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Force Overcome #1 Ranked Lincoln Stars

By Liz Knisley , 02/26/16, 11:30PM CST

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Tonight the Fargo Force took on the number one ranked team in the Western Conference, the Lincoln Stars, for the first time at home this season. The Force took on the Stars on the road and defeated them 1-0 earlier in the season. With high school hockey seasons coming to a close, the Fargo Force added Clayton Phillips and Riley Tufte to the roster. Forward Riley Tufte had five goals and one assist in the beginning of the season with the Force in 12 games. Tufte is ranked 17th overall on the NHL Central Scouting North American Skater List. This is the highest ranking of any Force player in the team’s eight-year history.

Tonight’s game was action packed from the get go with a total of seven goals being scored in the first period alone. The Stars took the lead in the beginning, Biagio Lerario scoring the first goal of the game. The Force answered back with three consecutive goals, the first snagged by Denis Smirnov only one minute and thirty seconds later assisted by Blake Lizotte and Grant Meyer. The second Fargo goal was scored by defenseman Bradley Johnson, his first of the season, assisted by Denis Smirnov and Blake Lizotte. The third Fargo goal was another by Smirnov assisted by Niko Hildenbrand and Hank Crone. Lincoln answered back as Tanner Laczynski scored Lincoln’s second goal of the game only for the Force to retaliate. Denis Smirnov snagged his first at home hat-trick of the season, assisted by Blake Lizotte and Jake McLaughlin. With 1:23 remaining in the first Captain Austin Pooley notches an unassisted goal of his own putting the Force ahead 5-2 heading into the second period.

At 6:58 in the second period, Riley Tufte had a break away goal assisted by Jack Adams and Jake McLaughlin to put the Force up 6-2. The Stars were unable to get on the board during the second. With one minute to go, the Force put another on the board. Denis Smirnov notched his fourth goal of the game, tying the USHL record for the most goals in a game, which only 14 players have accomplished in the past. The last Force player to accomplish this feat was Josh Birkholz during the 2008-09 season on March 6, 2009. Assists on Smirnov’s fourth goal went to Grant Meyer and Blake Lizotte sending the Force up 7-2 as they entered the third period.

The Stars battled to come back throughout as Henry Bowlby scored Lincoln’s third goal of the game and Grant Jozefek scored their fourth. As Lincoln fought to come back from a five-goal deficit, tension grew on the ice with three players being thrown from the game. Thirty seconds into a five-minute power play for the Force, the Stars’ Grant Jozefek snagged Lincoln’s fifth goal of the game bringing it to a two goal lead. However, the Stars were unable to overcome the Force. Austin Pooley snagged an empty netter with a second left in play and the Force take the game 8-5.

The Force are back at Scheels Arena on Saturday night for youth hockey night as the take on the Lincoln Stars once again. Tickets are available at the Scheels Arena Box Office open Saturday at noon, on tickets300.com, or at the Tickets300 location on Broadway.