SIOUX CITY — Sunday was a special day for Christian Jimenez, and it wasn’t because it was Valentine’s Day.
Jimenez, one of the Sioux City Musketeers’ defensemen, scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period that gave the Musketeers (14-15-1) a 4-2 win over the Sioux Falls Stampede.
Jimenez scored just his second goal of the season, and he scored that goal with his parents in attendance.
The 5-foot-9 Musketeers forward hadn’t seen his parents since September, and he was thrilled to see them outside of a phone or computer screen.
Scoring that go-ahead goal had extra meaning.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Jimenez said. “I love them to death. You can’t really explain that feeling, and you have to credit God. Scoring a goal now is the same feeling as when you score a goal at 5 years old. It’s that same special feeling."
Jimenez’s goal came on a fastbreak opportunity. He saw that Chase Bradley was speeding down the ice, and Jimenez joined the attack. The Musketeers had a 3-on-1 advantage.
Bradley saw Jimenez come down the rink to his right, passed the puck to the Harvard hockey commit, and Jimenez fired his shot past Noah Grannan, the Stampede’s goaltender.
“I do think it was a big goal, not even for myself, but for the whole group,” Jimenez said. “That’s what it’s all about. We have to play for each other, we have to keep loving each other.”
Musketeers coach Luke Strand thought Jimenez played his best hockey of the season throughout the week. The Musketeers played in four games, and Jimenez simplified his game to best fit the team’s needs.
The things that Jimenez did included keeping his feet moving when he had the puck, making his first three strides huge when he doesn’t have possession of the puck, and just playing hard at all times to set a good example for the rest of the Sioux City dressing room.
“His game propelled our team,” Strand said. “I think he did a few things on the simple side. Sometimes, simple is better. Jimmy is a leader, he’s a momentum guy and he’s a motivator for the group. He’s a veteran, and we need veterans, and we need leaders.”
Sioux City opened the scoring with a Brian Carrabes goal in the first period, and that came at the 16-minute, 25-second mark.
Carrabes used to play for the Stampede, and he got a breakaway goal and fired his shot past Grannan’s right-hand side. Carrabes’ goal was unassisted.
Sioux Falls tied the game later in the first period, as Luke Toporowski scored his fifth goal of the season at the 17:46 mark.
Matteo Costantini broke the tie in the second period, and that was the only scoring play of the second period.
Costantini was stationed near the goal, and he took the puck, which was flying around his waist, and swatted it in.
Costantini scored his fifth goal of the season. It was also a power-play goal.
Then, the Musketeers added an insurance goal in the final couple minutes, as Brenden Olson, another former Stampede, scored an empty-net goal.
This was the seventh of the series between the Musketeers and Stampede, and the fourth in six days for Sioux City.
The Musketeers won three out of four, with their only loss coming at the Stampede at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on Friday night.
With the win, Sioux City has 29 points, and have caught up with the Stampede.
Strand thought the biggest key came on Friday night. The Musketeers were stung for about 25 minutes of Friday’s game, after Sioux Falls scored three consecutive goals and erased the Musketeers lead.
“That stung us, and in hindsight, that may have turned out to be the most powerful thing all weekend, even though we won three out of four games. The disappointment with Friday can easily leak into Saturday, and to their credit, they didn’t let it.
“I thought we showed some serious resolve coming back the way we did Saturday and Sunday,” Strand said. “The way they responded was impressive.”