USHL Western Conference finals preview

The Fargo Force huddle up before a game

Either the Fargo Force (pictured) or the Sioux Falls Stampede are three wins away from a trip to the Clark Cup.

A battle of the Dakotas will decide who wins the USHL Western Conference and advances to the Clark Cup, as the Sioux Falls Stampede and the Fargo Force will face off in a best-of-five series.

Both teams had some trouble in their semifinal series. Sioux Falls needed five games to advance over the Lincoln Stars, while Fargo scored in overtime in game five to defeat the Waterloo Black Hawks.

That leaves Sioux Falls and Fargo with little time to rest and prepare before they begin the series on Friday. Sioux Falls last played on Tuesday, and Fargo finished its previous series on Wednesday.

USHL Western Conference Bracket#1 Sioux Falls vs. #2 Fargo

Playoff Schedule

    • Game 1: April 26 at 7:35 p.m. in Fargo
    • Game 2: April 27 at 7:05 p.m. in Fargo
    • Game 3: May 2 at 7:05 p.m. in Sioux Falls
    • Game 4: May 5 at 6:05 p.m. in Sioux Falls (if necessary)
    • Game 5: May 8 at 7:05 p.m. in Sioux Falls (if necessary)

If any of the Stampede players were afraid of clowns growing up, that fear might come back to the surface to some extent this weekend. Typically the higher seed plays games one and two at home, but the circus is at the Sioux Falls Arena from April 25-28, so Sioux Falls has to start the series on the road. By opening the series at home, Fargo has the opportunity to get out to an early lead in the series and force Sioux Falls to win three in a row in Sioux Falls.

Season Series

    • Wins: 5-3 in favor of Sioux Falls
    • Points: 11-8 in favor of Sioux Falls
    • Record in Sioux Falls: 3-1 in favor of Sioux Falls (wins); 6-4 in favor of Sioux Falls (points)
    • Record in Fargo: Tied at 2 (wins); 5-4 in favor of Sioux Falls (points)
    • Goals Scored: 34-32 in favor of Sioux Falls
    • Game Results:
      • 10/13/12 – in Sioux Falls – 6-5 Sioux Falls win in overtime
      • 11/2/12 – in Sioux Falls – 6-4 Sioux Falls win
      • 11/21/12 – in Sioux Falls – 3-2 Sioux Falls win in overtime
      • 11/24/12 – in Fargo – 3-2 Fargo win in overtime
      • 12/28/12 – in Fargo – 5-3 Sioux Falls win
      • 2/22/13 – in Fargo – 6-3 Sioux Falls win
      • 3/6/13 – in Sioux Falls – 5-2 Fargo win
      • 4/5/13 – in Fargo – 7-4 Fargo win

Fortunately for Sioux Falls, if Fargo were to get out to a two-game lead in the series, the Stampede have taken care of business at home this season against Fargo, taking three of four games. Two of those, however, were overtime wins.

Sioux Falls holds a slight edge in almost every aspect of the season series, but Fargo did win the last two games by a combined goal differential of 12-6.

Team Comparisons

Sioux Falls Fargo
Overall Regular-Season Record 45-17-2, 92 pts. (1st Western) 38-19-7, 83 pts. (2nd Western)
Home Regular-Season Record 24-8-0, 48 pts. 19-9-4, 42 pts.
Away Regular-Season Record 21-9-2, 44 pts. 19-10-3, 41 pts.
Last Ten Games (Including Playoffs) 6-4-0, 12 pts. 5-5-0, 10 pts.
Second Half of Regular-Season Record 22-9-1, 45 pts. 20-10-2, 42 pts.
Goals For/Against in Regular Season 241 (2nd in Western, 3rd in USHL) – 187 (2nd in Western, 4th in USHL) 229 (3rd in Western, 5th in USHL) – 201 (5th in Western, 8th in USHL)
Power Play in Regular Season 15.85% (6th in Western, 12th in USHL) 15.73% (7th in Western, 13th in USHL)
Penalty Kill in Regular Season 84.77% (2nd in Western, 3rd in USHL) 81.78% (3rd in Western, 9th in USHL)
Leading Scorers in Regular Season Dennis Kravchenko (22 G, 41 A), C.J. Franklin (32 G, 28 A), Zeb Knutson (26 G, 25 A), Todd Skirving (23 G, 22 A), Tony Calderone (29 G, 15 A), Sam Rothstein (18 G, 26 A) Dominic Toninato (29 G, 41 A), Brendan Harms (25 G, 45 A), Gabe Guertler (31 G, 20 A), Dave Gust (21 G, 28 A), Alex Iafallo (20 G, 23 A)
Goaltending (Regular-Season Stats) Charlie Lindgren (35-14-2, 2.80 GAA, .900 SV%), David Jacobson (3-0-0, 1.51 GAA, .931 SV%) Brendan Jensen (24-11-1, 2.92 GAA, .911 SV%), Cameron Johnson (14-8-6, 3.07 GAA, .909 SV%)

Despite finishing far above .500 during the regular season, both teams have hovered around .500 in their last ten games.

Both teams have also struggled on the power play. Sioux Falls and Fargo were ranked 12th and 13th (of 16 teams), respectively during the regular season. Sioux Falls has not scored a goal in 14 power plays during the postseason.

Sioux Falls does have the advantage on the penalty kill, however, ranking third in the USHL regular season compared to Fargo who ranked ninth.

Offensively and defensively, Sioux Falls performed better in the regular season, scoring more goals and allowing fewer. In the playoffs, things have changed greatly on the offensive end. In the first round, Fargo scored the most goals in the league, while Sioux Falls scored the least.

Advantage Fargo then? It’s hard to say. Both teams have had clear strengths and weaknesses both over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs to this point.

For a more complete comparison of the two teams, the USHL provides very in-depth stats about the season series and about each team.

Sioux Falls does have the advantage on the penalty kill, however, ranking third in the USHL regular season compared to Fargo who ranked 9th.

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