How to win a game in 90 seconds: Force defeat Stampede 4-3

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into tonight’s USHL skirmish between the Fargo Force, and Sioux Falls Stampede, both teams had something to prove. The Force setout to lay claim to their fourth win in six games and grow their Western Conference lead, while the Stampede were aiming to get back to .500 on the season.

While Fargo had the last laugh tonight, things took awhile to get there.

After a first period where the Force controlled everything but the score, generating 14 shots on opposing netminder Trent Burnham to a mere five on Force netminder Brennan Boynton, it looked like the Force would take control of things in the second period. They did not, as Sioux Falls forward Michael Citara would get going towards a hat trick as he would score the next three goals after Jeremy Davidson opened things up on the power play.

The Providence commit looked to be the story of the evening as he was the star of the show. His line dominated play for every time they were on the ice, and in addition to that, the rest of the Stampede looked to bottle the Force’s quick strike offense up.

The plan almost worked

Then, St. Cloud State commit, Mason Salquist, got things rolling with a snipe 13:41 into the the third. Next, a mere 48 seconds later, Kyle Smolen pounced on a loose puck in the Sioux Falls end and fired one home to make it a tie game. Scheels Arena, with its socially distant crowd was rocking.

Owen Gallatin would then provide the game winning goal 15:12 into the final frame. He took a feed from Michael Suda and put the game back into the lead for the Force, and provided the final 4-3 margin.

This game showed a lot about both teams. For Fargo, it showed their continued resilience and ability to battle back through the face of adversity. The Force were really the better team for a five miute stretch to end the game, and in the heavy shot first period. Sioux Falls showed how their veteran side can grind down opponents and what they can do to start up after a slow beginning.

They also showed how they are vulnerable with turnovers and over reactionary play at times leading to bad results. It is only the sixth game of the season for these teams, and the playoffs are a long way away. Both have a lot to like, yet both team’s coaches will scratch their heads at points of this game. Bookmark this rivalry for later as both of these teams will play each other many more times this season.

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Force Show Potential in Intrasquad Affair

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The Fargo Force were scheduled to open their USHL preseason against the Sioux Falls Stampede. That did not happen as two people of the Stampede’s traveling party tested positive for Covid-19, and out of an abundance of caution the game against them was canceled.

That did not mean fans did not get to see some action though. The 2020-2021 Fargo Force played a free intrasquad scrimmage where the black team won 5 to 2, scoring the final five markers unanswered.

Some players stood out in this one, and will need to for this team to get far in a tough Western Conference this season. Grant Slukynsky (Northern Michigan) drove play up front for the blue team with his speed, and played with a bit more physical snarl in his game than we saw at the state tournament. He contrinuted an assist on the first goal of the night, a Jake Braccini (Minnesota) wrister from the slot. A few minutes later, Cade Stibbe (Arizona State) found the back of the net as his shot squeaked off Jack Peart’s (St. Cloud State) leg and into the net. The blue team had the better of play for most of the first half.

However, spurred on by some blue team penalties, the Black team answered back with two late period goals to tie things before the second 23 minute half. Huston Karpman and Tristan Broz (Minnesota) would tie things up. Broz’s goal came off a back door feed on a five-on three power play with about 8 seconds left in the first frame.

In the second half, the black team ran the show as Kyle Smolen would contribute the game winner before Mckay Hayes and and Jackson Borst would provide the final margin. This game allowed a lot of players, from key cogs, to affiliates who may see time later on to get their first gameday experience. Every player added some things to their tape for revew, most good, and some moments to improve upon. Such is an intrasquad exhibition. Look for more from this Force team as they work to narrow their roster down to their main players who will carry the way most of the year.

The flashes of brilliance showed by players like Smolen who was all over the ice in a positive manner, along with Sluykynsky show the potential of this team. They have a few more exhibition skirmishes before the regular season 2020-2021 campaign commences.

Photos (Credit Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=VioletTurtlephotography&set=a.1402695903262316

Look Back/Ahead Christian Wolanin

Coming into the season,Christian Wolanin was known as a fairly well touted recruit coming off of a strong 41 point regular season and run to the Clark Cup Final with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. The Quebec native had a decent first year for the Fighting Hawks. The Ottawa Senators prospect played some forward during the season as UND had to deal with forward injuries. Wolanin did what Tucker Poolman did the year before.

Wolanin plays a two way game, and was routinely involved in the play when he was on the ice. While he did not contribute a whole lot on the score sheet, he made good plays in his own end to move the puck out while being responsibly positioned in the offensive end as well. The former Lumberjacks Captain is on track to see top four time with UND and play a key role on its penalty kill this year.

Ottawa fans, be patient. Wolanin will sign with the Senators at some point as they have his rights without competition for three more years from this August 15th. The Senators’ fifth round draft pick from this past draft showed flashes of his potential this year. Look for Wolanin to improve by a similar mark he did from his first year to his second year in the USHL. Christian scored 18 more points in year two of his USHL time. If he does something similar, he will be on track to sign with the Senators soon.

At the next level, Christian is a top four defenseman who can contribute on the power play. He is not now nor will he ever be Erik Karlsson, however with time he could grow into a Mike Green-esque quarterback of a power play unit with better defensive skills than Mike Green possesses. Wolanin will spend one or two seasons in the AHL after signing before going to the NHL squad.

Season Grade-7/10

Reference:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=188788

Season Review/Look Ahead-Trevor Olson

UND Forward Trevor Olson experienced an increase in playing time this year. Often in and out of the lineup as a freshman, Olson found his way as a gritty bottom six forward with a knack for getting to the net and setting up strong screens in front of opposing goalies. The Duluth,MN forward contributes in different ways beyond the stat sheet. Olson is a constant force on UND’s penalty kill unit, and is always relied on for the physical presence he brings to the ice.

Olson had a decent year in 2015-2016. He played in 36 games.The former Sioux City Musketeer had four assists with 20 penalty minutes,While he took less than one penalty minute per game and improved on the rate of PIM’s per game, Olson needs to improve his discipline and control his checks a bit more.For example, Olson took a five minute major with a game misconduct right after UND cut into St. Cloud State’s lead in a Saturday night game back in November. The Huskies used that major to ice the game and split the series.

During the second half of the season, Olson’s discipline improved,and we hope that trend continues this year. If Olson can avoid five minute majors and keep his total penalty minutes under 20, that would be an improvement.

While Olson did not generate a lot of offensive statistics this year,we have every reason to believe he will based on his past play in other leagues.In high school and USHL play, Olson produces more points with experience.We think this trend will continue. Look for Olson’s special teams time to increase as he aims to get some power play time next year with the second unit.

Grade:7/10

If Olson reduces his penalty minutes and continues to provide the presence he does, UND will dramatically benefit from having another strong veteran forward with some grit. Olson is a good player that we think can be great this season.

Olson’s Stats: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=121998