Sioux Falls, SD--A rapid-fire first period hat trick from Fargo Force center Dominic Toninato produced an insurmountable lead for his team as they edged the Sioux Falls Stampede 5-2 at the Arena Wednesday night. C.J. Franklin and Zeb Knutson had the goals for the Herd in the seventh of eight meetings between Sioux Falls (35-14-2) and Fargo (31-16-5), while goaltender Charlie Lindgren let in four goals on 24 Force shots. The loss was the first in regulation this season for the Stampede against the Force (5-1-1).
“It was kind of an off night right away,” said Knutson, whose team still remains five points ahead of Fargo for first place in the Western Conference. “We didn’t play a full sixty minute game.”
Toninato didn’t wait long to begin his offensive onslaught for the Force, slamming in his own rebound from the left side a meager 20 seconds into the night. A Herd turnover in the left circle at 4:08 allowed the Toronto Maple Leaf draft pick to grab his second tally of the game, giving his Fargo club an early 2-0 lead. Toninato’s scoring demonstration was temporarily interrupted by a C.J. Franklin shot from the right circle off a face-off but resumed again at the 14:55 mark with another put-in from Lindgren’s stick side, leaving the Herd trailing 3-1 limping into the second period. Sioux Falls couldn’t steal the momentum despite finding several ideal looks near Fargo netminder Cameron Johnson and 17 shots on goal in the first.
Sioux Falls’ offense was held dormant by the Force in the second period until 1:43 remained when a reviewed Zeb Knutson goal brought the Herd within 3-2. Knutson looped around the net after a wide shot on a breakaway and punched the puck into Johnson’s glove and across the line, a decision that came after several minutes of discussion from the referees.
“I honestly don’t know if it was in or not,” said Knutson. “All three refs said it was a goal, so I guess it went in.”
Two more goals by the Force in the third period gave Fargo their first win in Sioux Falls this season and their fifth win in their last six road games. It was another tough night at home on the power play for Sioux Falls, close but no cigar in three efforts. The Herd now spend six of their next seven games away from home, not returning to the Arena until March 20 against the Tri-City Storm.
“We’re back on the road again, so we just need to simplify the game and take care of the first 20 minutes,” said Knutson. “Hopefully things will roll from there.”
The Herd hit the road this weekend to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids on Friday and Saturday. Game times are 7:05 PM each night and you can hear them live on KELO News Talk 1320-AM, 107.9-FM.