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Chris Murphy, Published February 15 2013

Jensen’s play in net propels Force

FARGO – The Fargo Force were 1 minute, 47 seconds away from a victory. Brendan Jensen was less than two minutes from capping a brilliant 21-save third period. Then, Jensen made his only mistake of the period, poking a puck into the slot and Waterloo’s Victor Newell slapped it home to tie things up. The Force would get the last laugh and the all-important last point.

Austin Ortega used his go-to, fake shot, backhand-to-forehand move to score the lone goal in the shootout and Jensen made three stops to give the Force a 4-3 United States Hockey League shootout victory over Waterloo in front of 3,698 at Scheels Arena on Friday.

“It was definitely huge,” Jensen said. “We definitely needed the other point because things are really tight right now. And we needed to keep them from getting another point.”

Jensen finished the game with 38 saves and Fargo escaped with a win, despite handing Waterloo eight power-play chances.

“Jensen played a whale of game,” Force coach John Marks said. “We’ve got to stay out of the box. Two of their three goals were power plays.”

In a Western Conference in which first place and fifth place are separated by seven points, no point goes unnoticed. The win puts Fargo (59 points) three points behind first-place Sioux Falls and three points ahead of Omaha and Waterloo with Lincoln (55 points) trying to squeeze into that fourth and final playoff spot. There isn’t much wiggle room for any of the top five.

“It’s going to be a dogfight in conference,” Marks said. “We have 18 games left and they are 18 playoff games.”

Ortega went his first three games without finding the back of the net for Fargo (27-14-5). It was only a matter of time for the guy who is third in the USHL in goals. Ortega made a move around a Waterloo (27-16-1) defender, which reminded the crowd why instant replays were created and fired top shelf to tie the game midway through the first.

“I think I got lucky,” Ortega said. “It was a huge monkey to get off my back. It was exciting to do it at my first home game.”

Alex Iafallo made it 2-1 late in first, but Fargo flirted with disaster. Waterloo scored its second power-play goal on its sixth power play to tie things with 59 seconds left in the second. Jared Dedenbach scored less than five minutes into the third period to give the Force a 3-2 lead.

Fargo had back-to-back penalties with less than 10 minutes left in the game to give Waterloo a 5-on-3, but the Force killed Waterloo’s seventh and eighth power plays thanks in large part to Jensen.

“I was trying to do anything to keep the puck out of the net,” Jensen said.

That included making a stop at one post, scooting on his butt to the other post and stopping a wraparound on the 5-on-3.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done that.” Jensen said. “It was mostly desperation. Some people try to be really technical and get angles, but I believe if you get anything on the puck, you can keep it out.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1. W, McCoshen (Cammarata, Huntebrinker), pp, 2:55. 2. F, Ortega 11:11. 3. F, Iafallo (Toninato, Dienes) 15:46.

SECOND PERIOD: 4. W, Kloos (Stepan), pp, 19:01.

THIRD PERIOD: 5. F, Dedenbach (Bayreuther) 5:16. 6. W, Newell (Lappin), 18:13.

OVERTIME: no scoring.

SHOOTOUT: 7. F, Ortega.

SAVES: F, Jensen 6-10-21-1 38 saves. W, McAdam 12-11-14-3 40 saves. A: 3,698.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548