Eades making immediate impact on StampedeGRAND FORKS — Cary Eades had a goal in mind this summer when he took over as head coach and general manager of the Sioux Falls Stampede, a team that finished dead last in the United States Hockey League a year earlier.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — Cary Eades had a goal in mind this summer when he took over as head coach and general manager of the Sioux Falls Stampede, a team that finished dead last in the United States Hockey League a year earlier.
Eades wanted to turn the team into an aggressive, hard-working, exciting-to-watch squad.
“I think people in the Midwest relate to that,” he said.
Eades has done more than that.
At the midway point of the season, Sioux Falls has gone from worst to first in the Western Conference standings. The team has gone from sixth in attendance to first, averaging almost 1,000 people per game more than last year. And the Stampede have already won more games than they did all of last year.
The huge turnaround has made Sioux Falls president and chief executive officer Tom Garrity look good after making the decision to let go of Kevin Hartzell, who led the team to one USHL title, and hiring Eades, who had previously been an assistant coach at University of North Dakota.
“We were able to make some deals within the league to gain more veteran players,” Eades said. “We did the best we could at the tryout camp to add some more players and try to develop our team.”
Even so, it looked like the rebuilding project was going to be a difficult one. Sioux Falls went 1-5 in the preseason and started the regular season 0-2, losing both games by four goals.
But then, the Stampede managed to win four games in a row and keep the momentum through the remainder of the first half. They will enter this weekend’s series against Sioux City on a four-game winning streak.
When asked if the quick start has surprised him, Eades said: “Maybe a little bit. We did not have a very good exhibition season and we lost our first two games. We started to win some games, gain some confidence and put some building blocks in place. Guys have stuck to our approach as a hard-working, lunch-bucket type of crew. We’ve been consistent with that.”
The team has taken on Eades’ personality as an aggressive, hard-working — and winning — squad.
That’s the style Eades played when he helped UND to a pair of national titles as a player in 1980 and 1982. As a coach, winning teams have followed Eades from UND (1987 national title) to Warroad High School (three state championships) back to UND, where he was an assistant coach on a team that won a league title or went to the Frozen Four in eight straight years.
Last summer, UND brought Brad Berry back to campus to coach the defensemen, giving Sioux Falls the chance to hire Eades.
“Cary immediately jumped to the top of our wish list,” Garrity said.
Through the first half, there have been plenty of positives. Sioux Falls is winning. It has nearly doubled its offensive output from last season. The Stampede are 14-4 at home, where the fans are coming out to watch the new-look team.
Eades guards against getting too excited, pointing out that Sioux Falls has played a vast majority of its games at home and that it faces a daunting schedule in the second half, including a nine-game road trip.
But even so, his return to the USHL (he coached Dubuque from 1991-93) has been a highly successful one.
“It’s a great league,” he said. “It’s a great breeding ground for players. It’s a great challenge as a coach, because there are so many good coaches in the league. It has been a lot of fun.”