By Thane Barnier
Sioux Falls Stampedes the Scarecrows
The Sioux Falls Stampede started off the 2002-2003 season with a bang Saturday night, defeating the Topeka Scarecrows 7-2. Sioux Falls started the scoring 1:28 into the contest when defenseman Mike Vanelli ripped a shot over former Stampede goaltender Layne Sedevie. The power play goal occurred only one second into the Stampede power play. The Sioux Falls special teams were clicking all night, as the Stampede tallied 4 power play goals on four attempts. Not to be outdone, the penalty killers stopped all eight of Topeka’s man advantage chances including a brilliant 5 on 3 kill in the second period and racked up a short handed goal. Jacob Micflikier was the star of the night, scoring a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and adding 2 assists and newcomer Morod Radmacher had a goal and 2 assists. Goaltender Kellen Briggs was sensational between the pipes with 29 saves on 31 shots and an assist. The story of the night however, was defense. The Sioux Falls defense played outstanding, while Topeka gave their goaltender very little help. All night long, the Stampede had clear lanes to shoot at Sedevie, and he had no help in front of the net.
Sioux Falls loses in Shootout
Coming off an impressive opening night win over Topeka, the Stampede took on the River City Lancers on Weds. Oct. 2nd. Derek Patrasso and Jacob Micflikier got the scoring started with two goals early in the second period. The Stampede had the defensive minded Lancers back on their heels, but seemed to let up a bit. This allowed River City to fall into their steady, defensive style of play and take control of the tempo. They stymied the Stampede for the remainder of the game and managed to tie the score at 2. Kellen Briggs was once again sensational fending off a number of late 3rd period rushes by the Lancers and taking it through overtime to the shootout. In the shootout, the Lancers scored on their first attempt, on a shot that Briggs just didn’t seem ready for. He got a late jump on the shooter and couldn’t recover. After that first shot he was like a brick wall. Unfortunately for the Stampede, the one goal would be enough as they failed to get one past Lancer goalie Dominic Vicari.
Stampede Finally Win in Green Bay
The Stampede faced another defensive minded team in the Green Bay Gamblers on Saturday Oct. 5th. Opening their brand new facility, the Gamblers were looking to extend their unbeaten home streak against Sioux Falls. Once again the Stampede started fast and once again it was Jacob Miclflikier supplying the offense. The Stampede forward tallied his first hat trick of the season, with 3 goals and 1 assist. Morod Radmacher scored his second of the season and Steve Dusich scored his first 2 of the season. The Stampede were able to fight through the Gamblers’ attempts to slow down the tempo, something they were unable to do what they could not against River City.
Stampede off to a great start
The story of last year was the poor play of the Sioux Falls defensive core. A young group that at times looked lost and seemed to run around frantically, solidifying the blueline was one of Coach Gasparini’s musts for a successful season. If the start of the season is any indication, he has succeeded. The Stampede have looked rock solid on defense, playing a controlled, intelligent game, everyone staying home and keeping to their assignments. Good back checking by the forwards has also allowed the defensemen to make plays to break the puck out effectively, and good passing at the point created openings down low for the forwards to get the job done in front of the net.
The Power Play is ranked number one in the league at over 40%. The Penalty Kill was perfect until Saturday night against Green Bay, when they gave up three Power Play goals. The Penalty Kill is still ranked 2nd in the league at 87.5%.
In net Kellen Briggs has lived up to the preseason hype. The 3rd year goaltender has been sensational over the first three games, making the big saves when he has had to. Briggs has kept teams from closing the gap against he Stampede and was a huge part of Green Bay’s attempt to comeback on Saturday night. He looks more controlled and comfortable than he has since coming to Sioux Falls.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Stampede have found instant chemistry with the line of Jacob Micflikier, Jason Moul and newcomer Morod Radmacher. Micflikier leads the USHL in scoring with 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) in 3 games, Radmacher is ranked 2nd with 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) and Moul is tied for 4th with 6 points (5 assists). The Stampede’s offense has lost none of it’s explosiveness even as they have gained size and toughness.
The only sore spot for the Stampede is a lack of discipline. The Stampede rank 2nd in the league in Penalty Minutes and have had to play shorthanded 24 times. Taking unnecessary penalties has served to damped the Stampede’s explosive offense on numerous occasions in each of the first three games. Right now the Stampede seem to be their own worst enemy. If Sioux Falls wants to keep winning, they will have to stay out of the penalty box and keep five players on the ice.