It’s been a while since I’ve been to a game on the road and done a post game… post. So bear with me here, as I’m a little rusty.
I’m in the middle of a drive from Denver to Minneapolis, where I will be spending the next 6 weeks, and of course, I had to look for hockey along the way. The only game I could find was in Sioux Falls, SD, between the Sioux Falls Stampede and the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.
You would be forgiven for not knowing about the USHL, but if you’ve ever watched the NHL Draft, you have heard it mentioned. Along with the NAHL, the USHL is an American junior development league. Most of the players are looking for college scholarships or to be drafted. It’s the American equivalent to the CHL Canadian junior league, only smaller and less prestigious. Apparently, it’s more authentic to ride a bus around the prairies of Canada in the freezing cold than it is to do the same in Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. And probably a little more challenging. The US National Team Development Program plays in the USHL, so they have that going for them.
But we aren’t here to talk about practice, we’re here to talk about a game.
The arena is housed in the Sioux Falls Convention Center, and while the outside looks new, the inside looks anything but. First, the outside. which is attached to the Sheraton hotel.
Once you get inside, that’s when things look a little different.
Whoa. That’s a barn. Or a shed. Or a… thing. It’s hard to describe, but it has similar properties to the rink in Port Huron. Mostly in the quality of seats, and that the “upper” sections are truly upper. They are well above the ice.
That seating is about eight to ten feet above the ice. And it wouldn’t be that bad if the slope of the seats were at a severe enough angle to be able to see the action on the near boards. But it isn’t, so you are constantly wondering what is going on when the play comes too close. I recommend that if you go to Sioux Falls, you sit higher up where you seem to gain an advantage, or in the pricey seats along the boards. And I don’t normally recommend sitting along the boards. See what I mean?
Check out those Omaha Lancers jerseys. It’s like some weird hybrid of a Montreal Canadiens jersey and a Flyers jersey. How cool would that look in the right orange with a Flyers logo?
OK, on to the game:
Referee Kevin Curtis (the ref with two first names) was not well liked by the home crowd. He made one bad penalty call, and one tough goal call that was, in my opinion, the right call. The crowd disagreed, as the net came off it’s moorings, but as a Stampede player kicked the puck into his own goal, the goal was counted. The net wasn’t off enough to make a difference, so the right call was made. For a minor league ref, especially one without the benefit of a ‘War Room’ in Toronto, that is a pretty good night.
This is something you don’t see in the NHL, but you often see in junior and college hockey. When a goal is scored, the team congratulates the goalie as well.
Stampede Head Coach Kevin Hartzell did not look pleased the entire game. He was yelling at his players and trying to direct and motivate them, but looked like a coach with a losing record. Probably because he does have a losing record this season.
Your final, Lancers 3 Stampede 2.
It’s unfortunate that a controversial goal was the difference maker in the game, but I think the right call was made. In the end, that’s all you can ask for. And a little entertainment. And I was certainly entertained.
It’s good to be back on the road and seeing hockey outside the world of the NHL. I love it out here, and hope to see more games around the nation before the season is over. In fact, I have some other things coming up that I will update you on in the next few days.