FARGO — The Fargo Force’s late-game good fortune continued as it scored three goals in the final three minutes to defeat the Lincoln Stars 5-3 in United States Hockey League action on Friday at Scheels Arena.
The Force (6-1-1) have scored nine combined third-period goals in their last three contests. It had scored three third-period goals in their two previous contests and struck again on Friday. Ryan Richardson scored the game-tying goal with 3:02 to go and Mason Salquist scored the game-winner with 1:15 to go. Salquist then added an empty-netter for good measure with 25 seconds left.
Fargo scored three goals in less than two minutes in the third period in a win over Sioux Falls last Friday, Nov. 27 and scored three more in a 4-0 win over Lincoln on Thursday.
“This goes back to our mindset as a group,” Force coach Pierre-Paul Lamoureux said. “We’re a resilient group. We don’t allow our players to give in or quit. We’re never out of the game, we’re never out of the fight. We gave up two goals there in the third, but they put 60 minutes on the clock and we’re going to play the full 60.”
Salquist scored the game-winner in a 4-on-4 with an assist from Tristan Broz. Broz started the rush behind the net, went up the left wing and led Salquist across the blue line with a perfectly-timed pass, and number 20 finished top shelf to go ahead.
Richardson snuck in a game-tying goal with assists from Crasa and Erik Bargholtz. He wrapped around behind the back of the net and found empty space between the goalie and the left post for the goal.
Salquist’s goals added to his team high goal tally which now stands at six.
“Salquist has developed into an upper-echelon player,” Lamoureux said of the forward from Grand Forks. “We’re proud of what he brings to the table and how he performs. He’s a consistent player for us. He’s a hard worker and a competitor. He’s a leader on our team.”
The Force won their second of three-straight contests against the Stars and will face them again on Saturday. Lamoureux compared the three-game series to a playoff series.
“The mental aspect of it, the physical aspect of it — it’s part of being a high-level athlete,” the coach said.
“Lincoln is a very good team. I certainly respect them. We’re just trying to build consistency amongst our group and we knew tonight was going to be a big challenge. Every game is going to be a big challenge. It’s part of growing as a team and being an athlete. We win and turn the page and get ready for the next one.”
Through most of the third period, it looked like the Force’s third-period luck had run out. The Stars scored a pair of power-play goals to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead before the Force came storming back.
The Stars tied it up at 2 with a power play goal by Jack O’leary with 16:44 to go in the third period. Noah Laba followed that up with a goal with 6:02 remaining with assists from O’leary and Gleb Veremyev.
Despite allowing the power-play goals, Lamoureux said he was happy with the way his penalty kill has been playing.
“Our PK is still letting us get wins,” he said. “We’re trying to improve in every area. Last night our penalty kill was sharp and it was sharp again tonight. They got some bounces and we’ll keep improving that area of the game.”
Kyle Smolen and Bargholtz both scored earlier in the game. Bargholtz’s goal was his first of the season, but he entered the game tied for the team lead with three assists.
Force goalie Brennan Boynton saved 27-of-30 shots and allowed just one full-strength goal.
“(Boynton) played a great game,” Lamoureux said. “He gave us a chance to win. He’s putting together a consistent high-end body of work. He gives the team a chance to win every night.”
FIRST: 1, L, Horbach (unassisted), 5:54. 1, F, Smolen (McDonald, Braccini), 0:42.
SECOND: 2, F, Bargholtz (Siedem, Broz), 3:21.
THIRD: 2, L, O’leary (Mayorov), 16:44 pp. 3, L, Laba (O’leary, Veremyev) 6:06 pp. 3, F, Richardson (Crasa, Bargholtz) 3:02. 4, F, Salquist (Peart, Broz) 1:15. 5, F, Salquist (Davidson) 0:25.
SAVES: F, Boynton 27. L, Ouellette 37.