Andy Taranto scored two goals and Mike Lee recorded 25 saves as the Fargo Force grabbed a 1-0 series lead over the Omaha Lancers thanks to a 6-2 win Friday evening at the Mid-America Center. The two teams are back in action tomorrow evening for Game 2 at the MAC.
Fargo fired the opening salvo of the series 4:40 into the first when Taranto found open space on the power play between the face off circles in ripping home his first goal of the playoffs. Colten St. Clair and Matt Leitner assisted on the goal by Taranto, who was tied for the league lead in goals during the regular season with 34 markers. The Force doubled its lead 10 minutes later when Corey Leivermann slipped a backhand between the pads of Omaha goaltender Kris Lazaruk putting Fargo in front 2-0 14:45 into the opening period. Gavin Hartzog garnered the only assist on the even strength marker.
The Lancers found their way onto the scoreboard six and a half minutes into the 2nd period when Danny Kristo pumped in his first goal of the playoffs following a rebound at the top of the Fargo goalcrease. Steven Whitney and Joe Lavin assisted on the 5-on-3 power play tally notched 6:34 into the period. Fargo bounced right back, however, and extended its lead to 4-1 following a pair of goals separated by just 50 seconds. First, Chris Stafne blistered in a one-timer from the slot for his first of the playoffs and then Taranto notched his second goal of the game finishing a shorthanded breakout by the Force. Leitner grabbed his second assist of the evening on the goal by Taranto, who paced all USHL skaters in shorthanded goals during the regular year with six.
Fargo put the game out of reach early in the 3rd period when St. Clair and Hartzog tallied just 55 seconds apart less than four minutes into the frame. St. Clair orchestrated a beautiful move at the outside of the Lancer net in getting free for his first of the postseason while Hartzog capitalized on a 2-on-1 down low for his opening goal of the playoffs. That ended the evening for Lancers starting goaltender Kris Lazaruk who surrendered six goals against in 43:25 action and recorded just 15 saves on 21 Fargo shots. Jake Hauswirth peppered in a power play goal with six and a half minutes left in regulation but it was too llttle too late for Omaha as Fargo took the early series lead.
The Lancers are back in action tomorrow evening when they return to the Mid-America Center for Game 2 of their West Division Semifinal series with Fargo.