FARGO, N.D. — Waterloo struck first, and then it struck again.
But the momentum created from two quick goals in the first period was fleeting as Fargo scored five straight and pushed the Black Hawks to the brink of elimination Friday with a 6-4 victory in Game 3 of the United States Hockey League Western Conference finals at Scheels Arena.
The Force took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series with a chance to eliminate Waterloo in Game 4 tonight.
“The season is on the line,” Black Hawks captain Jack Drury said. “We have won a lot of one-game series before, so it’s just try to go out and win one game. We’ve played 70 games together, so we know how to win hockey games.”
Trailing 2-1 early in the second, Fargo began to win every 50-50 puck, scored 36 seconds apart to take the lead and continued to build on it in the third period.
On the flip side, the Black Hawks showed little pushback after losing the lead until late. They also took three consecutive slashing penalties after falling behind 5-2 while showing nastiness at the wrong times and places.
“I think we helped them with the momentum a little bit,” Black Hawks head coach P.K. O’Handley said. “I thought we turned over pucks and took some undisciplined penalties. That is the story of the deal.”
The first period was something the Black Hawks may have to revisit in the 24 hours between Games 3 and 4.
Waterloo grabbed the early momentum when Jackson Cates and Garrett Wait scored 22 seconds apart midway through the period.
With 11:07 left, Ben Copeland’s entry pass into the Force zone was won at the boards by Wait, who skated away and fired a pass to Cates. Cates then beat Fargo goalie Strauss Mann low from the left dot.
Wait then made it 2-0 when a Force clearing pass went right to his stick and his quick wrist shot from the slot sailed over Mann’s right shoulder.
Fargo cut its deficit in half when Griffiin Loughran scored a power-play goal with 5:45 left in the first and that gave the Force momentum it never gave back.
Fargo came out with a tremendous push to start the second and tied the game on a Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup goal 3:05 into the period. Just 31 seconds later, Grant Hebert scored to give the Force a 3-2 lead.
“We have to be harder on them,” Drury said. “They are a really good hockey team and they played with a lot of energy. We need to show more of the team spirit, team energy if we are going to come out on top.”
Fargo got goals from Hebert and Williams Fallstrom early in the third.
With its net empty, Waterloo got a goal from Ben Finkelstein with 2:16 left in the third to make it 5-3, and then after Fargo scored into an empty net, Niko Esposito-Selivanov scored with one second left for the final score.
“They scored some timely goals, and we answered late,” O’Handley said. “If you look in the rear-view mirror, it wasn’t our best game by far. We have no choice but to bring our best game tomorrow.
“We have to make some harder plays for sure. We were able to do that at times, but not consistently enough. And, we’ve got to do a better job with the puck.
“Our backs are against the wall and we have to bring our best game tomorrow.”
Fargo 6, Waterloo 4
SCORE BY PERIODS
Waterloo 2 0 2 — 4
Fargo1 2 3 — 6
FIRST PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Jackson Cates (Garrett Wait, Ben Copeland), 8:53, 2. Waterloo, Wait (Hank Sorensen, Cates), 9:15, 3. Fargo, Griffin Loughran (Grant Hebert, Robbie Stucker), 14:15, pp. Penalties — Griffin Loughran, Far (tripping), 9:34, Evan Dougherty, Wat (roughing), 9:34, Jordan Seyfert, Far (charging), 10:40, Dougherty, Wat (charging), 13:06, Wait, Wat (tripping), 18:27.
SECOND PERIOD — 4. Fargo, Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (Ty Farmer, John Schuldt), 3:05, 5. Fargo, Hebert (Loughran, Stucker), 3:36. Penalties — Solag Bakich, Wat (slashing), 5:58, Schuldt, Far (roughing), 5:58, Mason Palmer, Wat (slashing), 9:48, Seyfert, Far (hooking), 16:19, Dougherty, Wat (roughing), 18:48, Hebert, Far (cross checking), 20:00.
THIRD PERIOD — 6. Fargo, Hebert (Schmidt-Svejstrup), 2:07, 7. Fargo, Williams Fallstrom (Ben Meyers, Spencer Meier), 6:44, 8. Waterloo, Ben Finkelstein (Jack Drury), 17:44, 9. Fargo, Schmidt-Svejstrup (Fallstrom), 19:21, en, 10. Waterloo, Niko Esposito-Selivanov (Michael Ferrandino), 19:59. Penalties — Garrett Van Whye, Far (holding), 4:06, Jack Drury, Wat (slashing), 4:35, Wait, Wat (slashing), 8:35, Hank Sorensen, Wat (slashing), 14:08,
SHOTS ON GOAL
Waterloo 10 11 9 — 30
Fargo 6 11 15 — 32
Goalies — Waterloo, Jared Moe (25 saves). Fargo, Strauss Mann (26 saves). Referees — Jake Rekucki and Cameron Fleming. Linesmen — Neil Frederickson and Dwight Mack.