FARGO, N.D. — Josh Nodler scored both goals for the Force, including a power-play goal a minute and a half into overtime to seal the win, as Fargo claimed a 2-1 win over the rival Sioux City Musketeers in front of 4282 fans Friday night at Scheels Arena. The Force earned a series split with the win to reach the halfway point of the season with a 17-11-3 record.
“It was a typical Western Conference war,” head coach Cary Eades said. “They made a play on the power play to tie it in the third and we made a play on the power play in OT to win it. Really high level of compete out there from both teams. It was a fun series.”
After Ryan O’Reilly drew a holding penalty with a physical move to the front of the net with 33 seconds left in regulation, the Force power play unit of Nodler, Ben Meyers, Hank Crone, and Connor Mayer cashed in at 1:24 of the extra frame to take the win. Meyers and Crone each had helpers on the game-winning goal.
“That was good movement around the horn, good movement by my teammates,” Nodler said. “I just tried to take the goalie’s eyes away and the puck was laying there. I was lucky enough to put in the rebound.”
The Force got the teddy bears off their backs early when Josh Nodler stuffed home a rebound in front to give Fargo a 1-0 lead at 17:36 of the first period and begin a downpour of toys for local children’s hospitals, charities, and daycares.
Connor Mayer set up the opportunity with a shot from the point that forced the Musketeers’ goalie to make an initial save before Nodler jumped on the loose puck out front to put it home. Ben Meyers grabbed the second assist on the goal. Nodler is tied for fifth among USHL rookies with 10 goals.
Meyers’ point streak has reached 12 games with his assist on the play. The streak is the longest active point streak in the USHL — Meyers needs to add one more game to match the longest point streak by a Force player this season (Crone, 13 games) and three more games to match the longest streak in the league this season (Dubuque’s Matias Maccelli, 15 games).
It took two periods for the Musketeers to find an equalizer, but it eventually came with just over 12 minutes left in regulation. Ian Malcolmson picked up the power-play goal for Sioux City just eight seconds into the visitors’ fourth man advantage chance of the game when he stuffed home a shot to the far post that just beat the left leg of Ryan Bischel.
Otherwise strong all night, Bischel stopped 24 of 25 shots he faced to earn his 14th win of the season.
Cue Nodler’s OT winner.
“They made a nice play on the power play,” Nodler said. “You’ve got to give it to them, but we had a good leadership group telling us to stay calm and stick to our gameplan. It worked out, took us to overtime, and luckily we got the win.”
The Force have won 17 of the first 31 games to start the year and sit in sixth place with 37 points at the halfway point of the 2018-2019 season, two points back of fourth place Sioux Falls and Sioux City.
“We can’t worry about the other teams,” Eades said. “What we can do is continue to control our improvement level. We’ve reached the halfway mark, but there’s still 31 games and a lot of hockey to be played. The teams that are going to continue to keep their focus on and off the ice are going to have a better chance to move up in the standings and position themselves for a playoff run.”
Fargo will travel to Sioux Falls next Wednesday for a matchup with the rival Stampede before returning to Scheels Arena next Friday and Saturday for a series against them. Puck drop for both games is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.