Fargo Force head into USHL championship series with win over Lincoln
FARGO - The United States Hockey League's newest addition is making things look easy.
Behind 32 saves from Mike Lee, the Fargo Force blanked the Lincoln Stars 2-0 on Saturday at Urban Plains Center to sweep the West Division finals.
Fargo also swept its first-round series against Omaha, and is 6-0 in the post season - with just two of those wins coming at home.
"It hasn't been easy," said Force coach Dean Blais with a laugh. "...It is one thing to beat Omaha, but it was another to sweep the West Division champs."
An announced crowd of 4,600 watched Lincoln get shut out for just the second time this season. Indiana blanked the Stars 1-0 on March 13.
Lincoln never lost three consecutive games in regulation during the regular season. Fargo outscored the Stars 13-4 in the three playoff wins.
Lee didn't have to make many tough saves on Saturday, as the Force defensemen kept the Stars to the outside, and Lee smothered long shots and gave up few rebounds.
"The defensemen were doing a good job, and I thought the rebounds I gave up were in safe spots," Lee said. "They like to throw it in and come after you, but there weren't a lot of rebounds tonight."
Chris Franks started on defense for injured Eamonn McDermott - who missed his first game of the season - and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.
After Nate Condon won a faceoff with five minutes left in the first, Franks flipped a shot from the point through traffic and it found the net.
"I just hoped it would get through and we'd get a rebound and it wound up going in," Franks said. "No, I didn't think it was going to be enough to win, but it was good to get a jump on a team like Lincoln."
Condon also assisted on the Force's second goal - which was a pretty backhand from Josh Birkholz midway through the second period. Lee took care of the rest.
Fargo also didn't take a penalty in either of the final two periods.
"We had to have that discipline on the ice, because we knew they were going to be desperate because they were the team facing elimination," Blais said. "We just had to do our job."
Fargo will take on the winner of the Green Bay-Indiana series in the Clark Cup Finals.
That series is tied 1-1 after Green Bay won 4-3 on Saturday.
"The way we've been playing, I don't think it's a surprise that we've swept both series," Lee said. "We've put six good games together in the playoffs."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, F, Franks (Condon), 15:02.
SECOND PERIOD: 2, F, Birkholz (Searfoss, Condon), 9:03.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.
SAVES: L, Borelli 9-10-7--26. F, M. Lee 10-14-8--32.