Saturday, April 28, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap: Fargo 2, Lincoln 3 OT

Brad Hawkinson proved to be the hero tonight as he scored the overtime game-winning goal to propel the Stars to a come-from-behind win to beat the Fargo Force and help Lincoln win the series, 3 games to 1.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

The Stars will now advance to the Western Conference Finals where they will face the winner of the Omaha-Waterloo series.  Waterloo leads that series two games to one.  Click here to view the Poinstreak USHL playoff bracket.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals will take place next Wednesday night (May 2nd) at the IceBox.  Buy those tickets now if you don't already have them!

Just six minutes into this game, the Stars found themselves down 1-0 thanks to the first of two shorthanded goals the Force would score on the net.  At the 6:09 mark, Nate Arentz took advantage of some sloppy play by the Stars and scored on a breakaway attempt to give Fargo the early lead.

The Stars were awarded four powerplay opportunities in the first period, and outshot Fargo 13-6 in the first twenty minutes of the game, but the good guys were unable to get any pucks past Force goaltender Zane Gothberg.

In the second period, the PP woes for the Stars continued when Fargo forward Johnny Brodzinski scored a shorthanded goal to give the Force a commanding 2-0 lead.  At this point in the game, the Stars were playing so sloppy with the man-advantage I was praying for no penalties against Fargo because Lincoln was playing so much better at even-strength.

Just like we've seen all season with this team, the Stars would answer back in a hurry to get right back into the game.  46 seconds after the Brodzinski goal, Stars forward Bob Kinne scored the biggest goal of his season when he snapped a wrister past Gothberg to pull Lincoln to within one goal.  Kinne's unassisted goal came at the 7:51 mark of the second period.

Very late in the same period, Jared Hanson would rise up once again to score a clutch goal to knot the game up at 2-2.  After an off-angle shot by Kevin Roy was saved by Zane Gothberg, the rebound squirted out into the slot where a streaking Hanson collected the puck and fired it glove-high for the game-tying goal.  Roy picked up the lone assist on Hanson's second goal of the playoffs.  What more can you say about Jared Hanson.  The bigger the game, the bigger he plays.  "Clutch" is his middle name.

Stars outshot the Force 12-5 in the second period.  It was a bit chippy in the second, as both teams combined for nine minor penalties.  Lincoln was 0-for-7 on the powerplay through the first two periods.

Both teams would go scoreless in the third period, but the Stars clearly dominated play.  Lincoln outshot Fargo 16-9, and put a lot of pressure on Gothberg.  The UND recruit and Boston Bruins draft pick was up to the task, however.  The Stars doubled up the Force on shots through three periods, outshooting them 41-20.

In the sudden-death OT period, Lincoln once again came out very strong and controlled play.  After peppering Gothberg with seven shots in the first five minutes of overtime, the Stars would finally get a puck past the Force goaltender.  Ralfs Freibergs fired a shot from just inside the blueline which was saved by Gothberg, but the rebound went right to the stick of Stars forward Brad Hawksinson who quickly shot the puck into the open net to win the game and the series.  Stars win!  Relief!

Freibergs and Matt Friese picked up the two assists on Hawkinson's memorable OT goal.  Although it was just his second goal of the season, Hawkinson came up huge with the timely game-winner.  His line of Suter-Aston-Reese-Hawkinson has been one of the best lines of the playoffs.  That entire line shows a lot of heart each and every game.  They may not put up a lot of points, but they all work tirelessly and do all the right things away from the puck.  Very solid fundamentally.

Lincoln outshot Fargo 8-0 in overtime, and 49-20 overall.  Stars went 0-for-8 on the powerplay while the Force went 0-4.  Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams stopped 18 of 20 shots on net to record his third straight win.  Zane Gothberg, who was the only reason why the Force were competitive in this series, stopped 46 of 49 shots in the loss.  Williams was hung out to dry by his teammates with the two shorthanded goals the Force scored, so you can't really blame him for that.  He played another solid game between the pipes.  CW3 went 3-1 with a 1.68 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in the series win against Fargo.  Stingy numbers for sure.

Credit the Stars for really putting the clamps on the Force and never allowing them to score more than two goals in any of the four games in the series.  Even more impressive is the defensive effort against Fargo's top line of Colton Hargrove-Bryn Chyzyk-Austin Farley.  In 8 regular season games against the Stars, that line terrorized Lincoln and scored a total of 19 points (13g, 6a).  In the 4 playoff games against Lincoln, that line combined for a total of 0 points and were a combined -11.  Think about that for a second.  Fargo's top line was held scoreless for ALL FOUR GAMES.  Incredible defensive effort by the Stars.  Lincoln gets a lot of publicity for scoring goals, but when this team plays quality defensive hockey, they are nearly unbeatable.

Really proud of the way this team battles back, regardless of the obstacles in front of them.  Down two goals tonight, they scored three straight to win it.  Down one game in this series, they won three in a row to move onto the Western Conference Finals.  There's no quit at all with this bunch.  They deserve everything that they've earned so far.

Go Stars.

Edit:  Postgame article and quotes from the Stars here, courtesy of Ryan S. Clark of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

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