SIOUX CITY | Talk about playing with a sense of urgency.
Facing a 2-1 deficit along with danger of postseason elimination, the Sioux City Musketeers have evened the series against the Sioux Falls Stampede thanks to third-period domination Thursday night.
Ryan Walker and Joel Janatuinen scored back-to-back goals, about four minutes apart in the third period. Goaltender Collin Olson stopped the final 12 shots he faced as the Musketeers rallied for a 4-2 win in the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup Western Conference Semifinals at the Tyson Events Center.
“Walks had a big block in there, got the puck in the zone and I followed,” said Janatuinen, talking about his game-winning goal which Walker assisted on with 12:27 left. “There was a loose puck. I drove the net. It just got in.”
Coach Jay Varady’s Western Conference regular-season champions outshot the Stampede 12-4 in the third period. This came after Troy Loggins scored two second-period goals for Sioux Falls, which had a 15-8 shots advantage in the middle stanza, including Parker Tuomie’s missed shot with five seconds before the second intermission.
“Coach came in and said we have to play playoff hockey, it’s time to bear down,” said Walker, who during his rookie season, scored 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists). “I think we did a great job of that in the third period, getting on their ‘D’ on the forecheck. That’s really our identity.”
Dating back to last Friday’s 5-3 triumph in the regular-season finale at the Denny Sanford Premier Center, the Musketeers have turned in two outstanding third-period rallies against the Stampede. Sioux City hosts Game 3 Friday night at 7:05 and with its win, forced a fourth game which will begin at 6:05 on Sunday night at Sioux Falls.
“The third period was a huge period for our team, for our season and for the series,” said Varady. “Obviously, I thought (Sioux Falls) controlled the game, especially in the second. We got some good goaltending that kept us in the game. Then, we were able to the start that third period.”
A 5-1 Game 1 winner Tuesday night at the Denny Sanford, Sioux Falls registered a second straight two-goal outing from a player in the series. Logan O’Connor, who had red-lighters in the first and second periods in front of the Stampede fans, was held to one shot, but Loggins, one of two players with late empty-net goals Tuesday, scored goals seven minutes apart, both assisted by Dakota Joshua.
Mikey Eyssimont, who came in a March 2 trade from the Fargo Force, also assisted on the goal that snapped a 1-1 tie. The goal was set up by Eyssimont’s steal of a pass intended for Musketeers’ right wing Sam Kurker, who for Game 2, moved to the top line, joined by left wing Adam Johnson and center Joe Snively.
“It was a great hockey game, you know, back and forth, two lead changes and two good hockey teams pouring their hearts on the line,” said Stampede Coach Cary Eades. “(The Musketeers) made big plays in the third period. We had some chances, but we didn’t bury those chances, they did and now the series is tied.”
Had Olson not stopped Tuomie’s late second-period shot, Sioux Falls would have gone to the locker room with a 3-1 lead for the second time in the series and, oddly enough, the third straight time in the last three games in the series. Sioux Falls had scored at least three goals in the previous six games in the series, including Game 1.
“It was critical,” said Varady. “Critical, critical save. Nobody really remembers that it was at the buzzer and they were wide open at the net front. (Olson) made an outstanding effort, a huge save to keep it 2-1 heading into the locker room which gave us a chance.”
Olson also made key saves on back-to-back power-play attempts by Eysimmont and Collin Peters about two minutes before Loggins’ second goal. Sioux City’s penalty kill is 9-for-9 heading into tonight, but Sioux Falls, third in the regular season at 84.25 percent on the PK, is 8-for-8.
Sioux City took a lead for the first time in the series on defenseman David Trinkberger’s goal with 1:44 left in the first period. Kurker, a Clark Cup champion last season with the Indiana Ice, registered the first of his two assists on the play from the 6-5, 207-pound native of Landshut, Germany.
“At the second intermission, we had a big talk about playoff hockey and it’s differerent from regular-season hockey,” said Janatuinen. “We decided to come out in the third and show Sioux Falls what kind of a team we are. That’s the kind of hockey we can play.”
Sioux City 4, Sioux Falls 2
First period: Sioux City – David Trinkberger (Neal Pionk, Sam Kurker), 18:16. Penalties: Nuttle, SF, holding, 3:38.
Second period: 2, Sioux Falls – Troy Loggins (Dakota Joshua), :18. 3, Sioux Falls – Loggins (Joshua, Mikey Eyssimont), 7:20. Penalties: Montgomery, SC, boarding, 2:57; Buchta, SF, slashing, 7:36; Schwalbe, SF, cross checking, 15:10; Rodriguez, SC, roughing, 18:10; Marody, SF, roughing, 18:10; Wilson, SC, high sticking, 19:37.
Third period: 4, Sioux City – Ryan Walker (Kurker, Joe Snively), 4:44. 5, Sioux City – Joel Janatuinen (Walker), 7:33. 6, Sioux City – Robert Carpenter (Snively), empty net, 19:25. Penalties: Durflinger, SC, kneeing, 9:34; Joshua, SF, hooking, 11:02; Joshua, SF, cross checking, 20:00.
Score by periods:
Sioux Falls 0 2 0 -- 2
Sioux City 1 0 3 -- 4
Shots on goal:
Sioux Falls 14 15 4 -- 33
Sioux City 11 8 12 -- 31
Power play: Sioux Falls 0 for 3, Sioux City 0 for 4.
Goaltenders: Stefanos Lekkas, Sioux Falls, 30 shots, 27 saves, 59:00; Collin Olson, Sioux City, 33 shots, 31 saves.
Referee: Robert Lukkason, Matt Miller. Linesmen: Ian McCambridge, Jake Davis.