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Tom Mix, Published March 01 2013

Force top Lincoln in series opener

FARGO – The Fargo Force were all about quick strikes on Friday night.

Fargo scored a goal in the opening minutes of the first and second periods during a 4-2 United States Hockey League win over Lincoln before 3,349 fans at Scheels Arena.

Dominic Toninato put the Force (30-15-5) on the board 35 seconds into the game when he fired a shot past Lincoln goaltender Jackson Teichroeb.

“You always want to get off to a good start,” Toninato said of his 21st goal of the season. “It is very important. … (Alex) Iafallo made a great pass to me and I just shot it. Luckily it went in. When you score in the first minute on the first shift it definitely helps throughout the game.”

Toninato – a University of Minnesota-Duluth commit – extended his point-scoring streak to eight games. In that stretch Toninato has four goals and six assists. He now has 53 points this season and is tied for the team lead with Brendan Harms, who was also credited with an assist on Toninato’s goal.

Dave Gust followed up Toninato’s goal with one of his own 57 seconds into the second period. Gust put a shot on net after the puck found his stick following a faceoff in the Stars’ zone.

Later in the second period, Tyler Rehm made it 3-0 for Fargo with his second goal of the season.

“Obviously getting out to that 3-0 lead after the first two periods was big,” Fargo head coach John Marks said. “(Lincoln) is a very good hockey team and they are going to play hard all the time.”

Lincoln (28-18-3) dominated the third period outshooting the Force 15-7.

Former Grand Forks Central standout and University of North Dakota commit Luke Johnson scored Lincoln’s first goal with 6:51 left in regulation.

The Stars emptied their net with 3:13 left to play. The move paid off when Tommy Schutt got a shot past Force goalie Cameron Johnson at the 18:21 mark of the third period.

Lincoln was unable to get the equalizer and with under a minute left, Fargo’s Jared Dedenbach scored an empty-net goal.

The win keeps Fargo in second place in the Western Conference standings behind Sioux Falls. Lincoln dropped to fifth place with the loss and is 2-3-0 against Fargo this season.

“Ugly or not, at this point in time the way the standings are we will take the two points, sleep on it, and hopefully we play better (today),” Marks said.

NOTES: Former Moorhead standout goaltender Michael Bitzer is a member of the Lincoln Stars. … Bitzer, a 2012 Moorhead grad, is 17-8-1 for the Stars this season and has a .901 save percentage. … The 2012 Frank Brimsek and Herb Brooks Award winner did not start in net for Lincoln on Friday, but entered the game after the Force scored their third goal. … Bitzer made 17 saves and did not allow a goal. … The Force improve to 16-6-2 at home this season.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, F, Toninato, (Iafallo, Harms), :35.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, F, Gust (Guertler), :57. 3, F, Rehm (Dienes), 7:32.

THIRD PERIOD: 4, L, Johnson, 13:09. 5, L, Schutt, (McKee), 18:21. 6, F, Dedenbach, (Bayreuther), 19:07 (en).

SAVES: L, Teichroeb 10-5-x–15, Bitzer x-11-6–17. F, Johnson 9-18-13–40.


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Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562