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Chris Murphy, Published November 30 2012

Force weather the Storm in overtime

FARGO – Tri-City and Fargo came into Friday’s United States Hockey League game tied for fifth place in the Western Conference. Yet the teams looked like polar opposites.

The Storm came in with a five-game winning streak, and the Force had lost four of their last five.

The Force played spoiler, snapping the Storm winning streak and sending most of the 3,391 at Scheels Arena home happy with a 4-3 overtime win. It marked the fourth straight home game that has gone into an extra frame for the Force (9-7-5).

“I wouldn’t say we like playing in overtime,” Fargo center Dominic Toninato said. “We are certainly getting used to it though.”

With 1 minute, 21 seconds left in overtime, a wrap-around attempt by Brendan Harms skipped over Tri-City (10-9-2) goalie Johan Mattsson, and Toninato was there to settle it down in the air and push it into the open net for the winner.

“Harms made a good play trying to wrap it around. The puck bounced in the air, I hit it with my hand, it bounced off his pad and I was sitting there to whack it home,” Toninato said. “They were on a roll and we’ve been battling, but we were at home and we just came out and played our game. We definitely needed those two points right now with how close the standings are. They were a big two points.

It took Tri-City nearly seven minutes to get off a shot in the game, but the Storm made it count, as right winger Michael Vecchione found Jared Linnell in the slot from behind the net and Linnell fired top shelf and found the back of the net on the team’s first shot to make it 1-0 Tri-City.

“Every player on the team has a job, and we left a guy completely unattended in front of our net,” Fargo coach John Marks said. “A defenseman needs to be picking that guy up.”

Less than three minutes into the second period, Linnell fired a shot that was blocked, but Vecchione was there to clean up and make it 2-0 Tri-City on a power-play goal.

The Force put 21 shots on goal in the second period, two of which found the net. Gabe Guertler cut the lead to 2-1 on a breakaway goal a little more than eight minutes into the second period. Less than five minutes later, Jordan Nelson tied it when his blast hit the tip of Mattsson’s glove and trickled behind him into the net.

Tim Bonner and Linnell played give-and-go, with Bonner scoring to give Tri-City a 3-2 lead less than four minutes into the third period.

Fargo’s Dave Gust notched a power-play goal on a Storm team that came into the contest with the least penalty minutes against them to tie things up less than two minutes later, setting up another overtime finish for the Force.

Fargo is back in action tonight, hosting Tri-City at Scheels Arena with the hopes of starting a winning streak of its own.

“I truly feel this team has underachieved,” Marks said. “Sixteen of our 21 games are one-goal games. We’ve been two strides short because the effort hasn’t been there.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. TC, Linnell (Vecchione), 6:40.

SECOND PERIOD: 2. TC, Vecchione (Linnell, Cecere), pp, 2:44. 3. F, Guerler (Gust), 8:14. 4. F, Nelson (Buchanan) 13:27.

THIRD PERIOD: 5. TC, Bonner (Linnell). 6. F, Gust (Iafallo).

OVERTIME: 7. F, Toninato (Harms) 3:39.

SAVES: F, Jensen 6-4-14-2–26. TC, Mattsson 8-19-14-1–42.

A– 3,391.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548