Missed chances and power play futility cost the Sioux Falls Stampede as they fell to the Lincoln Stars 2-1 in front of 4,312 at the Arena. The Herd offense came away empty-handed on five power play opportunities and couldn't supplement an outstanding performance by goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who only allowed two goals on 25 shots.
"We prepared well but we just didn't get the job done tonight unfortunately," said Lindgren.
On the other end, Star goaltender Michael Bitzer prevented 22 of 23 scoring attempts for his team (12-5-1), who came into the game tops in the USHL in goals allowed per game. Tony Calderone had the lone goal for the Stampede (13-7-1), who were raring to go after a rough loss against the Des Moines Buccaneers on Friday. The loss put the Stampede in a tie with Lincoln for second place, but they remained just three points behind Waterloo for first.
"Lincoln had to earn everything they got," said head coach Cary Eades. "They made a big play off the face-off at the end of the first and we weren't able to counter that with a big play of our own, but it wasn't for a lack of effort."
Calderone's second goal in as many nights provided the Herd with another 1-0 lead just 2:06 of the first period, the Trenton, Mich. native's ninth goal of the season. The Stars were far from discouraged, however, and retorted with two straight scores of their own, the latter a particularly cruel dagger.
Lincoln center Luke Johnson tipped in a shot right before the horn sounded to end the first period. With the Lincoln pulled and just 1.5 seconds remaining, the Stars Eric Scheid won the draw to Johnson who knocked the puck into the net. The face-off came after a stoppage from a fight between the Herd's Joe Schuldt and the Stars' Zach Frye. Schuldt was slapped with an instigator penalty and ejected from the contest after Dennis Kravchenko was elbowed in the head along the boards by a Lincoln player. The powerplay opportunity for the Stars had Herd fans raining boos on the ice as the final horn of the first period rang.
"It's one of those things you didn't expect to happen and it cost us the game tonight," said Lindgren, a St. Cloud State recruit.
Bitzer and the Stars held off four more power plays and several breakaways through the last two periods to take home a 2-1 victory over the Herd who will now spend the next two weeks on the road.
"We have to take the same preparation and work ethic that we had tonight and we'll win a lot of hockey games," said Eades. "We'll continue to improve and use this weekend as a learning situation to come out that much more motivated to win on the road next weekend."
Sioux Falls will travel to Kearney on Friday to face the Tri-City Storm at 7:35 PM. Pregame coverage with Jim Olander can be heard on 1320 KELO AM starting at 7:10. The Herd return home on December 21st when they host the Storm.