Thursday, November 3, 2011

B³ Weekend Preview: Fargo Force

The first full weekend of hockey at the IceBox this season will feature the Lincoln Stars against the Fargo Force in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday nights.  Faceoff for the game on Friday night will be at 7:05pm.

Because of the Nebraska Huskers home football game on Saturday, which begins at 2:30pm, the faceoff for the Saturday game will take place a little later than normal at 7:35pm.  Plan accordingly for the Stars game on Saturday night, as traffic could be a mess around the university area.

If you are unable to make it to any of the games this weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games live on FASTHockey for a fee.   

The Fargo Force enter this weekend with a record of 3-6-1 (7 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference), and are struggling a bit riding a six-game winless streak.  In their last six games, the Force are 0-5-1, and have been outscored 22-9.  In their last three games, the Force have only scored one goal per game.  After starting the season with wins in three of their first four games, the Force have really hit a bad spot as of late.

If a sputtering offense wasn't bad enough, the Force will be missing two key players from their lineup this weekend.  Force defenseman (and captain) Brian Cooper and #1 goaltender Zane Gothberg were selected by Team USA to participate in the World Junior "A" Challenge in British Columbia, Canada.  Cooper and Gothberg will miss a total of four games, and the first two games will be against the Lincoln Stars this weekend. 

Fargo backup goaltender Reed Peters, who only has two USHL games under his belt, will likely get the nod this weekend against the Stars.  Peters is 1-1-0 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .859 save percentage in those two games.  Peters has yet to start a game away from Fargo, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in front of a rowdy Lincoln crowd.

This will be the first, and second times the Stars and Force play each other this season.  Lincoln will play Fargo a total of eight times in the regular season.  These two teams haven't faced each other since the 2011 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs back in April, when the Force bounced the Stars in two straight games in the opening round of their best-of-three series.  

The Stars are coming off a hard fought 4-3 road loss last weekend against the Roughriders in Cedar Rapids.  Lincoln outshot the Cedar Rapids Olympic Diving Team 32-23, but fell short after a late third period CR goal which broke a 3-3 tie.  The Stars were without Dominik Shine, Brent Tate, Luke Johnson, Colten Saucerman, and Jon Grebosky due to injuries, but it sounds like some of those players are on the mend.  I know that Tate should be back in the lineup this weekend, but I'm not too sure about Johnson and Saucerman.  I've heard some rumors that Johnson and Saucerman could play against Fargo, but I can't confirm those rumors.  Shine and Grebosky will be out of the lineup for some time due to injuries.

Stars defenseman Brandon Carlson, who played for the Force the last two seasons, will have an opportunity to face the team that traded him away.  Back on 1/29/11 while Brandon was with the Force, he scored a game-winning overtime goal at the IceBox to give the Force a 3-2 win over the Stars.  I'm sure he'll be pumped up to prove to his old club that they made a mistake by letting him go. 

Despite their recent streak of bad luck, the Fargo Force can't be a team that the Stars look past and not take seriously.  I haven't gone back and looked at the numbers, but from my recollection, the Force seem to be one of those teams who play very well at the IceBox.

Hope to see two big crowds this weekend!  Be loud!

Go Stars.

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