SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Joel L’Esperance’s hot goal-scoring streak continued Friday night, as the Tri-City Storm forward scored a three-goal hat trick to defeat the Youngstown Phantoms 6-5 in overtime Friday night in Kearney, Neb.
“When you’ve struggled as much as we have, we’ll take any win we can,” Storm coach Jim Hulton told the Kearney Hub. “I don’t think I’ve ever been with a team that gives up goals in the last 30 seconds of games like they do. But to their credit, they persevered and found a way to win.”
The winning goal came 29 seconds into the overtime period. L’Esperance also scored in the first and second periods of the game.
Youngstown forced the overtime with four seconds left in regulation time on a goal from J.J. Piccinich, his 15th tally of the season.
L’Esperance’s three-goal effort came within a week of a four-goal performance against Cedar Rapids that set a franchise record.
That effort earned the Brighton, Mich. native and Michigan Tech commit the USHL Forward of the Week award. He leads the Storm in points with 23 and goals with 16.
He has now scored a total of 13 points in seven of the last nine games and has scored a total of eight goals in three of his last five contests.
The victory improved Tri-City’s record to 7-16-5 for 15 points and sixth place in the USHL Western Conference. Youngstown fell to 7-12-5 for 19 points and last place in the USHL Eastern Conference.
Another multi-goal effort Friday night came from Sioux Falls’ Griffen Molino, whose four red-lighters led the Stampede past Lincoln 7-2 Friday night in Sioux Falls.
“We wanted to bounce back,” said Molino, who made Stampede history by being the second Sioux Falls player to score four goals in a game this season. “We wanted to get two points here and really get back to the basic of what Stampede hockey is. I think we did that tonight.”
Molino became the fourth player in team history to notch four goals in a game, joining current player Zeb Knutson, and alums Thomas Vanek and Robbie Vrolyk.
The Stampede has lost two straight before Friday’s win against Western Conference rival Lincoln. The win puts Sioux Falls within six points of first-place Omaha in the USHL Western Conference standings. Sioux Falls has a record of 17-62 for 36 points.
Lincoln is in the Western Conference basement with a record of 5-16-2 for 12 points.
In the Eastern Conference, defending Clark Cup champion Dubuque lost at home for the first time this season in a 5-4 loss to Team USA Friday night.
Five different goal scorers contributed for Team USA. Jason Ford and Joe Llaurado each scored once and added an assist in the losing effort for the Fighting Saints, now 16-6-1 for the season and 11-1-0 at home. Team USA is 16-11-1 for the year and both teams are tied for first place in the East.
The Fighting Saints play Sioux City on Saturday, a team that has won four in a row, the longest active winning streak in the league. The Musketeers kept the streak going Friday night with a 6-2 victory at Fargo.
Joe Snively scored two goals and added an assist for the Musketeers. Blake Heinrich added three assists and Jake Montgomery scored twice in the win. Cody Langie scored Fargo’s only goal in the, the fifth straight defeat for the Force.
Fargo coach John Marks was at a loss for words after the game.
“What can you say?” Marks told the Fargo Forum. “Sioux City doesn’t do anything special. Our guys just don’t do what I ask them to do. Play your position, get it up, get it in, play hard and move the puck. Right now, we aren’t good enough.”