Sioux Falls, SD--The Sioux Falls Stampede returned from a four game road trip by clinching their eighth playoff berth in nine years with an exciting 2-1 victory over the Tri-City Storm Wednesday night at the Arena. Thomas Forgione and Dennis Kravchenko chipped in a goal each while netminder Charlie Lindgren tied the franchise record for wins in a season (31) by pushing away 16 of 17 Storm shots.
“I thought we played shutdown hockey,” said Lindgren. “It was a really good team win.”
The nail-biter was the fifth victory in a row for the Stampede (40-14-2), who pushed their ever-growing lead in the Western Conference to nine points over the Fargo Force and are now within one point of Dubuque for the Anderson Cup.
“We did a lot of right things over and over,” said head coach Cary Eades. “We didn’t necessarily get rewarded in goals but we got rewarded in a victory. It was much more of a complete performance than we’ve had recently.”
Zeros showed on the scoreboard after the opening period despite several prime Herd scoring opportunities and 13 shots on goal. Omaha received the only penalty of the period after a hooking call with 1:08 to go, allowing Sioux Falls to open the second with a man advantage.
Stampede winger Thomas Forgione broke the goalless tie at 2:41 when he found himself in no man’s land on a breakaway and stymied Tri-City goaltender Justin Quale with a vicious backhand maneuver, his 21st goal of the season. Tri-City replied a little over nine minutes later thanks to a Nick Hutchison score with a lone second remaining on the first Storm power play of the game. It appeared the game would remain tied heading into the final period until a falling Dennis Kravchenko slammed in a rebound from the left side with only 19 seconds to go before intermission. Kravchenko’s goal provided the Herd an auspicious omen, as his team entered in the evening an amazing 29-0-1 when on top after forty minutes.
“I was just trailing the play and the puck came in the middle,” said Kravchenko, who has 10 points in his last six games. “I was there to pick it up and put it in.”
The score from the Umass-Amherst recruit sealed the win for the Herd, as they thwarted any kind of game-tying efforts from the Storm in the last twenty minutes of play. Sioux Falls will now head on the road for two games this weekend before spending five of their last six of the season at the Arena heading into the USHL playoffs.
“There’s no taking your foot off the gas pedal,” said head coach Cary Eades, adding, “Making the playoffs is one thing; advancing in the playoffs is another.”
Sioux Falls will travel to Lincoln Friday to face the Stars at 7:05 pm. Pregame coverage with Jim Olander can be heard on KELO News Talk 1320-AM and 1079 FM .