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Chris Murphy, Published November 24 2012

Force prevail in overtime

FARGO – Dave Gust’s family and girlfriend certainly picked the perfect night to visit the Fargo Force right winger, all the way from Orland Park, Ill., as Gust scored a breakaway goal 27 seconds into overtime to knock off a team tied at the top of the Western Conference in Sioux Falls 3-2 Saturday at Scheels Arena in United State Hockey League action.

“The puck bounced my way and it was just off to the races,” Gust said. “We didn’t want to get too far in the standings and that was a big win to narrow the gap down.”

After two shootout losses and one overtime loss in their last three games, the Force (8-6-5) were tired of one-pointers, especially in losing fashion. On “Make-a-wish-Night” at Scheels Arena, most of the 4,044 fans got one granted.

“By law of averages, we were due,” Fargo coach John Marks said. “That was only the second game we won in overtime and the other was the season opener. We played better and we played much harder. I think Sioux Falls right now could be the best team in our division. We can compete with anybody, but it’s all mental. Those one-on-one battles for the pucks and for possession are all mental. If your mind is soft, you’ll play soft, but we played hard tonight.”

Fargo struck first five seconds into the Force’s second power play when a dump off the boards from Gabe Guertler bounced back past the stick of Sioux Falls goalie Charlie Lindgren and right to Alex Iafallo right in front of the net. Iafallo settled the puck and fired into the back of the net to put the Force up 1-0 with three minutes left in the first.

The momentum didn’t last long, as Sioux Falls tied it less than two minutes later with a power-play goal of its own when Tony Calderone found the back of the net thanks to an assist from Cody Milan.

Sioux Falls (13-5-1) took a 2-1 lead on a slapshot from Joe Schuldt less than two minutes into the second period, but Fargo answered with a slapshot of their own on a one-timer off the stick of Taylor Fleming to tie things 2-2 on the Force’s second power play goal.

“We battled pretty hard all the games against these guys and they just ended up coming up on top,” Fleming said. “We knew this was one of the biggest games of the year and we wanted to stick it to them and show them that we can win and we’re here to compete. It was a big win for our organization and hopefully we’ll carry it through to our next games. They play hard every night, so it definitely shows us we can compete with anyone, but we just need to come out and be ready.”

Sioux Falls had a chance to put the game away with a 5-on-3 early in the second after going up 2-1, but the Force killed both power plays and took momentum into the final frame.

“Killing that penalty was huge,” Marks said. “It was 2-1 and it could have been 3-1 or 4-1. I was really disappointed with the call, but we did a great job and it seemed to lift us.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. F, Iafallo (Guertler), pp, 17:00. 2, S, Calderone (Milan,Schempp), pp, 18:36.

SECOND PERIOD: 3. S, Schuldt (Skirving), 1:59. 4. F, Fleming (Dienes, Toninato), pp, 15:26.

THIRD PERIOD: no scoring.

OVERTIME: 5. F, Gust, 0:27. SAVES: F, Jensen 7-11-5-0 23 saves. S, Lindgren 11-12-7-1 31 saves.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548