KEARNEY, Neb. – The Tri-City Storm (18-27-2) battled hard but ultimately fell short, losing 5-4 to the Lincoln Stars (16-22-7) in front of a sold out crowd of 4,025 on ‘Pack It In Purple’ night at the Viaero Event Center on Saturday.
Storm forward Chase Berger had two power play goals and an assist in the loss, while Chris Wilkie had a goal and an assist and Conner Valesano scored his first goal in a Tri-City uniform.
The opening period saw the two teams combine for a total of six goals. The Stars opened the scoring when Dominick Sacco beat Storm goaltender Hayden Lavigne 5:39 into the game.
Tri-City responded with a power play tally from Berger, who deflected a Jalen Schulz shot past Lincoln netminder Michael Bitzer. Defenseman Kevin Kerr picked up the second assist on the play.
Sacco put Lincoln back in the lead with his second tally of the game at 15:34 of the first, but Wilkie tied the contest at 2-2 with a deflection under Bitzer less than three minutes later.
In the final minute and a half of the first, the Stars got goals from Brandon Smith and Max Humitz to take a 4-2 lead into the intermission.
Storm head coach Jim Hulton pulled Lavigne from the game to start the second, replacing him with Jacob Johansson.
The Storm had total control of the middle frame, outshooting Lincoln 12-1, but only got one goal to show for their efforts. Berger’s second power play tally of the night got Tri-City within one at 4-3.
Both teams scored within a minute of each other in the beginning of the third, which left the Storm down a goal. Lincoln got the game winner from forward Thomas Carey at 2:05 of the final period. Valesano responded at 2:48 with his ninth tally of the season. Assists on the Storm’s fourth of the night went to Garrett Gamez and Fredric Larsson.
Lincoln was able to hold on to their one-goal lead and earned a split in the weekend home-and-home series with a 5-4 win.
Johansson finished the night with 16 saves during the final 40 minutes after Lavigne made nine stops during the first period.
The two teams will meet again on Friday night in Lincoln at the Ice Box for a 7:05 p.m. start.
Tri-City is back at home on Saturday night to face the Fargo Force, also at 7:05. The Storm will finish the weekend on Sunday afternoon in another tilt with Fargo which gets underway at 3:05.
Notes: The Storm scratched forwards Joey DiBenedetto and Nolan Aibel, along with defensemen Cutler Martin, Sean Lang and Tory Dello…
Lincoln – Dominick Sacco (Connor Frantti, Tristan Rostagno) 5:39
Tri-City – Chase Berger (power play) (Jalen Schulz, Kevin Kerr) 11:04
Lincoln – Dominick Sacco (Thomas Carey) 15:34
Tri-City – Chris Wilkie (Chase Berger, Patrick Curry) 18:02
Lincoln – Brandon Smith (power play) (unassisted) 18:33
Lincoln – Max Humitz (Dominick Sacco) 19:40
Tri-City – Chase Berger (power play) (Jalen Schulz, Chris Wilkie) 17:36
Lincoln – Thomas Carey (Brandon Smith) 2:05
Tri-City – Conner Valesano (Garrett Gamez, Fredric Larsson) 2:48
Lincoln – Tristan Rostagno (Checking From Behind), 2 min, 6:00
Lincoln – Tristan Rostagno (Checking From Behind) (Misconduct), 10 min, 6:00
Lincoln – Keegan Ward – (Interference), 2 min, 9:41
Tri-City – Drew Mayer – (Slashing), 2 min, 18:35
Lincoln – Luke Shiplo – (Holding), 2 min, 2:34
Lincoln – John Simonson – (Tripping), 2 min, 17:10
Tri-City – Ryan McMurphy – (Tripping), 2 min, 5:16
Tri-City – Austin Poganski – (Checking From Behind), 2 min, 12:04
Tri-City – Austin Poganski – (Checking From Behind) (Misconduct), 10 min, 12:04
Lincoln – 1/3
Tri-City – 2/4
Lincoln: 13, 1, 16 = Total: 30
Tri-City: 13, 12, 12 = Total: 37
Lincoln – Hayden Lavigne – 9/13, Jacob Johansson – 16/17
Tri-City – Michael Bitzer – 33/37