The USHL playoffs are only weeks away, and the Sioux Falls Stampede entered play Friday night, having won five consecutive games, one point shy of third-place Sioux City in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The Sioux Falls Stampede spent the early portion of 2014 tweaking its roster. The transactions have paid off, as Sioux Falls is playing its best hockey of the season, and is a legitimate Clark Cup contender.
"Hopefully, every year we're going to put ourselves in position. We just do it year by year. This year, we underwent quite a few changes. We feel we have a lineup right now that's a contender, having said that, there are four great teams in the west. So, whoever comes out of our conference is going to have to earn it," Stampede Head Coach Cary Eades said.
"Coach really went all out this year for it. We've got to do the right things that will get us there, and I think we're definitely on the right track to do that," Stampede Forward C.J. Franklin said.
Championships rarely come easy, but the Stampede has shown that it's willing to put in the extra time and effort.
"Success makes it easy to come to the rink. The guys are happy, they're jumping. We've had good practices, been focused, and we're keeping on improving," Eades said.
"We've done our part to get here, and now we're just trying to build a good foundation for the playoffs. Just keep going hard. Do the little things right that will get us there," Franklin said.
Only four games remain on the regular season slate, and rival Sioux City is next in line.
"You always want to beat Sioux City, no matter what sport you're in, or activity. We both push each other to be better communities. No question, they pushed us to be a better hockey club. It's been a great series so far, and we look forward to Friday night's challenge," Eades said.
The Stampede grabbed a 1-0 lead Friday, and outshot Sioux City 42-23, but lost to the Muskies, 2-1.