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Published April 14 2012

Force lose to Lincoln in regular-season finale

FARGO – The Fargo Force likely weren’t wishing the Lincoln Stars congratulations on being Western Conference champions.

Prior playoff battles have led to some bad blood between the Stars and Force. Saturday was no different, as the Stars pulled out a 2-1 win in a chippy game in front of a sold-out crowd at Scheels Arena.

“I am disappointed with our lack of pushing back,” said Force coach John Marks. “I thought especially in the first period they took it to us and we didn’t push back.”

Marks later hinted that it could have been because it was a lame-duck game for the Force.

The Force (31-23-6) came in with the fourth seed in the West and couldn’t go higher. The Stars

(38-18-4) were playing for first place and home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

Minnesota commit Vinni Lettieri opened the game with a snipe over Force goalie Reed Peters’ glove for a 1-0 lead early in the first.

Lettieri, who was a star at Minnetonka earlier in the year, later got involved with the verbal back-and-forth that became communal as the game continued.

“It’s certainly different than what I saw in high school,” said Lettieri, who is a grandson of former Minnesota North Stars general manager Lou Nanne. “The last few games have given me a chance to see what it’ll be like in the playoffs.”

Lincoln iced the game early in the second when North Dakota commit Luke Johnson scored for a 2-0 lead.

Johnson, the son of former Force coach Steve Johnson, was flying down the ice on an odd-man rush. He got set up and once he got the pass, he slapped one past a helpless Peters.

The Force cut the lead to 2-1 six minutes later on a breakaway by Austin Farley, but it wasn’t enough.

A lackluster third period featuring a combined six shots eventually paved the way for Lincoln to celebrate and the Force to contemplate.

Part of that might have to do with both teams resting some of their key players.

Marks rested defenseman Brian Cooper and forwards Dave Gust and Bryn Chyzyk. Lincoln rested 104-point scorer Kevin Roy.

The Force will have today off before opening the playoffs Monday against the Sioux City Musketeers.

Stars coach Chad Johnson said he’ll be in town to scout Game 1. The winner of the series faces the Stars in the second round.

“It should be a good series between those two,” Johnson said. “But you hope they can beat each other up a little bit before we play them.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. L, Lettieri (Hanson, Lauwers), 6:38.

SECOND PERIOD: 2. L, Johnson (Tate, Hanson), pp., 6:46. 3. F, Farley (Nelson), 12:29.


SAVES: F, Peters 9-15-2 26 saves; L, Teichroeb 12-4-4 20 saves

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found

at slightlychilled.areavoices.com

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