Sioux Falls, SD (KWSN) -- A record-breaking night by Zeb Knutson combined with a blistering-hot power play drove the Sioux Falls Stampede to their sixth straight win in 10-4 victory over the U.S. National Under-17 Team in front of 4,185 fans Saturday night at the Arena. Knutson scored four times while adding an assist for the Herd, becoming the first player in Stampede history to record four goals in two games in the same season.
“It’s an honor,” said Knutson. “It was a great night and everything was going my way.”
Dennis Kravchenko and Griffen Molino also had four points each for the Herd (16-5-2), who capitalized on four separate man advantages in seven tries during the game, while goaltender David Jacobson stopped 39 of 43 shots from Team USA. The win keeps Sioux Falls only two points behind the Western Conference-leading Omaha Lancers. The win also capped off a stretch of three games in four days for the Herd who won all three.
“Our goal is to move ourselves up before Christmas break,” said Knutson. “We’re setting ourselves up in a good position to do so.”
In a first period dominated by shots and power plays by the U.S. U-17 team, it would be Herd ending up with the last laugh, thanks to a smooth hook-up from C.J. Franklin to Zeb Knutson at 5:59. Franklin dished the puck across the ice from the left side to his fellow future Minnesota State Maverick, who punched it in at the very last minute just in front of the right circle. It was Knutson’s 14th goal of the year and his 12th point in the last seven games.
“Zeb can really shoot that puck,” said head coach Cary Eades. “He can put that puck away given the opportunity. He’s a special player and it’s nice to see him explode again.”
The Herd surrendered three power play chances in the period, while the U.S. U-17 battered Jacobson with 14 shots, all of which he stopped to help hold a 1-0 lead for the Herd.
Team USA tried to make things interesting early in the second period, tying the game during a power play on a Jordan Greenway score at 5:01. The goal would snap the Herd’s perfect penalty kill streak at 34 consecutive power plays snuffed out and put an end to the seven periods without a goal allowed. However, the flood gates would open thanks to Herd captain Dennis Kravchenko 7:37 into the period during a man advantage when he flipped the puck into the goal off a rebound for his fifth goal of the year.
“We had a rough start in the first period,” said Knutson. “We knew we had to get it going.”
The score grew to 3-1 at 9:11 when a quick reflexes allowed Conner Valesano to bat in his own rebound past Team USA netminder Michael Lackey. Knutson’s second goal of the night came 1:57 later as the forward one-timed a shot past Lackey off a Joshua pass from the left side. Logan O’Connor’s score with 7:17 to go in the period meant curtains for Lackey, as he was pulled for Luke Opilka following his fifth goal allowed on the night. Knutson finished the hat-trick off with 3:37 left before intermission, making it 6-1 Stampede and giving the Herd three goals on the power play in the game. The deficit would be cut to 6-2 courtesy of a Colin White power play goal, but the Herd entered the locker room up four-goals regardless.
A Herd franchise record was established 50 seconds into the final period when Knutson scored his fourth goal of the game on a quick shot in between the circles. The historic goal gave the Herd a 7-2 cushion and it marked the first time in Stampede history a player has scored four goals twice in one season, with Knutson previously hitting four goals on Sept. 27 against the Indiana Ice in Indianapolis. Thomas Vanek and Robbie Vrolyk are the only two other players to score four goals in the Herd’s existence.
Two exchanges of goals between the teams left the score 9-4 Herd with 9:39 remaining in an ugly, penalty-filled third period. The Herd hit double-digits with 22.4 left in the period after score from Cody Milan, sealing the deal on the seventh home victory of the season for Sioux Falls for a 10-4 win.
The Stampede will get some much needed rest next week as they are off until Saturday, December 7th when they host the Sioux City Musketeers at 7:05 PM. It is also “Teddy Bear Toss Night” where fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to the game and toss them onto the ice after the Herd’s first goal. All animals collected will be donated to local charities. Tickets are available at the Sioux Falls Arena box office or any Ticketmaster outlet.
Courtesy: Sioux Falls Stampede