Nodler, Force win in shootout

Fargo, N.D. (Fargo Force) -- Josh Nodler went backhand in the shootout to seal a 4-3 win for the Force Wednesday night in a pre-Thanksgiving matchup with the Des Moines Buccaneers at Scheels Arena. Ryan Bischel stopped 30 of 33 shots he faced in regulation and overtime before stoning all four Des Moines shooters in the shootout to earn his sixth win of the season.

“We had to find a way to win the game and we sucked it up,” head coach Cary Eades said. "They got it to 3-3 and we didn’t crumble. We played good hockey and Bischel made the big saves in the shootout. Then Nodler went and won it for us.”

After the Force killed off a Des Moines power play, Josh Nodler opened the game’s scoring with his fifth goal of the season on a rebound play in front of the net. After the Buccaneers’ goaltender was unable to handle the initial redirect from Hank Crone, Nodler pulled the loose puck out of a scrum and fired into the empty net for his second goal against Des Moines this season. Carter Randklev also assisted on the play.

The Buccaneers outshot Fargo 24-15 in the first two periods, but Bischel kept the visitors off the board. The Medina, Minn. native earned his sixth win of the season.

Neither team took a penalty in the second and both goalies made some spectacular saves to keep the score at 1-0 in favor of the Force. A diving stop by Force captain AJ Drobot five minutes into the second negated Des Moines’ best scoring chance of the middle stanza.

“He’s a character kid all the way through,” Eades said. “A heart of gold. Plays so hard each and every day and he’s a great leader by example for us.”

The Force couldn’t get anything to go on a power play chance early in the third, but Drobot made it a two-goal game when his redirect beat the Bucs’ goalie eight seconds after the man advantage expired. Tyler Gratton got the lone assist on the captain’s second goal of the season at 6:27 of the third period.

The Force made it 3-0 with six minutes left in regulation when Crone and Nodler once again partnered up for a tic-tac-toe goal. Crone saucered the puck to Nodler, who promptly returned it to his linemate for a tap-in. Crone’s third goal of the season moves him within five points of Matt Leitner for the Force all-time record.

Three goals in three and a half minutes for the Buccaneers forced overtime, and Bischel made three key stops in the extra frame to force the shootout.

After the first seven shooters missed in the shootout, Nodler’s goal sealed the deal and sent the Force into Thanksgiving Day with two points.

“We needed the two points,” Eades said. “Sometimes it’s an ugly two points.”

With the win, Fargo moves to 8-7-2 on the year, good for fifth place in the Western Conference. The Force will head to Sioux City and Omaha this weekend for a pair of matchups against Conference competition.

The Force will return to Scheels Arena on Dec. 15-16 against the Tri-City Storm.