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Chris Murphy, Published May 07 2013

Harms eyes Game 5 return after sitting out due to food poisoning

FARGO – The Fargo Force’s 5-3 loss to Sioux Falls in Game 4 of the United States Hockey League Western Conference finals best-of-5 series made Force starting right winger Brendan Harms sick.

Well, actually, it had more to do with food poisoning. But watching his team miss out on a chance to clinch the conference championship and move on to the Clark Cup finals certainly wasn’t easy on the stomach Sunday.

“It sucked,” Harms said. “It wasn’t fun. Whenever you’re in the playoffs, you always want to play. I should be good for Game 5. It’s a one-game series now.”

It will take a lot more than food poisoning to keep a player like Harms out of tonight’s deciding Game 5 in Sioux Falls. Before the Game 4 loss, Harms played in all 72 games for the Force, tying Dominic Toninato for a team-high 70 points in 64 regular-season games.

Harms’ plus-33 plus/minus in the regular season trailed only Alex Iafallo’s plus-34, but Iafallo played in 14 less games than Harms. The Force are a better team even with a sick Harms on the ice.

“I watched a bit of (Game 4),” Harms said. “Obviously, when you’re in a Game 4, a team is playing to continue their season and will be playing desperate hockey. We probably didn’t have our best game.”

In the previous three games of the series, Sioux Falls scored one goal on 10 power-play chances against Fargo. The Stampede made the Force pay in Game 4, scoring two goals on three power-play opportunities.

The Stampede outshot Fargo 38-24 and held the Force scoreless on three power-play chances. The box score says a lot, but there’s far more proof on the ice.

“The biggest difference is we got a little bit outworked,” Fargo defenseman Taylor Fleming said. “We didn’t come out like we did in Game 3. They definitely came out with more intensity and they outcompeted us.”

Sioux Falls scored 15 seconds into the game and put 15 shots on net in the first period. As they had done when they trailed Lincoln 2-1 in their first-round series, the top-seeded Stampede played as a team fighting for its life.

“They played in desperation mode,” Fleming said. “It was do or die for them, so we should have known how hard they were going to come out. We did not match their intensity.”

Both Sioux Falls and Fargo trailed 2-1 in both teams’ first-round series. They both survived. All analysis is out the window at this point. It’s simple: Win and take on Dubuque in the Clark Cup, or lose and watch. Harms knows what watching feels like, and it’s something he doesn’t want to get used to.

“I don’t know if there’s any specifics anymore,” Harms said. “We’ve been in this situation before, and they obviously have too. We know what they do, they know what we do. We just have to execute. We have to come out there and play our best hockey, because we’re playing for our season right now.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548