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By Eli Swanson, 12/29/18, 10:15PM CST


FARGO, N.D. — The Fargo Force closed out 2018 on Saturday night with a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Sioux Falls Stampede. The calendar year closes with the Force 14-10-3 and in sixth place in the Western Conference.


Coming back from the holiday break, the Force also got some players back from international duty who contributed on the scoresheet.


After Sioux Falls took the lead on a power-play goal in the first, two goals in the second period from Josh Nodler set the table for a 20-minute hockey game to decide the winner.


Nodler’s two markers, his eighth and ninth scores of the year, in under three minutes turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Force lead midway through the middle frame.


The first goal came when Nodler was ready at the right circle to fire a puck that caromed off some bodies in front past the Sioux Falls goaltender and into the back of the net. Xan Gurney picked up an assist on the play at 7:04 of the second.


Later it was Nodler waiting on the doorstep to stuff home a rebound and put the Force ahead for the first time in the contest. It was Gurney again and Ben Meyers with the assists on the goal at 9:42 of the middle period.


The goals were Nodler’s first points since scoring twice in a 2-1 overtime win on Nov. 23 in Sioux City. Saturday’s game was the Oak Park, Mich. native’s first game back with the Force since winning a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge earlier this month in Bonnyville, Alta.


Nodler picked up his third point of the night when he won a faceoff to Hank Crone, who one-timed a shot past the Stampede goalie to give the Force a 3-2 lead just two seconds into a Fargo power play. Crone’s goal was his 47th with the Force, tying him with Denis Smirnov (14-16) for the most in team history.


Sioux Falls scored three unanswered goals after Crone’s marker to take the win.


The Force continue their homestand next weekend with a series at Scheels Arena against the Green Bay Gamblers. The two-game series against the Eastern Conference foe begins Friday, Jan. 4 at 7:05 p.m.