FARGO-The last memory former Moorhead hockey standout and Fargo Force winger Carter Randklev had of playoff hockey was a one-goal loss to St. Michael-Albertville in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship game in March. He had the puck on his stick with a shot to tie that game, but went high at the buzzer.
He didn't miss Tuesday at Scheels Arena in the United States Hockey League playoff opener for the Force, scoring two goals and dishing out an assist in a 5-1 Force win. The Force will look to send Tri-City home for the summer Wednesday in the best-of-three series.
"It definitely felt good," Randklev said. "It kind of brought back old memories in the playoffs obviously with high school and the Moorhead Spuds, but to move on to the next level and kind of hop into playoffs again with a new team it's been great."
Randklev started his first USHL playoff game with a bang. William Fallstrom fought a puck out of the corner to the stick of Randklev, who fired a wrister top shelf from the right circle a little more than seven minutes into the game. His dad and grandpa were in the crowd. Randklev said he didn't see his grandpa, but he can hear his dad in the crowd.
"I obviously haven't scored (in the USHL) since before high school season, so to get the first one back it felt really good," Randklev said.
Sammy Steele sent a pass to the slot from the left circle and Robbie Stucker found the back of the net on a one-timer almost exactly three minutes after Randklev scored to put the Force up 2-0.
Tri-City has lost 14 of 16 games since its starting goalie and Detroit Red Wings draft pick Filip Larsson went down with an injury. The Force scored two goals on six shots in the first period on Jake Barczewski. It didn't help matters for the Storm that Force goalie Strauss Mann was locked in on the other end, stopping all 11 shots that came his way in the first.
It didn't take long for the Force to strike again, as Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup's redirect on the power play gave them a 3-0 lead 2:23 into the second. On their ninth shot of the night, AJ Drobot finished off a nice game of tic-tac-toe to make it 4-0. Jordan Seyfert found Randklev in the right circle and Randklev put the puck right on Drobot's stick in front of the net less than six minutes into the second.
Tyler Ward broke the shutout with 25.7 seconds left in the second for Tri-City, but the Storm would get no closer. Randklev took away any hope with his second goal of the night less than five minutes into the third to seal it.
"He was a spark for us," Force coach Cary Eades said. "Scored two goals, that first one was really nice. Pulled it, changed the angle, snapped it far side and went to the net on the second one. Carter's been practicing real hard here, trying to get acclimated back to junior hockey level. Tonight was a big game for him. I'm sure it'll boost his confidence."
The line of Randklev, Drobot and Seyfert finished with three goals and seven points. Seyfert won a Clark Cup with the Chicago Steel last season. He sees a champion-level team in the Force locker room.
"I see it more than I do last year, 100 percent," Seyfert said. "Every guy in there works their ass off every day, tries to get the work done that needs to get done. Everybody has the same goal in mind, especially our coaching staff. They pound it in our head every day and get us going and make us want to win, so I definitely can smell (a Clark Cup) coming to Fargo, North Dakota."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, F, Randklev (Fallstrom, McDonald), 7:08. 2, F, Stucker (Steele), 10:13.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, F, Schmidt-Svejstrup (Bell, Stucker), 2:23, pp. 4, F, Drobot (Randklev, Seyfert), 5:32. 5, TC, Ward (Hawkinson, Koster), 19:35.
THIRD PERIOD: 6, F, Randklev (Seyfert, Drobot), 4:54.
SAVES: TC, Barczewski 4-6-6-16. F, Mann 11-11-10-32.