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Jim Nelson / WCF Courier, Published April 23 2013

Force stay alive in USHL playoffs with win over Waterloo

WATERLOO, Iowa – Austin Ortega and Brandon Harms each scored twice as the Fargo Force dominated Game 4 of United State Hockey League best-of-five playoff first-round series Tuesday at Young Arena in a 6-3 win over the Waterloo Black Hawks.

The Force victory sends the series back to Fargo where Game 5 will take place tonight with the winner advancing to meet Sioux Falls in the Western Conference finals on Friday.

“It’s been a long year, but no one wanted to go home, that is for sure,” Fargo head coach John Marks said. “We got one more chance to move on and that is all you can ask. We had to have a big effort tonight and got it.”

The Force scored the first four goals and were in control from start to finish.

Waterloo head coach P.K. O’Handley said the difference was Fargo kept its game simple while the Black Hawks played out of character.

“We just didn’t have it, didn’t play well,” O’Handley said. “The good news is we have an opportunity to play a Game 5 and anything can happen in a Game 5, but we have to play better.”

Fargo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, taking just 13 seconds to score after Waterloo’s J.T. Stenglein was sent to the box for roughing as Dominic Toninato scored with 13:21 left in the first and it was 1-0

Ortega made it 2-0 when he pounced on a Gabe Guertler rebound, scoring into a wide open net with just 7:13 left in the opening period.

“That was huge,” Marks said of the fast start. “Especially on the road. It is loud down here and their fans are great and Waterloo feeds off them very well. So not only to get a one-goal lead, but add two, three and get it to four.”

The Force continued to catch the breaks in the early stages of the second period as Alex Iafallo sent a shot on net that bounced up in the air and off Waterloo’s Vince Hinostroza into the Black Hawks’ net for a 3-0 lead 13:48 left in the second.

Ortega made it 4-0 following his own rebound with 8:10 left in the second.

That goal chased Waterloo starter Cal Petersen from net and finally served as a wake-up call for the Black Hawks.

Taylor Cammarata beat Brendan Jensen point blank from the slot with 6:32 left in the period, his second goal of the playoffs, and Zach Stepan cut Waterloo’s deficit in half with 1:19 remaining.

Justin Kloos carried the puck out of the corner and put a shot on Jensen that he couldn’t handle. In the scramble that ensued, Stepan was able to swat it into the back of the net for his first goal of the playoffs.

Waterloo outshot Fargo, 21-10, in the middle period.

But pressing to cut further into its deficit early in the third, the Black Hawks saw Fargo defenseman Chris Dienes feed Harms for a breakaway and his goal with 13:58 left in the third silenced a loud Black Hawk crowd.

Vince Hinostroza cut the deficit to 5-3 with 2:17 left in the game with Waterloo on the power play and its net empty for an extra attacker.

But Harms scored into an empty net with 30 seconds left to ice the game for Fargo.

“We hurt ourselves in the second period, but regouped,” Harms said. “We have a lot of hockey to play tomorrow night and it is two good teams playing well and we will see what happens.”

In order to keep its season alive, the Black Hawks know they must be better.

“We have to put it behind us and tomorrow is a new day,” Waterloo defenseman Ian McCoshen said. “It’s do or die.”

O’Handley says his guys got to get back at what they do best.

“The main thing is we have to go back to who we are,” O’Handley said. “We got away from that tonight.

“We just made too many mistakes with the puck from the back end to the front. We turned it over. We made soft plays. You can’t do that this time of the year. It was out of character for us.

“It is what it is. We can’t look backwards. You recognize your mistakes, but in 24 hours we are playing to move on and that is the message to the guys.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Fargo, Toninato (Dave Gust), 6:39, pp. 2, Fargo, Ortega (Gabe Guertler), 11:47.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, Fargo, Iafallo (unassisted), 6:12. 4, Fargo, Ortega (Gust), 11:50. 5, Waterloo, Cammarata (Rulevicius, Winiecki), 13:28. 6,. Waterloo, Stepan (Kloos, Cammarata), 18:41.

THIRD PERIOD: 7, Fargo, Harms (Dienes, Iafallo), 6:02. 8, Waterloo, Hinostroza (Cammarata), 17:43. 9, Fargo, Harms (Iafallo), 19:30.

SAVES: Fargo, Brendan Jensen 10-20-4–34. Waterloo, Cal Petersen 17; Eamon McAdam 14. A– 1,881.