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Published April 27 2012

Overtime goal ends Force's season

FARGO – Blurs of blue, black and white were flying around Brad Hawkinson when the puck slid into his skates.

With his stick, Hawkinson fired the puck. And in one swift move, he elevated one team to heights not seen in some time. And for another team, its players were brought to an all too familiar place.

Hawkinson’s goal was the game-winner, in overtime, as the Lincoln Stars beat the Fargo Force 3-2 on Friday in front of 3,456 fans at Scheels Arena in the semifinal round of the United States Hockey League’s Western Conference playoffs.

Lincoln, which won the series 3-1, advances to the conference finals.

As for the Force, the season’s done.

“Looking back, I blacked out there,” said Hawkinson, a Denver commit. “I felt it, and it hit my foot. Just in the moment, the adrenaline slapped at it and it was a blur.”

Hawkinson’s quick slapper came at 5 minutes, 36 seconds into the period, sending the Stars into a frenzy and the Force and their fans into another season without a trophy.

Lincoln forced overtime after Fargo took a 2-0 lead off short-handed goals from Nate Arentz and Jonny Brodzinski.

The Stars rallied back into the game, getting goals from Bob Kinne and Jared Hanson, tying it 2-2 heading into the third.

Neither team could really get a crack at a solid scoring chance, sending the game into overtime, a period Lincoln dominated from the get-go.

Gothberg faced four shots in the first 2:20 of the frame and faced eight shots altogether, including Hawkinson’s game-winner.

“It’s tough to lose a game like that,” said Gothberg, who made 46 saves. “You want to win for yourself, you want to win for your guys, you want to win for your mother, you want to win for your grandma.”

Gothberg, who will be at the University of North Dakota next season, lost his grandmother over the summer and dedicated the year to her.

His last performance at Scheels Arena turned out to be arguably one of his most memorable. As Lincoln’s offense ramped up, he kept finding ways to give his team a chance.

It just turned out that chance slid its way into Hawkinson’s feet.

“It was nice,” Hawkinson said of his goal. “It was nice to get that one.”

Lincoln moves on to the Western Conference finals two years removed from one of the worst seasons in franchise history, when it didn’t even crack 20 wins. The Stars recovered last season by reaching the playoffs and losing to the Force in the first round.

Not this time. A brutish defense accompanied by solid goaltending and timely goals led the Stars past the Force, who have now lost in the second round in consecutive seasons.

“We had our chances and we had two short-handed goals,” said Force captain Brian Cooper, who will be at Nebraska-Omaha next season. “It’s just rough to play a game like that where you did your best.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. F, Arentz, sh., 12:51

SECOND PERIOD: 2. F, Brodzinski, sh., 7:05 3. L, Kinne, 7:51. 4. L, Hanson (Roy), 18:58


OVERTIME: 5. L, Hawkinson (Freibergs, Friese), 5:36

SAVES: F, Gothberg 13-10-16-7 46 saves; L, Williams 5-4-9-0 18 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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