A 2-2 tie through two periods had fans a little nervous, but the Sioux Falls Stampede home winning streak lived to see another night as they beat the division rival Sioux City Musketeers 4-2 Friday evening at the Arena in front of 3,895 fans. Dennis Kravchenko had two points (1 G, 1 a) and was +3 on the ice as the Herd (6-3-0) continued their trend of perfection in their icy abode, now a unblemished 5-0-0 when they play in front of their loyal fans. Todd Skirving, Kyle Schempp and the recently-acquired Vinny Muto also put the puck in the net for Sioux Falls, while goaltender Charlie Lindgren stopped 23 of 25 Musketeer shots.
“Everyone knows they (Sioux City) are our biggest rivals,” said Stampede second-year forward Todd Skirving, who had the game-winning goal in the third period. “We have to have an amount of respect for them, but we have an amount of hate for them as well.”
The game opened in promising and familiar fashion for the Herd, scoring first for the fifth consecutive home game. Sioux Falls grabbed the 1-0 lead at 11:54 when San Clemente, Calif. native Dennis Kravchenko worked his way around a defender and promptly wristed the puck into the upper right corner of the net for the center’s team-leading fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Vinny Muto took very little time making a positive first impression, doubling his new team’s lead with a quick wrist shot from the left circle with 1:37 left in the first period.
“He (Muto) adds a dimension and hopefully he’s going to help our power play in time with the way he can shoot the puck,” said head coach Cary Eades about his new player. “He defended very well tonight, and another good defenseman is nice to have.”
Sioux City used the power play to even the score in a penalty-filled second period in which neither team could stay out of the box. Jared Thomas and Dan Molenaar capitalized on two of the four power plays the Musketeers went on, with Thomas cutting the Herd lead in half at 8:43 and Molenaar tying things up on wrist shot with 1:21 left before intermission. In all, nine penalties were called between the two teams in the period.
“We were disappointed in our specialty teams contribution, or lack thereof, tonight,” said Eades, adding, “We’re not working together and we’re not on the same page.”
The final period was a clean, tense chess match between two division rivals, lacking the undisciplined play and frequent penalty box visits the previous period featured in bulk. Second-year winger Todd Skirving broke the tie that sealed the fans to their seats in anxiety with a huge rebound past the diving Joey Ballmer at 8:55. The score was all Sioux Falls would need to finish off the Musketeers, controlling the puck and preventing Ballmer from going to the bench until a minute was left in the game. Kyle Schempp iced the cake with 37 remaining, snatching the puck from a hapless Sioux City player and dumping the puck into a vacant net, for all intents and purposes sealing a 4-2 home victory. Sioux City outshot the Herd 25-23 on the night.
“We don’t lose in our white jerseys,” said Skirving.
The Stampede return to the Arena tomorrow night to face the Tri-City Storm at 7:05. The first 1,000 fans receive a free pair of Stampede ThunderStix. Doors open at 6:15 PM and tickets are available at the Sioux Falls Arena Box Office. Fans can also catch the game live on KELO-AM 1320 starting at 6:40 PM with Jim Olander.