The Fargo Force concluded the regular season with a home and home series versus the Sioux Falls Stampede. The Force hosted the Stampede for their regular season home finale Friday night April 21st and then traveled to Sioux Falls on April 22nd. Despite the last. The Force despite the rocky end to the season still had a chance to claim their first ever Anderson Cup which is awarded to the USHL team with the best overall regular season record. Fargo would need to continue their dominance over a Sioux Falls team that still had an outside shot at making the playoffs themselves.
On Friday, April 21, the Force took most of the first period to get their first goal as Bret Link got the scoring started at 17:01 with his 25th goal of the season. Verner Miettinen scored just 41 seconds later to make it 2-0 Force, and then with just 58 seconds remaining in the period, Girts Silkalns added to the lead to make it 3-0 at the intermission. The Force would continue to dictate the play as they would add one goal in the second period by Zam Plante, and then three goals in the third period. Goals by Mac Swanson, Anthony Menghini and a second of the night by Bret Link. Link’s second goal of the night would come on a penalty shot, and was the second time in three games Link has been awarded a penalty shot opportunity. Sioux Falls would finally get one past Fargo goalie Matej Marinov when Tyler Borgula scored, but their playoff hopes were dashed with a 7-1 defeat to the Force. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Cole Knuble, 2nd Star Matej Marinov, and 3rd Star Bret Link. The team remained on the ice as the commissioner of the USHL was on hand to present the team with the Anderson Cup, Fargo’s first ever in franchise history.
Saturday, April 22nd the Force traveled to Sioux Falls for their last game of the regular season, with everything in their postseason already locked up the Force wouldn’t have anything left to play for with the exception of trying to win their 40th game of the season for the first time ever and to continue to build momentum into the postseason. Fargo started this game quicker and got one on the scoreboard at the 4:23 mark when Verner Miettinen scored. Later in the period Jake Fisher scored his first goal of the season giving the Force a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. In the second period Girts Silkalns extended the lead to 3-0 when he scored at the 8:51 mark. In the final period of the regular season, Owen Mehlenbacher netted his 19th goal of the season to give the Force a 4-0 lead. Tanner Bruender scored with just 59 seconds remaining to prevent the Stampede from being shut out on the evening. The Game’s 3 Stars were 1st Star Anton Castro, 2nd Star Girts Silakalns, and 3rd Star Owen Mehlenbacher.
The Fargo Force finish the regular season at the top of the USHL and the Western Conference with an overall record of 40-14-4-4 (88 points) and will have home-ice advantage in the playoffs for as long as they stay alive in the postseason. Waterloo is the 2nd seed in the Western Conference and like Fargo will have a first-round bye as they await their playoff opponent as well. Chicago clinched the Eastern Conference top seed and Youngstown is the 2nd seeded team in the east with byes in the first round.
The first round of the playoffs feature best of 3 series all hosted by the higher-seeded teams, which will be played on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday if necessary. Those matchups are:
#6 Des Moines at #3 Lincoln (Winner will face Waterloo)
#5 Sioux City at #4 Tr-City (Winner faces Fargo)
#6 Cedar Rapids at #3 USA National Team Developmental Program (Winner vs Youngstown)
#5 Dubuque at #4 Green Bay (Winner takes on Chicago)
The Conference semifinals will also be a best of 3 series with the higher seed hosting all three games if necessary. The conference finals will be the best of 5 series with a 2-2-1 series format, meaning the higher seed would host the first, second and potential fifth game of the series. The Force will host their Conference Semi-Finals matchup this coming weekend at Scheels Arena which will start either Friday night or Saturday night, depending upon if the Sioux City vs Tri-City series lasts two or three games.