FARGO-Offense. Defense. Special teams. The Fargo Force didn't need any St. Patrick's Day luck of the Irish on Saturday night at Scheels Arena.
It was all working in a 5-1 USHL win over the Dubuque Fighting Saints that completed a weekend sweep for the Force, who appear primed to make a season-ending push for a Western Conference title. They scored power play, shorthanded and even strength goals to improve to 29-15-7, good for 65 points.
League leader Waterloo has 68 points.
Afterward, the weekend result was met with a louder-than-usual locker room celebration by the Force players.
"It's pretty fun in there right now," said wing Ben Meyers, who had two goals and an assist. "The guys are pretty fired up after a big weekend. We've known all year we have a dangerous team."
Meyers has scored goals in seven straight games now, the longest streak in the league.
The schedule is in the Force's favor, with this weekend's series part of a homestand that has Fargo at home for seven of the last 11 games. That includes home games against three of the teams the Force are battling with for the conference lead, with Omaha coming to the Scheels Center this coming Thursday and Friday.
Lincoln, which was in fifth place prior to Saturday's games, also comes to Fargo for a pair of games, while the Force have a home-and-home left with Sioux Falls, which started the night one point ahead of Fargo.
"Huge four points in the standings, as tight as it is," said Force head coach Cary Eades. "All we can do is take care of ourselves. I thought we played our more complete 60-minute game tonight."
The bonus: The Force did it at home in a season where some of their best hockey has been played on the road.
"We've had many games like tonight on the road," Eades said. "Our leaders on the club have addressed that. We did a lot of little things that it takes to win a hockey game."
The Force got the jump in the first period when Meyers took a free puck near his blue line, skated in alone on Fighting Saints goalie Cole Weaver and poked in his own rebound for a 1-0 lead.
Meyers did the rebound trick again six minutes later, only more the conventional way. This time, it was teammate William Fallstrom who found himself with a free puck at the blue line and space in front of him. Weaver stopped Fallstrom's shot, but Meyers was there for the easy cleanup job and it was 2-0.
"We caught them on a quick transition," Eades said.
Fargo made a 5-on-3 pay off to start the second period. Sammy Steele, parked in front of the net unopposed, took a pretty feed from Meyers and slid it home for a 3-0 advantage. At that point, on defense, the Force had only given up three shots on goal.
"It was uphill for them from there, but they didn't quit," Eades said.
The backbreaker, however, for Dubuque came with 1:21 left in the second period, after the Fighting Saints put together their best five minutes of the game. Defenseman Ty Farmer picked up the puck after a scrum in front of the net and his liner made it 4-0.
The double backbreaker came a minute later with the Force shorthanded. Fallstrom got the goal, but Garrett Van Wyhe did the work in creating a turnover near the blue line and his assist had the Force firmly in control at 5-0.
The Force activated forward Carter Randklev, from Moorhead, who played eight games with the club earlier this season before the Spuds began their season. Randklev had two goals and five assists in his first go-around with the Force.
FIRST PERIOD: 1, FF, Meyers, 5:34. 2, FF, Meyers (Fallstrom, Stucker), 11:36.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, FF, Steele (Meyers, Meier), pp, :47. 4, FF, Farmer (Hebert, Loughran), 18:49. 5, FF, Fallstrom (Van Wyhe), sh, 19:38.
THIRD PERIOD: 1, D, Bushy (Corbett, Hunter), 6:42.
GOALIE SAVES: Dubuque, Weaver, 7-13-8--28, Durham, x-0-x--0. Fargo, Mann, 3-14-5--22.