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Eric Peterson, Published April 27 2013

Sioux Falls evens conference finals series with Force

FARGO – While they lacked style, the two goals Sioux Falls scored in the third period were good enough for Stampede head coach Cary Eades.

“They weren’t the prettiest of goals, but they got over the goal line,” Eades said. “The red light went on.”

Sioux Falls did all of its scoring in the third period to rally for a 2-1 victory against the Fargo Force in the Western Conference finals of the Clark Cup playoffs Saturday at Scheels Arena.

The Stampede tied the best-of-5 series at 1-1 before 3,191 fans. The series resumes next Thursday in Sioux Falls. The remaining games in the series will be played at Sioux Falls Arena.

“We needed to win this hockey game,” Force head coach John Marks said. “I’m not saying we can’t come back and win two games, but I was really disappointed in our effort. … We certainly made it very hard on ourselves.”

Stampede left wing C.J. Franklin scored the game-winning goal near the midway point of the final period. Franklin chipped a puck through traffic, off a scrum in front of the net, that made it past Force goalie Cam Johnson. The Force missed multiple chances to clear the puck during that sequence that resulted in a 2-1 Stampede lead at 10 minutes, 48 seconds of the final period. Sioux Falls hadn’t led in the series until that point.

“It was just a lot of just staying with it,” Eades said.

Sioux Falls scored its first goal earlier in the third period, taking advantage of a Force turnover. On the play, Thomas Forgione snuck the puck past Johnson to tie the score at 1-1 less than four minutes into the third.

Johnson had stopped all 24 shots he saw through two periods.

“Johnson just played outstanding and we were able to whack a couple home,” Eades said. “I don’t think either hit the twine, but they got over the goal line.”

The Force played from the lead for most of the game. Force center Jordan Nelson scored his team’s only goal in the first period. Gage Torrel feathered a pass to Nelson off the side of the net. Nelson then shelved the puck in the far top corner of the net to stake the Force to a 1-0 lead at 11:31 of the opening period.

Marks felt the Stampede started to gain the momentum in the second period and that play carried into the third period.

“They started the game at a level and they maintained that level for 60 minutes and we didn’t,” Marks said.

Nelson felt the Force could have reacted better after Sioux Falls scores its first goal.

“When they tied it and stuff like that, we don’t need to let that get to us,” Nelson said. “Tonight that just seemed to put us in a bad mood.”

The Force are now forced to win two games at the Sioux Falls Arena, which has a smaller ice surface, to win the series.

“It’s hard place to play. It’s a much smaller rink,” Nelson said.

“I don’t know what home ice means, both teams have done well on the road against each other in the last little while,” Eades said. “By no means does it guarantee anything, but we like the friendly confines of our arena.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, FF, Nelson (Torrel, Gillespie) 11:31.

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 2, SF, Forgione 3:48. 3, SF, Franklin 10:48.

SAVES: SF, Lindgren 11-10-12–33. FF, Johnson 9-15-15–39.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com