Fargo Force Advance to Western Conference Finals

Fargo Force logo
Fargo Force logo

The Fargo Force began their 2023 postseason hosting the Tri-City Storm at Scheels Arena this past weekend. The series was a best-of 3 series with Fargo potentially hosting all three games. Fargo entered the playoffs as the top overall seed but were facing a team that had beaten the Force in the last three matchups, although those games were all in Kearny, Nebraska, and concluded 6 games in 11 day stretch that tested the Force’s resolve and depth.

On Friday, April 28, Game One of the series kicked off with two early power plays that unfortunately did not result in Force score. On the second power play a short-handed shot attempt was blocked by Matej Merinov, but a loose put remained by itself in the crease when a diving Mac Swanson cleared in out of harm's way, which may be the defensive play of the year for the Force. On the Force’s next power play, the third time was definitely the charm as newly crowned All-Rookie First Teamer Mac Swanson threaded a pass between the defender's legs right to Owen Mehlenbacher for the first score of the evening. The Force took the lead into the break and then extended that lead in the second period. At 15:51 of the second period, an odd-man rush resulted in a Verner Miettinen goal assisted by Girts Silkalns to make it 2-0. Tri-City would not go away quietly as they got within a goal at 5:17 of the third period when Tanner Adams scored a power-play goal to make it 2-1. The Force would respond when Boris Skalos found the back of the net at 11:38 of the period to give Fargo a 3-1 advantage. Tri-City wasn’t dead yet as they scored at 14:25 in the third when Sebastian Tornqvist got one past Matej Marinov. The Storm would pull their goalie with 1:12 left in the game but it wouldn't help as a great team defensive effort prevented any other goals, even with Fargo on the penalty kill after a Jakob Stender delay of game penalty. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Owen Mehlenbacher, 2nd Star Boris Skalos, and 3rd Star Matej Marinov. The Force took the first victory in the series and looked to close out the Storm on Saturday night.

On Saturday, April 22 the Force found themselves trailing after the first period thanks to a Jacob Jeannette goal at 6:58 of the opening period. Fargo would get the equalizer on an unassisted Charlie Russell goal at 8:06 of the second period. The Force drew a penalty just 32 seconds into the period and on the subsequent power play Verner Miettinen cashed in to give Fargo their first lead of the game. Tri-City would get more aggressive as the period continued as they were fighting to save their season. Late in the third period, Alex Bump scored to tie the game up at 2-2 with just 2:21 remaining, just before the Storm were likely to pull their goaltender. The teams would head to overtime, and in the playoffs, it's always 5-on-5 until one team scores. The Force were looking to end the series but that took a hit as Bret Link was called for tripping just 26 seconds into the overtime putting the Force on the penalty kill once again. On the penalty kill Charlie Russell got a loose puck and rocketed up the far side of the ice with Boris Skalos pressing up ice with him on an odd-man rush. Russell buried the puck in the back of the net past Storm Cameron Korpi to send the Force to the Western Conference Finals. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Charlie Russell, 2nd Star Jacob Napier, and 3rd Star Verner Miettinen.

The Force will now face the Lincoln Stars in the Western Conference Finals in a Best of 5 Series that will begin on May 4th at Scheels Arena. Lincoln advanced after beating Waterloo 2-1 in their Western Conference Semi-Final series. The full schedule for the Western Conference Finals is as follows:

WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE 

  • Thursday, May 4 @ Scheels Arena – 7:05PM 
  • Friday, May 5 @ Scheels Arena – 7:05PM 
  • Sunday, May 7 @ Ice Box – 5:05PM 
  • Monday, May 8 @ Ice Box – 7:05PM (if needed) 
  • Thursday, May 11 @ Scheels Arena – 7:05PM (if needed)

The Eastern Conference Finals will feature the Chicago Steel vs the Youngstown Phantoms, with the Steel having home-ice advantage in that series. The Eastern Conference Finals will begin Friday, May 5 in Chicago, Illinois, and will end no later than May 11, 2023, with the winner facing the winner of the Fargo vs Lincoln series.

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