The Sioux Falls Stampede's new-look offense waited until the home opener Friday night to flash its shiny new wheels, defeating the Omaha Lancers 5-3 before a sellout crowd of 4,687 at the Sioux Falls Arena. Five different players scored, including Sioux Falls native Zeb Knutson, and goaltender Charlie stopped 36 of 39 shots for the Stampede (1-2-0). Stampede forward and newcomer Kyle Schempp led the way for the Stampede with four points (1 G, 3 A).
Connor Chatham, Matthew Gaudreau and Kenny Gillespie scored for Omaha (1-2-0) with goalie Alex Lyon allowing 4 goals on 30 shots. The win was huge for the Stampede, who went 0-5-3 against the Lancers last season.
"After not beating Omaha in eight tries last year this is huge," said head coach Cary Eades after his first victory. "We have the first win in our pocket."
Returning goaltender and St. Cloud State recruit Charlie Lindgren played a vital role in the win, with several spectacular pad saves against a barrage of Lancer shots.
"They (Omaha) weren't getting the second and third opportunities and when they were, Charlie was there much of the night," said Eades.
Stampede first round pick Tony Calderone broke open the scoring at 5:44 with a nifty rebound from Alex Lyon's left side. The momentum stayed on Sioux Fall's side thanks in part to an Omaha tripping penalty only three seconds later, putting the Herd on their first power play of the game. Things kept on rolling when Stampede center Cody Milan doubled the lead at 8:51 with another rebound from the left side during Sioux Falls' second power play of the game.
Omaha cooled the Herd down with a Connor Chatham goal in the first and a Kenny Gillespie score 5:18 into the second period. However, the Stampede quickly heated up again only a little minute after having their lead matched thanks to Sioux Falls native Zeb Knutson. The local winger wristed a beautiful shot past Lyon's right side, giving Sioux Falls the advantage again at 3-2 and igniting the home audience in an eruption of applause.
"The crowd was awesome," said Knutson, who spent last season with the Russell Stover team in Kansas City. "It causes a little more pressure when they get that excite, but I got that first goal out of the way."
The Stampede were far from finished, as forward and future Ferris State Bulldog Kyle Schempp pushed a puck through Lyon for a 4-2 Sioux Falls lead. Omaha attempted a late rally with 48 seconds remaining in the final period with a Matthew Gaudreau score, but the short-lived comeback fell short as an Ed McGovern empty net goal sealed a 5-3 Stampede win.
"You look at that third goal, and there was no panic on the bench," said captain Todd Skirving, who like Lindgren is returning for his second season in Sioux Falls. "We looked like we had been together all year."
Each team capitalized once on the power play Friday, with Sioux Falls going 1 for 3 and the Lancers finishing 1 for 4.
The Stampede will travel tomorrow to face the Des Moines Buccaneers at 7:05. Pregame coverage with Jim Olander can be heard on 1320 KELO-AM starting at 6:40 PM.