The Fargo Force hosted the Lincoln Stars in what could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals and they had an opportunity to claim the top seed in the USHL’s Western Conference Playoffs. The Force needed just one point to claim the top seed, but it would be a tough task as they were facing the hottest team in the USHL.
On Friday, April 7 the Force struggled to get any offense going as 30 shots failed to find the back of the net in the first two periods. Lincoln got the only goal of the first two periods at the 15:15 mark of the second period when Doug Grimes scored. Fargo’s offense would finally get going when Leo Gruba crashed the net and scored at 15:13 in the third period. Brett Link would then make his presence felt as he drew a penalty at 16:39 that set him up with a penalty shot for the Force and a chance to take the lead. Link cashed in on the opportunity giving the Force a late lead and then added to it when he scored an empty-net goal with just 48 seconds remaining. Fargo looked to have clinched the victory and the top seed in the West, but Lincoln said not so fast. At 19:19 a rush toward the net that appeared to have interfered with Goalie Anton Castro resulted in a referee conference but against the advice of a vocal Force crowd the goal stood and the lead was cut to 3-2. Once again the Stars pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, this time a rebound in front of the goal was banged home by Doug Grimes for his second goal of the game and game-tying goal with just 1.3 seconds remaining. The two teams were headed to overtime. After Fargo won the faceoff and had a short time in the Lincoln zone, the Stars gained possession and with the extra space on the ice during the 3-on-3 overtime rules, the Stars proceeded to put the game away on a Boston Buckberger goal and a 4-3 overtime win.
Saturday, April 8 the Force looked to rebound and start off quicker than their third period comeback. However, former Force player German Yavash scored what would become the game-winning goal just 4:17 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead. Fargo would continue to struggle to keep the puck in the Lincoln zone. Lincoln would add a second goal in the second period when Cole Crusberg-Roseen scored and in the 3rd Brennan Ali would seal it with an empty net goal and a Stars 3-0 victory.
The Fargo Force remain at the top of the USHL and the Western Conference with an overall record of 38-14-4-4 (84 points) and lead Waterloo (39-20-1-0 79 points) by 5 points in the Western Conference. Fargo is three points ahead of the top team in the East, Chicago Steel (38-17-4-1 81 points) and seven points of the East’s second place teams, Youngstown Phantoms (36-19-4-1) and USA NTDP (36-19-3-2) who each have 77 points..
The Force have a home-and-home series this weekend versus the Sioux Falls Stampede to wrap up the regular season. The Force have clinched the top seed in the Western Conference. Fargo will either need to win one game this weekend or have Chicago lose once to clinch the top record in the league and earn their first ever Anderson Cup. The Anderson Cup is awarded yearly to the team with the best overall record during the regular season. The Force will host the Western Conference semi-final series versus the winner of the #4 Tri-City vs #5 Sioux City matchup at Scheels Arena. The series will take place on the weekend of April 28 through May 1, depending on when the opening round playoff series is decided between those teams.