BY Tony Cola
Sioux Falls, SD--The Sioux Falls Stampede brought their brooms to the Arena Sunday night, as they swept the Green Bay Gamblers with a close 5-3 win in front of 3,906 fans. C.J. Franklin scored two goals while Art Brey turned in another rock solid performance, stone-walling 31 of 34 Green Bay shot attempts for the Herd (26-15-5). The win was the Herd’s third game in three days, and jumped tje club into sole possession of third place in the Western Conference and one point ahead of the Sioux City Musketeers. Sioux Falls finished the successful weekend gaining five of a possible six standings points.
“It’s a team effort, everyone was working their butt off,” said Franklin. “Everyone was doing their part on the ice to get the win.”
For the second straight night the Herd jumped on their adversaries first, this time thanks to a nifty goal by forward Tony Calderone. The future Michigan Wolverine came down on the left side on a 3-on-2 rush and lifted a shot from the left circle into the top right corner of the net , his 17th tally of the year. Both teams finished the period 0-for-2 on the man advantage, with the Herd leading 12-8 in shots on goal.
“It’s always better to get the lead right away. That’s what we did and fortunately we got the win,” said Franklin, who leads the Stampede with 41 points (16 G, 25 A) on the year.
Sioux Falls didn’t wait long to add to their one-goal lead, bumping it to 2-0 a mere 12 ticks into the second period when Logan O’Connor one-timed a pass from Louis Nanne into the basket from the right side. However, it would be all Gamblers from there in the period as they scored two straight, starting with a quick wrister from Brent Gates Jr. only 1:57after O’Connors goal. Green Bay evened the score 2-2 with 4:19 to go before intermission on a rebound shot via Kevin Irwin from the left side. The Gamblers had total control in the second period with the exception of the O’Connor goal, outshooting the Stampede 15-4 and maintaining pressure on Brey for the majority of the period.
“It’s tough to sweep a team,” said head coach Cary Eades. “We might have let our foot off the gas pedal just a little bit there in the second. They wanted to get some points out of the weekend.”
The Stampede appeared to learn their lesson from their underwhelming second period, regaining the lead and the game’s momentum with two goals a mere 23 seconds apart. Nanne gave the Herd their lead back at 4:18 when he blasted a rebound into the top left corner of the net from in between the circles for his second point of the night. Fans were still getting settled back into their seats after celebrating the goal when C.J. Franklin rocketed a shot into the goal at a wide angle from the left circle, give the Herd a vital two-goal 4-2 lead at the 4:41 mark.
“I just thought I’d get it on the net,” said Franklin. “Just get it there and make sure I didn’t lose it out of the zone.”
Green Bay would not stay down, however, chopping the lead in half on a power play with 6:38 to go in the game to make it 4-3 Herd. Nonetheless, an empty-netter from Franklin with 27 seconds on the clock iced the cake for Sioux Falls, their fifth win in the month of February.
The Stampede return to action this Friday when they head to Sioux City for a huge matchup with the Musketeers. Sioux Falls will then host Fargo on Saturday which is also the famous 7th annual Sioux Nation Pet Clinic Wiener Dog Races. Ticket and race information is available by visiting the Stampede website at www.sfstampede.com. Puck drop both night’s is 7:05 PM.