Brendan Harms and Kenny Gillespie scored two goals each Wednesday night to lift the Fargo Force over the Sioux Falls Stampede 7-4, setting up the Clark Cup Finals against the regular-season champion Dubuque Fighting Saints.
Harms also had an assist while Gillespie had the game-winner to lead Fargo to victory in the fifth and deciding game of the Western Conference finals.
Fargo will head to Dubuque to open the Clark Cup Final on Friday against the Eastern Conference champions. The best-of-five series will determine the United States Hockey League’s playoff champion and the USA Hockey Tier I Junior National Championship.
Dubuque is home Friday at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. The series moves to Fargo on May 17 for a 7:35 p.m. game. If Game 4 is necessary, it will be at 7:05 p.m. on May 18 in Fargo. A potential decisive game in the best-of-five series would be May 21 in Dubuque at 7:05 p.m.
Fargo outshot Sioux Falls 46-26 Wednesday. A 17-4 advantage in the second period led to three goals for a 4-2 lead.
Sioux Falls rallied to force a tie on goals by Zeb Knutson and Ryan Siiro less than a minute apart. Gillespie then scored the game-winner at 9:30. Brendan Harms assisted on an Alex Iafallo goal at 11:19 and added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Sioux Falls forced a Game 5 when Dennis Kravchenko scored two goals Sunday in a 5-3 victory.
Fargo had assumed a 2-1 series lead May 2 when Cam Johnson made 31 saves, including 16 in the third period, to make Dave Gust’s goal 3:47 stand up for a 1-0 victory.
The series win advanced Fargo to face Dubuque, which shut out the Youngstown Phantoms 4-0 in Sunday’s fifth and deciding game. Dubuque’s Arthur Brey made 23 saves and Evan Janssen scored twice in the game.
Dubuque, which dropped the third and fourth games of the Eastern Conference finals in Youngstown, is 5-0 at home in the playoffs.
ROBERTSON CUP: Brian Williams broke a tie at 7:45 of the third period Tuesday night to lead the Wenatchee Wild past the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, 3-1, in the deciding game of the best-of-five Robertson Cup West Division Final.
The Wenatchee win finalized the field for the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament, which begins Friday in Frisco, Texas. The tournament determines the North American Hockey League playoff champion and the USA Hockey Tier II Junior National Championship.
Wenatchee will join the South Division champion Amarillo Bulls, the Central Division champion Bismarck Bobcats and North Division champion Jamestown Ironmen for round-robin competition Friday through Sunday to determine the two teams for Monday’s finals. Amarillo is the top seed.
Wenatchee’s Robert Nichols made 17 saves in Game 5. Jono Davis, who also scored in Game 5, had two goals and Nichols made 26 saves in Game 3 Friday to give Wenatchee the series lead with a 3-1 victory.
Fairbanks extended the series with a 3-2 win Saturday.
Bismarck finished off the Austin Bruins with a pair of one-goal victories for a 3-1 series win. The Bobcats won 3-2 Friday and 4-3 Saturday to take their fifth straight Central Division title. Bismarck’s Aaron Nelson stopped 36 of 37 shots in the clinching win over the division’s regular-season champions. The Bobcats overcame a 1-0 deficit Saturday after rallying from 2-0 down Friday.
Jamestown, a last-place team a year ago, completed a three-game sweep of the Soo Eagles with a 5-2 win May 2. Joey Ballmer made 24 saves in the win.
USHL DRAFT: The Des Moines Buccaneers picked Tom Novak, a forward from River Falls, Wis. who is playing at St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota, with the first pick in Tuesday’s USHL draft. The Buccaneers made their pick after the two teams ahead of them each signed tenders rather than use their picks. Novak had 28 goals and 29 assists in 31 games.
At the end of the draft, the Chicago Steel made a symbolic pick in choosing Jack Jablonski, a Minnesota high school player who was paralyzed during a hockey game for Benilde-St. Margaret’s in a Dec. 30, 2011 game.
Jablonski had sent an open Tweet Monday reminding USHL teams he was eligible for this year’s draft, and the Steel took him up on it.
“Best night ever. #steel,” he Tweeted after the pick.
TOP ROOKIES: The Texas Tornado and Aberdeen Wings each had a player selected to both the first team and second team on the NAHL’s All-Rookie Team.
Forwards Brandon Hawkins of Texas and Peter Krieger of Aberdeen were joined on the first team by Austin forward Jay Dickman, Bismarck defenseman Nate Repensky, Soo defenseman Alex Robert and Wichita Falls Wildcats goalie Evan Cowley.
The Kenai River Brown Bears placed forward Matt Seidel and defenseman Jake Bushey on the second team. Texas forward Scott Conway and Aberdeen defenseman Jake Horton were also named, along with Topeka RoadRunners forward Tyler Andrew and Kalamazoo Junior K-Wings goalie Marcus Due-Boje.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials.
USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?
Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.
USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season?
Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that.
The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.
USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?
Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.
USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official?
Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.
USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.
USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?
Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.
USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?
Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.
USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career?
Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.
Tag(s): Junior Notebooks