FARGO, N.D. — Ben Meyers led the Force with three points as they held onto a first-period lead and ground out a 4-2 win over the Central Illinois Flying Aces in front of 3,254 fans at Scheels Arena on Friday night. The win, combined with Des Moines’ loss to Team USA tonight, moves Fargo within three points of the Buccaneers for fourth place in the Western Conference with a game in hand.
“We’re battling right now,” Meyers said. “We have quite a few injuries right now and we just came together and got the job done tonight. It’s always fun to get the two points in front of our fans.”
With six Force players scratched due to injury, the Flying Aces got off to a soaring start, scoring 35 seconds into the contest to take the game’s first lead. The shot from the point snuck past a screened Ryan Bischel and into the net to give Central Illinois the 1-0 lead.
Hank Crone and Ben Meyers linked up three minutes later to tie the game when Meyers finished off a no-look pass from Crone for his 30th goal of the season. Libor Zabransky also picked up an assist on the play, his eighth of the year. Crone ranks second in the USHL with 44 assists this season.
Crone and Meyers have seven points in the past two games for the Force.
“It was a pretty loosely played first period,” head coach Cary Eades said. “It looked like it was going to be an 8-7 game. I thought structurally we were much better in the second and third. We would have liked to get another goal for some breathing room, but it didn’t happen until the empty-netter. We just ground it out for the win. It was greasy, it was grindy, it was a lot of things, but it’s two points in the books and right now that’s the important thing.”
Fargo made it 2-1 when Zach Faremouth took a pass between the hash marks from newcomer Tristan Broz and fired it into a wide open net for his fourth score of the season. Broz’s assist was his first career USHL point in his first game. Ondrej Pavel also picked up his sixth assist of the season on the play.
Central Illinois tied the game late in the second period, but the Force answered 46 seconds later to retake the lead with 1:15 left in the first period on a goal from Justin Lee. Ben Meyers picked up the lone assist on the play, a four-on-two at the Flying Aces’ line that Lee converted on with a wrister from the slot.
Despite a 15-4 shot advantage for the Force in the second, neither team scored in the middle frame. It was a tight third period with back-and-forth chances for both teams, but Ryan Bischel stopped all 14 Central Illinois shots over the final 40 minutes to secure his 25th win of the season. Bischel is the fourth Force goaltender to reach the 25-win mark in a single season.
Meyers’ empty-netter with 21 seconds left in regulation sealed the Force’s second straight win.
“We need to balance our scoring a little bit, but we’ve got to have big time plays by our big time players,” Eades said. “We’ve had that when we win. We’ve got another big tilt tomorrow. I was impressed by Central Illinois. I thought they worked hard and tested us in some areas. It’s going to be another battle tomorrow night.”
The Force and Flying Aces will finish off their series tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. and then Fargo will travel to Sioux City for a Western Conference matchup against the Musketeers to wrap up the weekend.
Fargo will return to Scheels Arena Apr. 5-6 for its final home series of the regular season and a matchup against Team USA.