Force maintain momentum for playoffs with shootout win
FARGO—It's been a long few days for the Fargo Force, as they were forced to stay in Sioux Falls, S.D., Friday and Saturday thanks to a snowstorm. Fargo had to move its home finale of the United States Hockey League regular season from Saturday to Sunday. The Force had to push the start time back 20 minutes on Sunday, as they left Sioux Falls around 10 a.m. and did not arrive in Fargo until 3:20 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 5:05 p.m.
Sioux Falls didn't have a much easier time getting to Fargo, as the bus for the Stampede had to go to some of the homes of some of the players because they were snowed in and couldn't get to the rink. The Stampede didn't get to Scheels Arena until 4:30 p.m.
"It's been a challenge," Force coach Cary Eades said. "Life throws curveballs at you. There's things in life you can control and weather you can't control. ... Made the best of it. I thought it was a whale of a hockey game from both teams tonight."
Sunday's game was not going to change the fate of either team, as both teams already had first-round matchups set for the playoffs. With the goalie pulled and the Force on a power play, Spencer Meier's goal with 45.7 seconds remaining tied it, and the Force won 3-2 in a shootout.
"Nothing is ever meaningless in this league, especially against your rival," Eades said. "I think both teams played really hard. Despite nobody moving up in the standings, it was an important win for us."
The Force end the regular season winning 11 of their last 12 games and five straight.
"It's a meaningless game in a sense that we couldn't move up in the standings, but it's not meaningless in the sense that we want to keep our confidence going and keep playing well into the playoffs," Meier said. "You always want to end on a win to get some momentum and get into the playoffs. We're confident and just rolling as a group."
For the Force, it was more about heading to Tuesday's playoff opener against Tri-City healthy. Outside of Calvin Pokorny chipping his two front teeth, the Force accomplished that, as their top forward and defensive lines did not play. Pokorny even ended up coming right back into Sunday's game after picking up his teeth off the ice.
"It just shows how deep our team is," said Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup, who is third in points on the Force and sat out Sunday's game. "You can take the leading line off the team and they still go out and win. It's unbelievable, and it just shows the guys we have in the room how good they are all the way down the lineup."
Sioux Falls (32-19-9) opened the scoring on a Matt Gould backhander midway through the first. The Force (37-16-7) answered when AJ Drobot redirected Meier's shot from the left point into the back of the net with less than four minutes remaining in the first.
Sioux Falls' Nolan Walker went the length of the ice and shot from the goal line with 7:56 left in the second. The puck hit off the crossbar and trickled in for a 2-1 Stampede lead, but Meier got the equalizer late.
Ryan Bischel and Ben Meyers took it from there. Bischel made 39 saves, including one on a breakaway in the final seconds of overtime. He also stopped all three shots in the shootout and Meyers scored the lone goal in the shootout for the Force to end the regular season on a win.
"I think it's big," Meyers said. "We had a couple kids who it's their first game, so it's really big for them. At the same time it just gives us more momentum going into the playoffs."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, SF, Gould (Quercia), 11:32. 2, F, Drobot (Meier, Seyfert), 16:44.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, SF, Walker, 12:04.
THIRD PERIOD: 4, F, Meier (Fallstrom, Stucker), 19:15.
OVERTIME: no scoring.
SHOOTOUT: F, Meyers.
SAVES: SF, Staubuer 10-8-4-3—25. F, Bischel 11-11-12-5—39.