Sioux Falls, SD (Stampede) — In what has been an incredible season for the Sioux Falls Stampede, it was only fitting that Game 3 would end in dramatic fashion. Brian Chambers goal with 51 seconds remaining in regulation broke a 2-2 tie to give the Stampede a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, sweeping the best-of-five series against the Anderson Cup champion Tri-City Storm. The game was played before 6,689 screaming fans at the PREMIER Center who witnessed the Herd take down the best team in the USHL all season and claim the Western Conference title.
Austen Swankler and Jami Krannila scored first period goals while Jaxson Stauber continued his dominance in net, stopping 28 of 30 shots for his eighth win of the post season. Sioux Falls is a perfect 5-0 at home and 8-1 during this postseason run. The Herd will now wait for the conclusion of the Eastern Conference Final between Muskegon and Chicago for the Clark Cup Final.
The Stampede knew the Storm would come out desperate and getting off to a good start would be key if they wanted to end the series. The Herd grabbed the first goal of the game 5:18 when Austen Swankler tallied his second goal of the playoffs. Jami Krannila sent a pass up the right-wing side to Swankler who drove towards the goal and backhanded the puck right through the five-hole of Isaiah Saville to make it a 1-0 game. It remained that way until 9:39 when Krannila struck for the second time in the postseason as well. The Storm were bringing the puck up the middle of the ice in their own end when Krannila came in from behind and stole the puck and quickly turned around and skated into the slot before wristing a shot perfectly into the upper right-hand corner of the net bringing all 6,689 fans to their feet and giving the Stampede a 2-0 advantage. Tri-City outshot the Herd 9-8 in the period.
After a scoreless second period in which Tri-City outshot Sioux Falls 10-7, things got interesting in the third. Tri-City finally got on the board at 3:08 of the period when Benji Eckerle wristed a shot from the edge of the right circle that beat the glove of Stauber to make it a 2-1 game. The Storm started to pick up momentum after the goal, outshooting the Herd 11-5 in the period. Tri-City went on their fourth power play of the night midway through the period and tallied their first goal of the series with the man advantage. Brendan Furry wristed a shot onto goal that was stopped by Stauber, but the rebound bounced onto the stick of Shane Pinto who knocked it home to tie the game and give the Storm a big boost.
The Herd would bend, but not break for the remainder of the period and kept the game tied. It remained that way until the final minute of regulation when the Herd scored the game of the year. Ryan Johnson wristed a shot from the left circle that was blocked, but the rebound bounced back to him. He took the puck behind the net and sent it onto the goal of Saville who couldn’t control the puck and Brian Chambers poked in the puck under the right arm of Saville to put the PREMIER Center crowd into a frenzy and give the Herd a 3-2 lead with just 51 seconds remaining in regulation. Tri-City pulled their goaltender late, but couldn’t score and the Herd took the series.
The Stampede now advance to the Clark Cup Final against the winner of the Chicago/Muskegon series. Chicago currently leads that series 2-1 with game four set for Saturday night. Stay tuned to sfstampede.com and on social media @sfstampede for a schedule when it is available. Game 1 of the series will start next Friday night.