FARGO, N.D. — Jeremy Davidson and Mike Kesselring each had a goal and an assist as the Force beat the Team USA 3-1 Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 4,573 fans at Scheels Arena to seal a weekend sweep of the U17s.
“It’s a big weekend for us,” head coach Cary Eades said. “USA played really well both night. They have a lot of speed, they make a lot of plays, and we held them to three goals over the two nights. We played really well defensively, we got good goaltending, and we did the job offensively as well. We’re pleased with how we’re playing right now.”
After a scoreless first period, Jeremy Davidson broke the deadlock when he redirected a shot from the point by Mike Kesselring past Team USA goaltender Drew Commesso for his 24th goal of the season. Kesselring and Libor Zabransky each earned helpers on the power-play goal at 1:19 of the second period.
Kesselring and Davidson teamed up again later in the period, but this time it was the defenseman who put the puck in the back of the net to give the Force a 2-0 lead. Davidson entered the USA zone and waited at the top of the circles before firing a cross-ice pass to Kesselring. The defender skated low and deked past a defender before firing a low backhand into the goal. Christoffer Bjork also assisted on the goal at 16:49 of the second period.
“I think Coach is trying to let us know that we need to get ready for the playoffs and the only way to do that is to get on a roll before the playoffs,” Davidson said. “We’re trying to play our best so we can play really good in the playoffs.”
The Force dominated the second period, outshooting the U17s 20-7 in the frame.
Despite the shot disadvantage, Team USA got on the board a minute after Kesselring’s goal when Tyler Kleven beat Ryan Bischel with a bomb from right point. Bischel was superb up to that point and finished the game with 24 saves on 25 shots against to earn his 28th win of the season.
Fargo shut down every chance the U17s had in the third, including a late power play opportunity in the final minute of regulation, and added an empty-netter from AJ Drobot to seal the victory.
“When you put on the Force jersey you’re playing for something every night,” Eades said. “I don’t care what it is. Our guys have learned that. We’ve got a tradition to uphold. We’re a proud, hard-working organization and the guys know when they put the jersey on they need to live up to that.”
The Force move to 34-22-5 on the year and remain tied with Des Moines for fourth place in the Western Conference. The Force and Buccaneers each have 73 points with one game left for Fargo and two games left for Des Moines. The Buccaneers have the tiebreaker over the Force in the event of a tie and can clinch the fourth spot with a win next Friday.
“Right now we’re just trying to do what we can do best and win games,” Davidson said. “We’re not really too focused on [Des Moines]. We are a little bit, but we’re focused on what we can control.”
Fargo will play its final game of the regular season next Friday in Cedar Rapids against the RoughRiders. Playoff dates and ticket information will be released when it becomes available.