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Chris Murphy, Published December 29 2012

Force top Buccaneers

FARGO – The Fargo Force are not the team they used to be.

On Friday, the Force lost a battle versus Western Conference leader Sioux Falls that not only ended their five-game winning streak, but saw a chance to get into first place go by the wayside.

Throw in the fact that Gabe Guertler – who is second on the Force in points – was a late scratch Saturday and the Force had every excuse to go reeling.

That was the old Force. The new Force got up, dusted themselves off and are looking to start a new winning streak, after a 5-2 win over Des Moines on Saturday in front of 3,578 at Scheels Arena.

“We were struggling and we lost games we shouldn’t have, but it looks like we’re finally coming together and playing the way we should,” said Force left winger Jared Dedenbach, who scored his first two goals of the season Saturday. “We’re turning it around. We got outworked versus Sioux Falls and we didn’t do that again against Des Moines.”

Fargo (16-9-5) outshot Des Moines 56-23.

“That was awful,” Fargo coach John Marks said of the loss to Sioux Falls on Friday night. “We got outworked and tonight it was the complete reversal. When we play the way these players are capable of playing then we’re a good hockey team.”

Des Moines (15-15-1) came out looking determined to hand the Force back-to-back losses for the first time in over a month. The Buccaneers found the back of the net on two of their first six shots, as Zach Saar scored on a breakaway goal less than seven minutes into the game and Michael Marnell netted a goal a little over two minutes later to make it 2-0 Bucs.

Brendan Harms helped stop the bleeding, getting behind the Des Moines’ defense and firing a shot on goal on a breakaway that trickled through the legs of Bucs goalie Nick Ellis. The puck stopped behind Ellis, but Taylor Fleming was there to push it home and cut the lead to 2-1.

“For some reason, there’s something about us that we play our best when we’re down,” Fleming said. “We have this mentality that we have to battle back. We need to turn that around and always play well and we’re starting to do that now.”

Jared Dedenbach picked a good time to pick up his first goal of the season, tying the game at 2-2 on a rebound goal just 58 seconds into the second period. With 12 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game Kenny Gillespie scored his second goal in just his third game with Fargo to put the Force up 3-2.

“We had to turn it around, we couldn’t have two losses in a row,” Gillespie said. “We were outshooting them the entire game and we knew, once we got one, we’d just keep rolling. Hard work gets games done.”

Alex Iafallo stuffed home a rebound with 2:45 remaining and Dedenbach added an empty netter to seal things for the Force.

“You got to play hard every night to win and we played hard tonight,” Marks said. “That’s what’s nice about playing a lot of games. Right away, after a poor performance, you have a chance to atone for that poor performance.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. D, Saar (Valleau) 6:58. 2. D, Marnell (Shiplo, Uchyn) 9:08. 3. F, Fleming (Harms) 15:59.

SECOND PERIOD: 4. F, Dedenbach (Schumacher) 0:58.

THIRD PERIOD: 5. F, Gillespie 7:27. 6. F, Iafallo (Toninato) 17:15. 7. F, Dedenbach, empty net, 18:40.

SAVES: F, Johnson 9-8-4 21 saves. D, Ellis 15-21-14 50 saves. A: 3,578.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548