The Stampede shows great talent in S.D.

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

What do ice, sticks, weiner dog races, family fun, a dress-up herd and flying pucks in the Sioux Falls Arena signal? The answer is the 2006-07 Clark Cup champs, the Sioux Falls Stampede. The 20-plus squad provides the same excitement as the National Hockey League in the state of South Dakota and for a fraction of the price. Three sections give fans the chance to enjoy games for less than $15 ($14.50, $12.50 and $8.50).

This March is extra special for the ex-champions of the United States Hockey League (Tier-1) as the Stampede, the Lincoln Stars (Neb.) and the Sioux City Musketeers (Iowa) are in a virtual three-way tie for second place in the Western Division. Lincoln is currently locked with Sioux Falls at 58 points and both have played 49 games. Sioux City has 56 points and has played one game less than the two teams tied for second. All three are looking up to the Omaha Lancers, who have 76 points in USHL play.

The Stampede at times have been behind by as much as 10 points this season, but they have been playing well in the final stretch.

While the Stampede will push for the second seed in the West, every team will make the playoffs in the tier-1 of the USHL. What a second seed will mean for the Stampede is more home games in the Sioux Falls Arena.

At home, the Stampede has been 15-10-2 at home; since Feb. 9, the team has been 5-2 at home and 8-2 overall. The Stampede has played smart this year, as they lead the Western Division in penalty minutes (785 compared to 1305 Lincoln penalty minutes) and most of the credit must be given to goaltender Eric Hartzell and his defense. The Herd have been 3-1 in their last five home games.

Part of the fan-friendly atmosphere is the intermissions that the Stampede offer. On Feb. 29, the first intermission given to the fans was a weiner dog race. The object was to go from one side of the rink to the other side to find their owner; while one dog sprinted to the owner, the majority just smelled the ice.

A dress-up herd leads the fans in cheers so that fans can make a lot of noise to cheer on the home team. A large blimp is always in the air trying to find lucky fans to receive a prize.

Go see the Stampede in action and witness what local NHL atmosphere is like in Sioux Falls.