SIOUX CITY | Saturday night’s home opener for the Sioux City Musketeers marked a battle between the goaltenders in a fun matchup between Interstate 29 rivals.
After yielding Sioux Falls’ 10th power play goal of the season with 13 ½ minutes left in the first period, Musketeers goaltender Matt Jurusik stopped 26 consecutive shots, including one in overtime. Then, for extra measure, Jurusik stopped each of the Stampede’s five shots in the shootout.
Jurusik’s counterpart, Mikhail Berdin, was perfect outside of yielding Solag Bakich’s goal with 6:18 remaining in the first perioid. Berdin also made saves on shootout chances from the Musketeers’ Mathieu De St. Phalle, Martin Pospisil, Sampo Ranta and Hayden Rowan.
The only shot that Jursik couldn’t stop came from Musketeers’ alternate captain Micah Miller. A St. Cloud State recruit who was a key contributor during last year’s run for the Clark Cup Trophy, Miller buried his chance and gave Coach Luke Strand’s squad a thrilling 2-1 United States Hockey League triumph at the Tyson Events Center.
Sioux City improved its season record to 2-1 following the thriller and is now 1-1 in one-goal games. The tradition-rich program, which has won two of the last three Western Conference regular-season titles, is now 12-2-2 in home since the beginning of the Tier I Era, a mark that includes a 5-0-1 advantage over Sioux Falls.
Miller has a chance to experience a full season with the defending Anderson Cup champions after splitting time with the Musketeers and leading Grand Rapids to the 2016 Minnesota Class A state championship. The right wing was held to just one shot in regulation, missing a scoring chance on a pass from fellow Minnesotan Cole Koepke in the third period, but given his chance in the shootout, Miller came through.
Jurusik, a 6-foot-1, 192-pound native of LaGrange, Ill., had already experienced an overtime game on the young season. The previous Saturday at Fargo’s Scheels Arena, the former University of Wisconsin goalie was between the pipes in a season-opening 3-2 overtime win where Ranta scored the game-winner, about 3 ½ minutes into the extra session.
Jurusik made key saves throughout the contest. One of his biggest saves was on a shot from Kevin Conley with 1:19 remaining until the second intermission.
Along the way, Sioux City’s swarming pressure defense did a sharp job against an opponent which was tied for the USHL lead with 14 goals, half which came in Friday night’s 7-2 win at Omaha. The league’s leading scorer going into the game, Reid Stephanson (2 goals, 4 assists), was held to just three shots while teammate Kristian Acosta (2 goals, 3 assists), one of three skaters tied for second at five points, didn’t take a shot.
Sioux Falls (2-1-1) missed its final four power-play scoring chances while Berdin stopped all five of Sioux City’s man-advantage chances, three coming in the second period.
Berdin also made a key save on a shorthanded chance from Koepke in the second period. It was part of a difficult night for Koepke, an alternate captain who missed a pair of one-on-one scoring opportunities in the first period and took a team-high 10 shots.
Ranta, who entered having scored in each of the Musketeers’ previous two games, also missed a scoring chance in the third period thanks to the defense of Colin Swoyer, one of three Stampede skaters with three power-play assists.
The Musketeers will continue their homestand with games on Friday and Saturday against Waterloo and Des Moines, respectively.