Kearney, NE—C.J. Franklin recorded his first career USHL hat trick while Dennis Kravchenko scored a goal of his own and dished out three assists for the Stampede in their 5-1 thumping of Tri-City Friday night in Kearney. Charlie Lindgren stopped 32 of 33 shots to earn his 29th victory of the season and move him within two wins of the franchise single season record of 31. The victory was the Herd’s fifth straight on the road and kept the Stampede (38-14-2) six points ahead of Fargo for first in the West and moved them within three points of Dubuque in the Anderson Cup race. The Herd’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three.
After a back-and-forth scoreless first period, things picked up in the second period. Grant Opperman broke the scoreless tie at 9:05 of the first period when he scored off a rebound goal. Brian Ward wristed a shot through the slot that was stopped off the pad of Stampede goaltender Charlie Lindgren, but the rebound bounced to Opperman who lifted the puck into the back of the net to make it a 1-0 game. It stayed that way until 17:23 when Sioux Falls broke through for their first goal of the night. Todd Skirving took the puck behind the Storm net and sent it through the slot to Tony Calderone who one-timed a shot past Storm netminder Justin Quale to tied the game at one. The goal was Calderone’s 26th of the season. Late in the period, the Herd went on the powerplay and C.J. Franklin took advantage when he tallied his team leading 27th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the far right wing corner. His shot went into the crease and off the left leg of Quale and gave the Herd a 2-1 lead after two periods. The Herd outshot the Storm 10-7 in the period.
The Herd turned it on in the third, scoring three more time to put the game away. Franklin tallied his second of the night just 2:47 in when he knocked in a loose rebound in the crease off a Kravchenko shot to make it a 3-1 game. It stayed at way until 10:48 when Franklin completed the hat trick. Zeb Knutson cleared the puck out of the Stampede zone off the glass that bounced up the right wing wall and into the hands of Kravchenko who broke in on a 2-on-1 with Franklin. Kravchenko sent the puck through the slot and to the edge of the left circle where Franklin blasted the puck just underneath the crossbar to give the Herd a commanding 4-1 lead. The goal was 29th of the season for Franklin. The last Stampede player to tally 30 goals in a season was Jake Hansen who had 31 during the 2007-08 season.
The Storm went on the powerplay late in the game and pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker, but a pass went off the mark and bounced out of the zone where a speedy Kravchenko beat out two Storm players for the puck and glided the puck into the empty net to seal a 5-1 victory for the Herd.
Tri-City outshot the Stampede 33-29 on the night and finished 0-for-3 on the powerplay while the Stampede went 1-for-3. The Herd return to action on Saturday when they travel up I-29 to face their rivals, the Sioux City Musketeers at 7:05 PM. Fans can listen to the game live on KELO News Talk 1320-AM, 107.9-FM and www.kelo.com starting at 6:40 PM.