The Fargo Force broke 2-2 ties in the final seven minutes both Friday and Saturday night when they went into the Covelli Centre and beat the host Youngstown Phantoms to win the Clark Cup Final.
The Clark Cup Final decides both the United States Hockey League postseason championship and the USA Hockey Tier I Junior National title.
Fargo clinched a three games-to-one victory in the best-of-five series with Saturday’s 4-2 win. The Force won Friday’s game 3-2.
It was Fargo’s first Clark Cup title, following up the Chicago Steel winning their first in 2017 and the Tri-City Storm taking their first in 2016.
GAME 3: Mann made 38 saves, Fargo trailed for only six seconds and Bartek Bison scored the game-winning goal for the Force Friday.
Grant Hebert had the primary assist on all three Fargo goals.
The teams headed into the third period tied, 2-2.
Mann made 18 of his saves while holding the Phantoms scoreless in the third.
Bison scored the winner at 13:07 of the third.
Fargo’s Loughran opened the scoring in the first period with his seventh goal of the playoffs.
Chase Gresock put Youngstown in front 1:04 into the second.
The Phantoms went ahead on a Nicholas Cardelli goal later in the second, but the lead was erased off the ensuing faceoff when Fargo’s Bell sent a puck into the offensive zone where it caromed off the left-wing boards and into the net.
GAME 4: Defenseman Ty Farmer split two Phantoms to score the game-winner on a partial breakaway with 3:54 left Saturday night.
Farmer said he knew the importance of burying the shot.
“I knew it was a Grade A chance for us and we were not getting very many of them,” Farmer said in an interview posted on the USHL Twitter account.
Evan Bell and Clark Cup Playoffs Most Valuable Player Griffin Loughran had assists on the game-winner.
Team captain Mark Senden added an empty-net goal with 0.7 seconds left.
Strauss Mann had 26 saves.
Bell and Garrett Van Wyhe scored second-period goals to give Fargo a 2-0 lead.
Matthew Barry scored late in the second and Curtis Hall scored early in the third to lift Youngstown into a 2-2 tie.
CUP RECAP: Youngstown’s Gresock and Barry led all USHL players with 14 points in the playoffs. Gresock led in goals with eight while Barry led in assists with 10.
Bell led defensemen with 11 points and tied for third overall in Clark Cup scoring.
Mann had the second-best postseason statistically among USHL goalies, behind Jared Moe of the Waterloo Black Hawks.
Moe and Mann were the only two goalies with two shutouts.
Mann led with 14 wins, but Moe had the best goals against average (1.81) and save percentage (.933). Mann was second in those two categories at 2.09 and .932.
FRANCHISE CHANGE: The Rochester Rivermen, based in Scottsville, New York, will replace the Roc City Royals as members of the North American 3 Hockey League’s Northeast Division.
Frank Vecchio will serve as general manager and Mark Howell has been hired as the first head coach. Howell has coaching experience at the junior and college levels.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Hickling Images