By Tony Cola
Sioux Falls, SD--Stampede fans got to enjoy their desert early Wednesday night as Sioux Falls downed the Fargo Force 3-2 in overtime on Thanksgiving eve at the Arena. C.J. Franklin clinched the victory for the Herd (12-5-0) with the overtime winner when he deflected a wrist shot from Matt Van Voorhis.
“My goal was to get in front of net and block the goalie,” said Franklin, a Forest Lake, Minn. native. “I was lucky to get my stick on the puck and it went in.”
The win put the Stampede in a first place tie with the Waterloo Black Hawks in the Western Conference. Zeb Knutson and Thomas Forgione also scored for Sioux Falls, while goaltender Charlie Lindgren had another splendid game in net, allowing just two goals on 26 shots from the Force (7-6-5). The Stampede peppered Fargo goaltender Cameron Johnson with shots, putting up a season-high 53 shots on goal in their victory in front of 3,792 fans.
“I was really happy from start to finish,” said head coach Cary Eades. “I thought we established a certain amount of physicality early. We made a lot of plays and worked out tails off.”
The teams exchanged goals and power plays in a hectic, penalty-ridden opening period. Sioux Falls seized the lead first at 6:34 when Knutson pushed a sliding puck from Vinny Muto under the pads of Johnson for his eighth goal of the season. A Fargo reply came a little over six minutes later during a breakaway as Dominic Toninato had Lindgren all to himself and dumped the puck into the net with a nifty back-and-forth move. Both clubs ended the physical period 0 for 2 on the man advantage.
Things remained at a 1-1 standstill until Thomas Forgione broke the deadlock at 10:06 of the third period with an opportunistic mid-air deflection off an Ed McGovern shot. However, Fargo didn’t blink at the huge goal and responded with a score of their own just 17 seconds later, leaving the teams headed to overtime.
“When you go from regulation to overtime it goes from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4 so you’re a lot more spread out and there’s a lot more room on the ice,” said Knutson. “Sometimes the team that should win and showed the most effort doesn’t always win in the shootout. You just have to do your best to figure out how to get it done in overtime.”
Franklin found himself at the right place at the right time at 2:25 in overtime, tipping in a shot from defenseman Matt Van Voorhis to seal the 3-2 win over their divisional adversaries.
The gritty win sent Stampede fans home happy, and gives Sioux Falls another tw0- game winning streak before their game Friday at the Arena against Sioux City.
“In life you don’t always get what you deserve, but more often than not if you work that hard you’re going to get rewarded,” said coach Eades.