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Chris Murphy, Published January 19 2013

Force escape Tri-City 4-3

FARGO – If it were up to Fargo, the Force would play Tri-City every night. The Force moved to 7-1 for the season versus the Storm with a 4-3 win in front of 4,696 at Scheels Arena on Saturday.

“It’s funny how sometimes one team seems to have another team’s number,” Force coach John Marks said. “They probably beat a team a lot that we can’t beat. It just works like that somehow. They are a good team, and they are a desperate team right now, since only four teams make the playoffs. This may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for them.”

In Saturday’s game, the camel’s back was broken when Gabe Guertler made it a 4-2 Fargo (23-10-5) lead with 9 minutes, 27 seconds remaining. Kenny Gillespie was given a five-minute major and game ejection for checking from behind 32 seconds later. Thanks to two penalties by Tri-City, the Storm only had a man-advantage for 1:44 of the Gillespie penalty and didn’t score a goal.

The Storm would add a goal with 1:47 left in the game to pull within one, but the Force survived an onslaught of shots in the final seconds to hang on for the team’s eighth win in their last nine games.

“They are a good team with good players,” Marks said. “They have an outstanding hockey team, but they’ve really been injured more than any team in this league and maybe that’s helped us against them.”

Fargo’s Jared Dedenbach and Matt Pohlkamp don’t score often, but when they do, they prefer to do so versus Tri-City (15-18-4). The duo has scored seven combined goals, three of which have come against the Storm and two of which came Saturday night to give the Force a 2-0 lead.

“I guess you can say it’s just a little bit of luck against these guys,” Pohlkamp said. “It just happens to go in against these guys. I’m not going to complain.”

Grant Opperman stuffed home a rebound to cut the Force lead to 2-1 early in the second, but Gillespie centered a puck from behind the net and Jordan Nelson sent it home to make it 3-1 less than a minute later. It pushed Nelson’s point streak to seven games, with 10 points coming during that span.

Not like anyone is counting.

“I did actually,” Nelson said when asked if he knew about the streak. “Luck is on my side a little bit. My linemates played well today, and everything is kind of clicking. Things have just been going my way lately.”

Marks can’t really pinpoint what Nelson does, but he does it consistently.

“I always rank the players after every game up to 10, and it seems like Nelson is always a seven,” Marks said. “If you want a good hockey player, he’s a good hockey player. He does everything well and comes to play.”

Jared Linnell had a breakaway goal with just less than seven minutes remaining in the second period to cut the Fargo lead to 3-2, but the Force were able to hold on in the third. Force goalie Brendan Jensen stopped 33 shots, 12 of which came in the final frame.

Fargo remains two points out of first place, as Sioux Falls topped Cedar Rapids 7-4 Saturday to remain on top of the Western Conference.

FIRST PERIOD: 1. F, Dedenbach 15:11.

SECOND PERIOD: 2. F, Pohlkamp (Bayreuther, Dienes), pp, 3:25. 3. T, Opperman (Cecere) 4:24. 4. F, Nelson (Gillespie, Torrel) 5:36. 5. T, Linnell (Mingoia) 13:05.

THIRD PERIOD: 6. F, Guertler (Gust) 9:27. 7. T, Ward (Vecchione) 18:13.

SAVES: F, Jensen 13-8-12 33 saves. T, Mattsson 8-11-10 29 saves.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548