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Weston Hodkiewicz / Green Bay Press-Gazette, Published May 01 2010

USHL Clark Cup finals: Force win, go up 2-0

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. – Puck luck is something that always seemed to be on the Green Bay Gamblers’ side during the season.

That hasn’t been the case so far during their USHL Clark Cup Finals with Fargo – especially during Game 2 with the Force on Saturday. Green Bay had three goals waved off in its 4-1 loss to the Force in front of 4,066 fans at the Resch Center.

Fargo has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series with Game 3 set for next Friday at the Urban Plains Center.

“It feels great, but we can’t let our foot up on the gas at all,” said Force goalie Ryan Massa, who had 31 saves. “We’re treating Friday night like it’s a Game 5 situation and as if we’re facing elimination. It’s going to be up to us to remain on edge.”

While Green Bay head coach Jon Cooper agreed the officials made the right call on all three disallowed goals, it still stung Green Bay, which scored only one goal in two home games this weekend.

“I think they made the right calls, but you get one of those called off once a month,” Cooper said.

“To get three of those called off in one game, that’s kind of the way this series has gone … there’s a little thing called puck luck and we’ve had it a lot this year, but just didn’t have it this weekend.”

The Gamblers outshot the Force 16-6 in the first period, but Green Bay had a costly turnover on its side of the ice with about 5 minutes left in the period.

That miscue allowed Force forward Colten St. Clair score on an open 20-foot slap shot off the right post to give the Force a 1-0 lead through one period.

Green Bay ended its four-period scoreless streak 47 seconds into the second when defenseman Kevin Albers ripped a shot past Massa to tie the game 1-1.

That was the first goal Massa allowed in the series after stopping the first 51 shots he faced, and the only goal he would allow in the contest.

“Ryan has been solid for us and this time of the year you need your goaltender to be at the top of his game,” Force coach Steve Johnson said. “That’s not really a surprise to us that he’s playing this well, but after they got their goal, I thought we played better.”

After Albers’ goal, things started to unravel for the Gamblers. At the 6:00 mark of the second period, Force forward John Stampohar scored to give Fargo the lead for good.

Following the goal, Green Bay was quickly called for two penalties, giving the Force a 5-on-3 power play opportunity.

While Green Bay was able to kill the first half of the 5-on-3, Force forward Garrett Allen scored on the final half to give his team a 3-1 lead.

Green Bay had its share of chances, but went 0-for-6 on the power play, and was 0-for-10 on the weekend with the man advantage.

Tempers boiled at the end of the third period after Massa scored an empty-net goal – the first of his career – with 1 minute remaining.

Controversy swirled from Massa’s celebration, which garnered him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“I don’t think after what happened with 30, 40 seconds left in the game that our team needs any more motivational words from me,” Cooper said. “I think enough was said. The young man on Fargo did something that probably stepped out of bounds of sportsmanship of the game, so I don’t think there’s much more that I need to say.”

After he scored, Massa skated out of this goalie box, pumped his fist, lost his footing and slid into the boards before his team piled on him.

“At the end, I was a little too excited and couldn’t control my emotions and made a mistake,” Massa said. “I didn’t conduct myself in a proper sportsmanlike manner and I want to apologize on behalf of myself and the Fargo Force. It’s no what we’re about as a team and it’s certainly not what the USHL is about.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, FF, St. Clair (Schmidt) 14:45.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, GB, Albers (Jensen, McCadden) 0:47. 3, FF, Stampohar (Rehkamp) 6:00. 4, FF, Allen (Leitner) 9:16 (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: 5, FF, Massa 19:00 (en).

SAVES: F, Massa 16-7-8–31. GB, Summerhays 5-13-9–27.