The Fargo Force hosted their second longest homestand of the young season, with a unique twist on the annual Cully’s Kids Night that featured a new home away from home and hockey games sandwiched around the Thanksgiving Holiday.
On Thursday, November 17th, the Force kicked off the slate of games by hosting the Sioux Falls Stampede at the Moorhead Sports Center. It was the perfect venue to celebrate the Cully’s Kids Foundation as Matt Cullen the founder is a Moorhead, Minn. native. The Force jumped out to a three goal lead after opening period goals by Kevin Scott, Mac Swanson, and Reid Conn. The Stampede would get a power play goal by Maddox Flemming in the period, but that would be as close as Sioux Falls would get. The Force would get another trio of goals in the second period to extend the lead to five by the periods end. Brent Link and Kyle Smolen would score their first, while Mac Swanson notched his second of the game. The third period brought a goal by each team with Samuel Harris scoring for the Stampede and Kyle Smolen netting his second of the game to end the scoring in a 7-2 Force victory. The Force peppered Sioux Falls goalie Jackson Irving with 53 shots on the evening while Force goalie Matej Marinov stopped 27 of 29 Stampede shots. The Three Stars of the game were 1st Star Mac Swanson, 2nd Star Reid Conn and 3rd Star Cole Knuble.
The Force had a Thanksgiving Eve to remember as the Force welcomed the Stampede back to the metro area, but this time within the friendly confines of Scheels Arena. A much more tightly contested game as the Force failed to score in the opening period but Maddox Flemming and the Stampede got on the board early in the first period to take a one goal lead into the intermission. The Force would get things tied up early in the second as Kevin Scott scored his second goal of the year. The celebration was short lived, however, as Issac Gordon helped Sioux Falls reclaim the lead just 44 seconds later. The Force would once again even the game on a goal by Mac Swanson and then get their first lead of the evening in the late stages of the second period as German Yavash got his third goal of the season. After a back-and-forth third period, Fargo held the lead until Sioux Falls pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and Maxim Strbak got the game tying goal with just 2:04 remaining. The two teams would head to Overtime to decide the game, and with just 5:00 to decide things before a shootout the Force wasted little time. Anthony Menghini got the game-winner just 1:17 into the extra session and gave the Force the extra point in the standings. The Three Stars of the game were 1st Star Anthony Menghini, 2nd Star Kevin Scott and 3rd Star Brasen Boser.
The weekend got started with the Black Friday game versus the Omaha Lancers, their third meeting of the season. In a very back-and-forth game where neither team seemed to be in total control, Fargo was ultimately able to pull away for the 6-3 victory. The Force struck first just 3:38 into the contest on the Power Play with Verner Miettinen giving the home squad the early lead. Omaha answered with a goal by Nate Benoit near the midway point of the first period, but as the period wound down the Force reclaimed the lead on a JP Turner goal with under two minutes remaining. Omaha would even the game at two on a Drew Montgomery goal past the midway point of the second period. Fargo would retake the lead on a Power Play goal by German Yavash just minutes later. The third period was when Fargo got a little breathing room when Anthony Menghini would give them a 4-2 lead. However once again, Omaha would strike back this time in the middle of the announcement of the goal and assists on the public address system. Ryan Kusler would score his first goal of the season and cut the lead to just one. The Force then battled evenly with the Lancers until Cole Knuble finally connected on a Power Play goal with just 2:08 remaining in the game. Knuble would put the game away on an empty net goal with 39 seconds remaining. The Three Stars for the game were 1st Star German Yavash, 2nd Star Verner Miettinen, and 3rd Star Mac Swanson.
The Force finished the homestand with the Honor Flight Jersey night, a special uniform to be auctioned off to help local Veterans of North Dakota and Minnesota. While the mood in the stands was one of respect and honor to our local veterans, there was much less of that same sentiment on the ice. The teams combined for 75 total penalty minutes in a very chippy contest. The penalties included a double minor, two offsetting five-minute majors for fighting and accompanying ten-minute misconduct penalties, and one five-minute major and game misconduct. Fargo trailed on the first goal of the game in the early second period scored by Andon Cerbone. Fargo would answer with two goals in the second one by Joe Palodichuk and the other by Cole Knuble. The third period started off well for the Force as they increased their lead to two on a goal by Jakob Stender. However, the second half of the third period was largely dominated by Omaha as they scored two goals to tie the game at three goals a piece. Vincent Salice crashed the net and helped poke one past Force goalie Matej Marinov and then shortly after that goal Alex Bump would score on the power play to knot it up at three. Neither team was able to take advantage of the extra open ice in overtime since the majority of the extra period was filled with power plays resulting in minimal three-on-three play. The game would head to a shootout with the loan shootout goal being scored by Omaha’s Alex Bump. Bump was named the game’s 1st Star, while the two Force defensemen, Palodichuk and Stender, who both scored goals were the 2nd and 3rd Stars, respectively.
The Force were able to go 3-0-0-1 this homestand, and as we noted previously when the Force are clicking on the power play, they are hard to beat. In the two dominant wins, Fargo won 6-3 and 7-2, the Force were 5-10 on the man advantage, with over a third of their goals happening on the power play. The Force went 0-12 on the power play in an overtime win and shootout loss over the Holiday week. If the Force struggle on the power play, it gives their opponent just enough leverage to stay in these close games and come away with much needed points. The Force do have the best record in the USHL sitting atop the Western Conference with a record of 12-3-0-3 (27 points).
The Force start a stretch of 5 games on the road with a big series on December 2nd and 3rd versus the Lincoln Stars (12-6-0-0 24 points), the team that is currently in second place behind Fargo. Both games will start at 7:05 PM in Lincoln, NE at the Ice Box.