Added March 26, 2015 9:40 PM
The Sioux Falls Stampede have qualified for the USHL Playoffs back to back seasons, and with another lengthy homestand underway, are in prime position to make a return trip to the playoffs.
The Stampede stand six points clear of Des Moines for the final playoff spot in the USHL Western Conference, and play six of their final seven games at home, which guarantees nothing.
"We've got to reestablish our home ice and reestablish how we were playing through the month of January when we went undefeated at home for a while. So, can't take things for granted, and just because you have the crowd behind you and your home ice advantage doesn't mean you're going to win the hockey game," Stampede head coach Cary Eades said.
The Herd finished their recent ten-game road trip with a record of 5-5, and were at their best when it was a true team effort.
"Some scoring is coming from different people. You can't just shut down one line. A different line has picked us up at different times. One of the things we've gotten away from a little bit is our team defense. We're giving up far too many grade A scoring chances against. So, some of that was fatigue and some of it was really playing against good teams, so we've got to tighten that area up, as we try to qualify for the playoffs and then hopefully go a long way in them," Eades said.
"We're getting a lot of production from our top guys and everyone is really contributing. We talked about needing everyone to contribute and for everyone to be present...no passengers, every night," Stampede forward Ryan Schwalbe said.
The regular season is quickly nearing its end, but until the Stampede qualify for the playoffs, they'll continue to skate with blinders on.
"I think we've been doing a good job the second half of the season in just taking it one day at a time, one weekend at a time, and that's really benefited us. So, I think we've just got to keep doing that," Schwalbe said.
"One of the things we talked about this week was stay in the present. We can have a lot of distractions. The weather gets nice this time of year. We have a weekend off...that's rare one. Different things can sidetrack you and get you off focus. This group has done a real good job of staying on-task on-focus and we need to continue that," Eades said.
Every game of the Herd's homestand is important, but next Wednesday's showdown with Des Moines could go a long way in determining their playoff fate.
The Stampede opened their final homestand of the season with a 4-0 win over Fargo, extending their lead over Des Moines in the standings to eight points.
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