FARGO, N.D. — Jeremy Davidson scored twice and Ryan Bischel slammed the door as the Force claimed a weekend split with a 2-1 win over the visiting Waterloo Black Hawks in front of 4,037 fans Saturday night at Scheels Arena.
Davidson scored his 18th and 19th of the season as the Force won their 27th game of the season and hopped Des Moines for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. Fargo will travel to Des Moines for a meeting with the Bucs on Tuesday.
“We’ve been trading wins and losses here recently,” head coach Cary Eades said. “We’ve been fourth, they’ve been fourth. They’re all big this time of year. We dug ourselves a bit of a hole early in the season and we’ve worked out way out of it. To come off a game last night where their goalie played tremendously and we couldn’t get one by him with two goals early and make them stand up is really rewarding.”
Davidson’s two first-period goals got the Force off to a fast start after not scoring in Friday night’s game. The Schoolcraft, Mich. native opened the game’s scoring when he won a puck battle in front and batted a bouncing puck past goaltender Evan Fear and into the net for his fifth goal with the Force and third in the last three games. Hank Crone and Tanner Vescio assisted on the tally at 3:28 of the first period.
After Waterloo responded two minutes later by tying the game on their first shot on goal of the night, play settled down a bit. The end-to-end action resulted in power play chances for both teams.
Fargo killed off parts of two penalties in the first period and scored on its lone chance on the man advantage midway through the period. It was Davidson’s second goal of the period that gave the Force the lead back when a shot from the point by Justin Lee redirected off the forward in front and past Fear. Mike Kesselring also assisted on the play.
The Force relied heavily on Ryan Bischel to stave off the Black Hawks in the second period. Bischel stopped all six shots he saw in the period and came up clutch with a penalty shot save against Waterloo’s Matej Blumel eight minutes into the period. After allowing a goal on the first shot he faced, Bischel stopped all 30 shots throughout the rest of the game to earn his 23rd win of the season.
Things got testy in the second as the two teams combined for 70 penalty minutes in the stanza. The Western Conference rivals reminded Force fans what playoff hockey looks like. Waterloo and Fargo will meet once more in the regular season on Mar. 16 at Scheels Arena.
“It was a playoff weekend,” Eades said. “There were plays made, but there was great goaltending for both sides on both nights to shut them down. We were able to play with the lead tonight and force them to play from behind. I just really like our overall game.”
In the third, the Force held strong to their lead and were able to mostly keep the Black Hawks away from any high-danger scoring chances. Waterloo outshot the Force in the final 20 minutes, and Fargo had to kill off two penalties in the final seven minutes to seal the victory. Bischel came up with 14 saves in the third to hold off Waterloo.
With the win, the Force move to 27-17-4 and jump Des Moines in the standings ahead of the matchup between the two teams on Tuesday night in Iowa. After that matchup, the Force will return to Scheels Arena next weekend for a series against the red-hot Omaha Lancers.
“Take the two points,” Eades said, “rest up tomorrow, have a good practice Monday, and get on the road to Des Moines.”