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Published May 09 2010

Force come up short in Clark Cup Finals Game 4 to force a Game 5

The Fargo Force were 49 seconds away from sweeping the Green Bay Gamblers for the franchise’s first Clark Cup.

Now the Force have an eight-hour bus ride ahead of them before playing a decisive Game 5.

Green Bay scored three goals in the first 3 minutes, 31 seconds and held on for a 5-3 victory in Game 4 of the final series in front of 4,220 fans at Urban Plains Center.

“It’s funny how this game works,” said Gamblers coach Jon Cooper. “All we wanted to do was build off of last night’s win and keep playing. We wanted to set the tone right away.”

The win came less than 24 hours after the Gamblers scored a 4-3 win in triple overtime in Game 4.

In that game, Anders Lee scored a goal to tie it with 49 seconds left in the third, and Ryan Furne scored the game-winner early in the third overtime.

On Saturday, the heroics came early. Green Bay got goals on its first two shots of the game, and took a 3-0 lead just 3:31 in on goals from David Gerths, Reed Seckel and Robert Francis.

“The start definitely did not go the way we wanted,” Force coach Steve Johnson said. “They made some good plays and created some good opportunities.

“The good news was that we battled back.”

Fargo weathered the storm a bit, and sliced the lead to 4-3 going into the first intermission.

Both goalies shut things down from there on out, as neither team scored until Gerths flipped in an empty-netter with 1:21 to play.

“We hadn’t had a lead this whole series (until the end of Friday’s game),” said Green Bay’s Reed Seckel, who scored two goals. “After that win in overtime, we started thinking, ‘OK, this is our series.’

“Fargo came in and took two from us at our place. We had to do the same to them.”

The start was a wild one, with the two teams combining for seven goals on the first 13 shots of the game.

Those seven goals came in roughly 15 minutes – and that was one night after the teams needed more than 100 minutes to notch seven goals in the three-overtime thriller.

“I thought after we got the 4-1 lead, it might squash them a bit, but they always keep coming,” Cooper said. “In the playoffs, you have to win the close ones, and you have to win the crazy ones.

“It’s a testament to these two teams. We’ve both won a lot of games the last two years. It’s fitting it goes down to the bitter end.”

The best-of-5 series goes back to Green Bay on Wednesday, but that might not be a good thing for the Gamblers.

The visiting team has won all four games in the Clark Cup Finals, and Fargo is 5-1 on the road in the playoffs.

“That might be the good news – that we get to go on the road again,” Johnson said with a laugh. “We knew Green Bay was a good team and knew they weren’t going to go away.

“We just have to keep eliminating mistakes and get back to what we were doing right.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, GB, Gerths, 1:12. 2, GB, Seckel (McCadden, Furne), 2:10. 3, GB, Francis (Makowski), 3:31. 4, F, Allen (Leitner, Searfoss), 10:16. 5, GB, Seckel (Czarnowczan, Makowski), 11:31 (pp). 6, F, Rehkamp (Demers), 12:19. 7, F, Searfoss (Leitner), 15:33.

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 8, GB, Gerths, 18:39 (en).

SAVES: GB, Summerhays 4-8-6—18. F, Massa 3-7-13—23.

A: 4,220

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548