The Sioux Falls Stampede delivered an early Christmas present to their fans Saturday night as four goals from Griffen Molino helped the Herd overwhelm the Lincoln Stars 7-2 at the Arena in front of a crowd of 4,132. Molino became the fourth player in team history to notch four goals in a game, joining current player Zeb Knutson, Thomas Vanek and Robbie Vrolyk. Knutson, Dennis Kravchenko and Conner Valesano also had two points each for the Herd (17-6-2), while netminder Art Brey allowed two goals on 27 attempts by the Stars (5-13-5).
“We wanted to bounce back,” said Molino, who made Stampede history by being the second Stampede player to score four goals in a game this season. “We wanted to get two points here and really get back to the basic of what Stampede hockey is. I think we did that tonight.”
The win brings the Herd within six points of the Western Conference-leading Omaha Lancers and is the team’s fourth in the last five games after having their six-game winning streak snapped by the Sioux City Musketeers last weekend at home.
A trio of goals and in the first period gave the Herd a three-goal lead after 20 minutes of play. Knutson’s sixth goal in six games broke open the scoring during a power play broke open the scoring at 5:00. The Sioux Falls native took from a pass from Dennis Kravchenko inside the left circle and blasted the puck past Lincoln netminder Michael Bitzer. The margin doubled to 2-0 on Sioux Falls’ second man advantage of the night thanks to Molino who rocketed a shot from the point just outside the left circle.
“I thought right from the get-go we were intense and into it,” said Eades. “They were just into the game from start to finish, a much different team from last Saturday.”
His second tally of the game came 3:12 later after he snuck the puck through the five-hole of Bitzer on a quick rush. The 3-0 cushion for the Herd was a positive omen for the Herd, who came into the night 6-0-2 when on top after one period.
“It’s always nice to hop off to a quick start,” said Molino. “Anytime we can get that opportunity and score in the first period, we like to carry that energy throughout the game.”
Two more goals in second period gave the Herd all the offense they would need the rest of the evening, with the cap of Molino’s hat trick topping off the quartet of scores at 13:23 for a 5-0 lead. The offensive explosion was an outburst for the forward and future Western Michigan Bronco, who came into the evening with three scores on the year.
“When a guy’s got a hot hand, you just keep getting him out there,” said Eades. “He was going to the right spots on the ice and he was going to the tough areas.”
Though Brey’s shutout was snapped in at 5:21 in the second, the Herd would respond with two more scores in the third, including Molino’s record-breaking fourth, to give the Herd a touchdown on the night with seven goals. Lincoln knocked in one more score in the third period, but it would serve simply aesthetic purposes as Sioux Falls ended the night with a huge 7-2 win at home.
The Stampede travel to Fargo Saturday night in their final game before the winter break. Game time is 7:05 PM and fans can catch all the action live on KELO News Talk 1320-AM, 107.9-FM and online at www.kelo.com.
Courtesy: Jim Olander, Stampede