SIOUX CITY | Sampo Ranta may not think so, but he’s added a tougher dimension to his game.
Sporting a sore on the chin that came in the closing minute against Fargo the previous Friday, Ranta snapped a 2-all tie on his second goal of the game with 13:54 left in the third period. It enabled the Sioux City Musketeers to prevail 4-2 during United States Hockey League action against the Green Bay Gamblers at the Tyson Events Center.
Ranta is the Musketeers’ scoring leader with 21 points (13 goals, 8 assists). The goal that gave the native of Naantali, Finland, his fourth multi-point game of the season was followed by Keegan Mantaro’s goal about a minute later. Mantaro’s goal gave Coach Luke Strand’s 16-14-6 team plenty of a cushion, especially the way winning goaltender Matt Jurusik finished between the pipes.
“It was a great pass from Micah Miller, right on my skate,” said Ranta, as he talked about his second game-winning goal of the season. “We had a 2-on-1 going, so I had a good breakaway going. It felt good. I haven’t (changed). I play my game and try to do the things that I do well. I try to keep my head up and be aware of what’s around me.”
“I thought (Ranta) went to the net very hard tonight,” said Strand. “He was very determined to get there. As he progresses throughout his career, he’s always going to have a target on his back. He has talent, game-changing ability and attitude that he carries for our group. I’m really proud of how he bounced back the way he did.”
Ranta, who gave the Musketeers a 2-0 lead on a goal 6 ½ minutes into the first period, missed Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss at Lincoln, complaining of neck pain, the only game he’s missed in his second season. He’s back to 100 percent for a squad that will attempt to complete the sweep against Green Bay (17-15-3) tonight.
“He sure played like it,” said Strand.
Defenseman Nate Knoepke assisted on each of Ranta’s goals. Martin Pospisil had a goal and an assist, assisting along with Matyas Svoboda on Mantaro’s second goal of the season.
A defenseman, Mantaro is an alternate captain for the Musketeers.
“Keegan has been out for a bit and is just getting healthy,” said Strand. “It was good to see him knock some rust off. More important, it was a huge goal for us. The guys were as excited for him to score that goal as the goal itself.”
Pospisil, who scored a goal 34 seconds into the game, has scored in seven of his last nine games. Svoboda has recorded a point in six of the seven games he has played in the last two weeks for a squad that in that time has won five of those contests.
During a battle of the USHL’s heaviest-worked goaltenders, Jurusik bested the Gamblers’ Maxsim Zhukov. Jurusik (15-11-5) enters tonight’s game second in the league with 1,721 minutes while Zuhkov (16-11-2), a fourth-round selection of the Vegas Golden Knights in last summer’s NHL Draft, has 1,738.
“Zuhkov is a major-talented goalie,” said Strand. “Tonight, we had the best pokes maybe, but I know we’ll have a response from him. He’s talented.”
Jurusik had 19 saves after yielding the second of Green Bay’s two second-period goals, Nolan Moyle’s power-play shot with 6:08 left before the second intermission. Moyle leads the Gamblers with five man-advantage goals.
Sioux City 4, Green Bay 2
First period: 1, Sioux City – Martin Pospisil (Nate Knoepke, Bauer Neudecker), :34. 2, Sioux City – Sampo Ranta (Parker Ford), 7:05. Penalties: Spott, GB, slashing, 14:51.
Second period: 3, Green Bay – Danny DiGrande (Tyler Spott, Robert Herrman), 9:10. 4, Green Bay – Nolan Moyle (Trenton Bliss, Ryan Verrier), power play, 13:52. Penalties: Mills, SC, tripping, 16:30.
Third period: 5, Sioux City – Ranta (Micah Miller, Knoepke), 6:06. 6, Sioux City – Keegan Mantaro (Matyas Svoboda, Pospisil), 7:12. Penalties: Maust, GB, too many men on ice, 12:39; Maust, GB, too many men on ice, 17:14; Pospisil, SC, cross checking, 18:11; Ferner, SC, cross checking, 19:00.
Score by periods:
Shots on goal:
Power play: Green Bay 1 of 4, Sioux City 0 of 3.
Goaltenders: Maksim Zhukov, Green Bay, 20 shots, 16 saves, 47:12; Jake Begley, Green Bay 3 shots, 3 saves, 10:59; Matt Jurusik, Sioux City, 42 shots, 40 saves.
Referee: Ian Jendro, Kevin Corbett. Linesmen: Chad Fuller, Alec Almquist.