaster outlet.