Fargo, ND—A late rally by the Sioux Falls Stampede came up just short in a 3-2 loss to the Fargo Force in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Friday night. The Force lead the best-of-five series, 1-0.
Preston Hodge and Zeb Knutson tallied goals while Charlie Lindgren was once again was solid in goal, stopping 34 of 37 shots in goal. Dating back to the regular season, the Stampede have lost three straight games to Fargo. The Force scored the first goal of the game and won. In six playoff games so far for the Stampede, the team that scores first has won the game.
Charlie Lindgren put on another show in the first period, making several highlight reel saves including a tremendous glove save with 11:32 remaining in the period when he robbed Dave Gust in the slot. The Force were able to break through at 17:06 on a goal from Gage Torrel. Torrel deflected a shot from Taylor Flemming that squeaked through the pads of Lindgren and just inched over the goal line to give the Force a 1-0 lead. The Herd responded just 28 seconds later when Preston Hodge blasted a shot from the right point past the left pad of Fargo goaltender Cam Johnson to tie the game 1-1 at the end of the first period. Fargo outshot Sioux Falls 15 to 10 in the period.
The Force wasted little time regaining the lead in the second, scoring just 25 seconds in on a goal from Dominic Toninato. Alex Iafallo brought the puck up the left wing boards and fed Toninato who was wide open in the slot and slipped the puck under the right arm of Lindgren to give the Force a 2-1 lead. The Stampede had a couple of power play opportunities in the period, but couldn't get the puck past Johnson and the score remained 2-1 at the end of two periods.
Fargo came out flying again early in the third period and scored just 1:01 into the period when Gabe Guertler scored on a pass from Taylor Fleming. It stayed 3-1 until late in the game when the Stampede went on the power play and pulled Lindgren for an extra attacker. With a 6-on-4 advantage, the Herd cashed in for the first time on the power play in the post season on a goal from Zeb Knutson. Conner Valesano sent the puck to the left of the Fargo net and Knutson batted a bouncing puck past Johnson to make it a 3-2 game at 17:45. Sioux Falls put the pressure on in the final minutes of play, pulling Lindgren again for an extra attacker. They nearly tied it with just one minute remaining, but a shot hit the goal post and then Johnson made a sliding pad save to keep the puck out of the net and help give Fargo a 3-2 victory in Game 1.
Fargo outshot the Stampede 37-32 on night and went 0-for-3 on the power play while the Stampede went 1-for-6.
Game 2 of the series will take place Saturday night in Fargo at 7:05 PM before the series shifts to Sioux Falls for Game 3 on Thursday night.