Fargo Force Week Fourteen Recap

Fargo Force Logo
Fargo Force Logo

The Fargo Force returned to the ice after a holiday break with a three game series versus the Des Moines Buccaneers on December 29-31. This would be the first time the teams matched up since a 4-3 Shootout victory for the Buccaneers in Des Moines on November 11, 2022. The Force remained in first place in the Western Conference heading into the weekend series and looked to increase their lead over the rest of the conference.

The Force would take control early in each of the games over the weekend and that all started with a Jacob Napier goal, the defenseman’s third goal of the season, at the 2:43 mark of the first period. Mac Swanson would tally his 8th goal of the season on the power play, which would hopefully ignite a power play that was near the bottom of the league statistically. Joey Muldowney would cut the lead to 1 early in the second period for the Buccaneers. Joe Palodichuk would get the lead back to a two goal difference after his 3rd goal of the season. However, before the scoring of the goal could be announced to the home crowd, Hunter Anderson’s first goal of the year made it a one score game again at 9:17 of the second period. Des Moines would follow that up with the tying goal by Anthony Ruklic approximately three minutes later. The Force would regroup and retake control of the game on a very nifty goal by Joe Palodichuk, his second of the game and 4th on the season. The score would remain unchanged for the next twenty minutes of gameplay until at 12:38 in the third period Team Captain Kyle Smolen would score his 8th on the season and give the Force the lead for good. The Force would add a Charlie Russell empty-net goal with 63 seconds remaining in the game. The team had been looking to find Palodichuk during the sequence to try and get him a hat-trick, but scrambling defense by the Buccaneers prevented that and Russell took matters into his own hands to end the contest. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Joe Palodichuk, 2nd Star Kyle Smolen, and 3rd Star Charlie Russell.

Friday’s game started off much more balanced between the two teams as Des Moines tried to match the Fargo intensity that had helped Fargo to an early lead the previous night. Despite the Buccaneers’ best efforts the Force still led after one period 1-0 on German Yavash’s 5th goal of the season near the midway point of the period. The Force would extend the lead to three goals in the second period after goals by Ty Henricks and Tanner Walos. Once again the celebration was cut short as Des Moines got on the board just 23 seconds after Fargo scored their third goal.  However, this night the Force would push the lead back to three after a power play goal by Kyle Smolen, his second goal of the weekend and his 9th of the year, with just 8 seconds remaining in the second. The Buccaneers tried to claw their way back into the game but didn’t get a second goal past Anton Castro until the late stages of the contest. However, the goal was notable as it came from Moorhead High School’s own Joe Gramer, and was his first career USHL goal. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Kyle Smolen, 2nd Star Ty Henricks, and 3rd Star German Yavash.

The series final was the most decisive of the three games as Fargo once again scored early in the first period and continued to pepper the Buccaneers goalies with shots all game. The Force got first-period goals by Ty Henricks and Kyle Smolen to take a lead into the first intermission. In the second period the Force got 21 shots on goal and scored four more times and chased starting Buccaneers goal Max Lundgren and put backup Jan Korec in to face a red hot offensive team. Korec managed to stop all but two shots that period, but when all was said and done it was still an insurmountable 6-0 lead for the Force. Second period goals from Boris Skalos, Kyle Smolen, Leo Gruba, and Bret Link left no doubt that the Force would sweep the series. The Game’s 3 stars were 1st Star Anton Castro, 2nd Star Kyle Smolen, and 3rd Star JP Turner.

The series finale featured local Fargo Davies product Trent Wiemken who entered the game for Castro with 8:43 remaining in the game. The game was Wiemken’s first appearance in the USHL. Wiemken has been playing for the Austin Bruins in the NAHL where he is 5-0-2 in 7 starts this season. Wiemken dressed for the Force this past weekend as Matej Marinov was participating in the World Juniors Tournament in Canada the past two weeks. 

Thursday was the home debut for West Fargo product Owen Hanson getting his second and third games with the Force after playing this season for the Kenai River Brown Bears and the Minot Minotauros, both of the NAHL. Hanson has 2 goals and 5 assists in 18 NAHL games this season.

The Force got their power play going this weekend going 5/12 (41.67%) over the three game series, while holding Des Moines to 0/8 to improve their penalty kill percentage to 82.6% on the season, good for fourth best in the USHL.

The Force swept Des Moines and increased their lead in the West to 8 points over second place Lincoln as they split their weekend’s games. The Force are now 19-5-0-3 (41 points) which is the best record in the USHL. The Force return to the ice on January 6th with a two-game series versus the Lincoln Stars (18-9-1-0 33 points) in a battle of the top two teams in the Western Conference.