By Tony Cola
Sioux Falls, SD--Another fantastic first period for the Sioux Falls Stampede paved the way for a 6-2 victory over the Sioux City Musketeers Saturday night at the Arena. Six different players scored for the Herd (13-5-0) while goaltender Jan Obernesser pushed away 20 of 22 shots from the Musketeers (3-11-3), owners of the worst record in the USHL. The win moved the Stampede back into a tie for first place in the West with Waterloo who was idle on Friday.
“We knew that they (Sioux City) were a desperate hockey team. They’re coming in hungry,” said Herd forward and leading goal-scorer Todd Skirving. “It was a 6-2 game but I wouldn’t say that the score determined the full game. They were in it for much of the game.”
The victory was the 11th home contest this season the Stampede have notched the first goal of the game and, not coincidentally, their 11th home win of the season.
“You score first, get the crowd into it and deflate the other team,” said head coach Cary Eades. “The first goal in hockey is huge and it’s a real big advantage for us here.”
For the second straight game Zeb Knutson started the scoring for the Herd, waiting 55 ticks into the game to blow a one-timer from Sam Rothstein past Ballmer for a prompt 1-0 Sioux Falls lead. The Herd lead jumped to 2-0 a little over halfway through the period after Matt Van Voorhis rocketed a slap shot home from the left point. A goal by Sioux City at 12:40 stopped the bleeding temporarily, but the quickfire offense of the Herd responded at 2:13 with a beautiful shorthanded score from Kravchenko. The center waited for the perfect shot on Ballmer, biding his time and lifting the puck over the diving netminder into the net for a 3-1 Stampede advantage.
“Last year I played on a team (the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits) where we pretty much dominated the league, so I’m a little used to it,” said goaltender Jan Obernesser in reference to his team’s scoring ability. “It helps knowing that even if I have an off night the guys can bail me out.”
The Musketeers capitalized on during a 5-on-3 to cut the margin to 3-2 3:48 into the second period, though once again the Stampede countered with a score of their own when defenseman Vinny Muto glided the puck past Ballmer with a wrist shot at the 5:49 mark. Sioux Falls held the 4-2 lead going into the final 20 minutes despite giving the team from Iowa four power play chances in the period.
“We finished that second period a little bit sloppy. We had a couple of penalties and they got a power play goal,” said Skirving. “We knew we had to start the third period strong. We stepped on them and didn’t give them much room to move.”
Two more goals from Cody Milan and Tony Calderone in the final period provided the Herd with more than what they’d need for an easy 6-2 win. The Stampede ended the evening 0 for 3 on the power play with their Sioux City counterparts going 1 for 6.
The Herd will travel to Fargo tomorrow night to face the Force. Pregame coverage with Jim Olander can be heard on 1320 KELO-AM.