Fargo Force Score Late, Take 1-0 Western Conference Series Lead

Fargo Force Clark Cup Logo (Courtesy of Fargo Force)
Fargo Force Clark Cup Logo (Courtesy of Fargo Force)

The Fargo Force hosted Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals versus the Lincoln Stars Thursday, May 4th in a highly anticipated matchup. The best of 5 series kicked off with a defensive battle, with each team trying to get the first win. Lincoln advanced to the Conference Finals after a 2-1 Series win versus Waterloo and came in confident after taking both matchups the last time these two teams played in Fargo.

In the first period, both teams tried to dictate the play in the offensive zones, but neither team could gain an advantage. The best scoring opportunity came on an odd-man rush that appeared to be nicely defended by Joe Palodichuk, however, Palodichuk was called for tripping and Lincoln’s Jack Larrigan was awarded a penalty shot. With every play and every scoring opportunity so critical in this matchup it was up to Matej Marinov to fend off the potential score. Marinov made quick work of the shot attempt by not falling for a fake by Larrigan and deflecting the puck with his glove hand.

The second period was a repeat of the first period, with both teams creating opportunities in their opponent's zones, but nothing to show for their efforts on the scoreboard. The Force were on the power play twice in the period but were unable to get one past Stars’ goalie Cameron Whitehead despite the many attempts to redirect the puck out in front of the net. The Force appeared to control the flow of the game and spent the majority of the period in the Lincoln zone, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunities. 

The third and final period gave Force fans much to stress about and wonder what if. The period included some crucial saves by Marinov and multiple plays in their defensive zone blocking potential Stars shots or stopping odd-man rushes to the net. Fargo had a couple of shots ring off the pipes that could have given the Force an important first goal. As the game neared its completion things didn’t look good as the Stars were set to go on their first power play of the evening with just 3:13 remaining. The fans voiced their displeasure with the cross-checking call on Anthony Menghini that was minimal in contact and negated a 2 on 1 opportunity for the Force. Just 36 seconds into the Lincoln power play, the Stars were called for slashing and the sides were set to skate 4-on-4. Before the Force could even get to their power play, the Stars were called for Interference at 18:40 meaning the Force would have a 4-on-3 power play for 7 seconds before having a two-man advantage. On the two-man advantage, the Force worked the puck around the perimeter of the zone before Owen Mehlenbacher got the puck to Cole Knuble who went high over the shoulder on Whitehead’s stick side to give the Force a 1-0 with just 44 seconds remaining.

 Lincoln would finish the game on the penalty kill and pull Whitehead for the extra attacker, it wouldn’t help as Mac Swanson got a loose puck and put the puck off the side of the net as time expired. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Cole Knuble, 2nd Star Zam Plante, and 3rd Star Matej Marinov..

The Force host Lincoln in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals tonight at Scheels Arena with puck drop set for 7:05 PM.