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Published December 19 2010

USHL: Strike Force, Fargo’s Lane scores winning SO goal

Tanner Lane’s been here before. Zane Gothberg hasn’t. Yet they’ll each have some pretty good memories heading into Christmas break.

Lane scored the game-winning shootout goal, while Gothberg stopped every shootout shot, helping the Fargo Force junior hockey team overcome having two players ejected along with a two-goal hole grabbing a 4-3 win against Sioux Falls on Saturday in front of 3,104 fans at Scheels Arena.

“You don’t have a lot of time to read and react in a shootout,” said Lane, the former Detroit Lakes star. “You see the goalie coming out, and he came back really quickly, and you just tried to slide it through his five-hole.”

Lane’s game-winner made the arena rumble. It made the fans high-five and hug and his teammates mob him after they all hopped the bench.

Can you blame everyone for feeling this good? The Force (12-10-4) have been pushed to the limit every time they play the Stampede (11-8-2), with every game being decided by a goal.

The Force were 1-3 in shootouts, with two of those losses coming at home.

That stat even made Jimmy Mullin, the team’s leading scorer, uneasy. Mullin admitted Friday he rather win by large margins instead of shootouts just minutes after the Force’s 6-1 win over Team USA’s U-18 team.

Yet Mullin looked anything but uneasy when it was his turn to shoot. Assistant captain and North Dakota commit Colten St. Clair set the stage by scoring and giving the Force a 1-0 lead after Round 1.

Mullin just followed suit by flying down the ice, appearing to lose control and slipping the puck past Stephon Williams’ legs before Lane, who was the Minnesota high school scoring leader last season, won it.

Lane might have scored the winner. Mullin might have had the flashiest goal. St. Clair might have scored first.

But none of that would have been possible without Gothberg, who was the Force’s saving grace from the third period on.

“You just have to be patient in shootouts,” said Gothberg, who made 26 saves. “Guys like to play with the puck a lot, so there’s a time to be patient and time to be aggressive.”

Patient is exactly what Gothberg was throughout the whole game. He was patient after giving up a power-play goal in the first and two goals in the second where the puck moved faster than he did.

Defenseman Garrett Haar, who was on the ice for all three goals, said there were some breakdowns and Gothberg had nothing to feel bad about.

“I thought I was playing my position and things happen,” said Haar, a Northeastern commit. “I thought they got some lucky bounces and I felt we deserved to win the game.”

His teammates agreed. Mullin, who has scored eight points in the last night games, scored cutting the lead to 3-2 late in the second period. Then came defenseman Brian Cooper, who just glided into the Sioux Falls zone and roofed a point blank shot beating Williams tying the game at 3-3.

It was Cooper’s greatest and last contribution as he was kicked out of the game with 90 seconds left for a game misconduct. Forward Justin Scott got the boot earlier in the game.

But it wasn’t a problem with Gothberg stopping the seven shots he faced in the third period, including the five he faced when Sioux Falls had a 1:32 power play to end the period.

He kept making saves until the shootout where St. Clair, Mullin and Lane helped Gothberg save the day.

After the game, everyone was happy. High-fives were going around and confidence was brimming.

Some of it has to do with the Christmas break allowing the Force players to go home. The rest of it has to do with a team that only had nine returning players reel off seven wins in its last ten games.

The hot stretch has helped the Force rally to head into the break third in the Western Conference, just one point out of second and eight points behind leader Dubuque. Don’t think that’s not a topic of conversation because the Force resume playing Dec. 29 where travel to Dubuque.

“They saw a win and their sights and it was great to come out on top,” said Force coach Jason Herter. “It’s great. We have confidence going into the break and I hope that carries over.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. SF, Young (C. Reilly, Doremus), power play, 7:52.

SECOND PERIOD: 2. F, Oliver (Mullin, Young), power play, 2:28. 3. SF, C. Reilly (Doremus), 3:54. 4. SF, Darnell (Perrier), 9:26.

THIRD PERIOD: 5. F, Cooper (unassisted), power play, 5:12 6. F, Mullin (Hargrove), 6:04.

OVERTIME: No scoring.

PENALTY SHOTS: SF: No Scoring. F: St. Clair, Mullin, Lane.

SAVES: F, Gothberg 8-10-7-1–26; SF, Williams 9-10-6-1–26.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548