FARGO, N.D. — The Fargo Force returned to Scheels Arena with a vengeance on Friday night, outplaying the Madison Capitols on their way to a 5-1 win in front of 4011 fans.
Hank Crone led the Force with two goals and an assist to up his season total to 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists).
The Force skated circles around the Capitols for much of the first period, but it wasn’t until the final three minutes that Fargo got anything past Madison goaltender Joey Lamoureaux. Fargo outshot Madison 15-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
“At times we swarmed them, but a bounce or two and they could have got a goal early,” head coach Cary Eades said. “They just got a little more deflated with each goal we scored. We’ll take the win and we know that they’ll be better tomorrow.”
It was defenseman Tanner Vescio who got the Force on the board with 2:29 left in the first period when he collected his rebound at the right faceoff dot and put it into a yawning net for his second goal of the year. The Northern Michigan commit was set up by Ben Meyers and Hank Crone on the play.
Crone wasn’t done scoring in the period, and a late chance for the Force was rewarded when the Texan batted home a rebound with less than a second left in the first period to send the Force into the intermission with a 2-0 lead. The initial shot came off the stick of Libor Zabransky, who picked up his fifth assist of the season on the play.
Zabransky has 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 8 games with the Force since joining in January. He scored his second goal with the Force five and a half minutes into the second period when he finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play between himself, Crone, and Meyers with a snipe the beat the blocker of Lamoureaux to give Fargo a 3-0 lead.
The Force kept at it in the second, and Christoffer Bjork was able to put away a rebound two minutes later to extend the home team’s lead to four. Josh Nodler dropped the puck back to newcomer Adam Gajarsky, who fired a low shot off the right pad of Lamoureaux to force a rebound that kicked straight onto the stick of Bjork.
Fargo only had to kill one penalty in the game, and kill it they did. Hank Crone picked off a pass in the neutral zone and scored on the ensuing breakaway with a textbook shot over the blocker of Lamoureaux to give his team a 5-0 lead one minute into the third period.
The Force had a firm hold on the game in the third, limiting Madison to five shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.
“The third period was our best defensively of the night,” Eades said. “We made smart decisions with the puck. We didn’t give them much time and space.”
Ryan Bischel was a rock in net all night, stopping 17 of 18 shots he faced despite several stretches where he didn't have a chance to see anything come his way. Bischel tied the Force record for career wins with his 39th win in the Black and Blue tonight.
Madison avoided a shutout with a goal in the final minute of regulation despite appearing to enter the zone offside, but Fargo closed out the final 28 seconds to earn the victory.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Eades said. “We’ve got to focus on tomorrow night.”
Fargo will finish the series with Madison Saturday night at Scheels Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.