The Fargo Force returned to Scheels Arena and their home fans for a big weekend series versus the Sioux Falls Stampede. The Force were looking to continue their dominance over the Stampede as they brought a five-game winning streak against Sioux Falls into the series. This would be the seventh and eighth matchup versus Sioux Falls, and the second and third matchups in just over a week’s time.
On Friday, January 20th, the Force took some time to start getting some shots on net as they ended the opening period with just five shots on goal, yet they got one past goalie Xavier Medina to lead 1-0. JP Turner scored his 5th goal of the season at the 12:49 mark of the period and the Force would never relinquish the lead. The Force remained effective on the penalty kill in the second period extending their lead to 2-0 on a shorthanded goal by Kyle Smolen. The celebration was cut short after 15 seconds as the Stampede capitalized on that same power play to cut the lead to 2-1 after a goal by Will McDonough. The period ended with that same 2-1 score and in the third Kyle Smolen scored again, netting his 13th goal of the year to put the Force up 3-1. Fargo was unable to get an empty net goal for the exclamation point. The Force won the game even though it appeared Sioux Falls dedicated much of the gameplay and outshot the Force on the night 32-27. The game’s 3 Stars of the game were 1st Star Charlie Russell, 2nd Star Kyle Smolen, and 3rd Star JP Turner.
Saturday’s game the Stampede continued to figure out a team that had won six straight against them. In a complete turnaround from Friday night, the Stampede got on the board first at 15:35 when Isaac Gordon scored on a Stampede power play. The Stampede extended their lead early in the second period on a goal by Maxim Strbak and took that 2-0 into the locker room at intermission. Fargo would pull goalie Anton Castro for the extra attacker, and it would pay off for them as they finally got on the scoreboard at the 16:26 mark of the third period when Cole Knuble scored his 16th goal of the season. The Force would pull their goalie again in hopes of tying the game but Sioux Falls ended Fargo’s hopes of tying things up when Will McDonough scored an empty net goal with 38 seconds remaining. Fargo had a player named to the 3 Stars of the game as Cole Knuble was named the game’s 3rd Star.
The Force split the weekend games at home, which did not cost them in the standings as both Lincoln and new second-place team Waterloo both lost on Saturday night as well. Fargo wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play again this weekend going 0/10. Fargo’s penalty kill was not as efficient as previous weekends as Sioux Falls went 2/8 on the power play versus the Force. Fargo’s penalty kill dropped to 79.6% for the season and the first time they have been below 80% in weeks..
The Force stayed at the top of the USHL and the Western Conference with an overall record of 22-8-0-3 (47 points) and headed to Frisco, Texas for the Frosty Cup games on January 26th and 27th versus the Tri-City Storm (16-13-0-3 35 points). The Force will play in Waterloo, Iowa on February 3rd and 4th, and make their return to Scheels on February 10th and 11th versus Sioux City.