USHL Report: Fargo Force vs. Chicago Steel – Game 1 Analysis

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-05-15

Photo courtesy of Neutral Zone Hockey

 

 

The final seed in the East versus the top team in the West. David versus Goliath. Your hand versus the Pringles can. We’ve heard this story before: the underdog with faith on their side, against the monolith who seems undefeatable. From the start of the USHL season up until this week, the Chicago Steel had barreled through almost every defense and goaltender on their way to a spot in the finals. How, then, did the Fargo Force manage to shut them out for the first time this season, in the first game of the 2021 Clark Cup Final? There might be a lot more answers than can fit in an article, but you can read below the three main reasons this happened tonight, rather than any other night.

 

1. Bottom-Six Experience

The Fargo Force’s firepower in the top half of their lineup leaves much to be desired, with Tristan Broz being their most prolific scorer at under a point per game (51 in 54). In contrast, the Chicago Steel have a 101-point scorer in Sean Farrell (2020, 5th round, MTL), as well as another four players above the point-per-game mark – the 2021 NHL Draft crop of Matthew Coronato, Josh Doan and Matthew Samoskevich, along with Erik Middendorf (2018, undrafted). Fargo knew, coming into this game, that they were not going to win the superstar matchup. Instead, the team relied on the significant age gap between their bottom six and the Steel’s. Here is each team’s bottom six by birth year:

 

Fargo Force:  2001-2000-2000

2001-2002-2001

 

Chicago Steel: 2000-2003-2003

2002-2003-2003

 

The Force’s added size, experience and durability in the bottom half of their lineup allowed them to play favorable matchups, pairing their top defensive players against the Sean Farrell line and allowing Tristan Broz and his line mates to dominate offensively by sending them out for offensive zone faceoffs. Meanwhile, the Steel’s undersized and very young bottom-six did not manage to remain focused and disciplined throughout the game, which culminated in Dawson Pasternak’s (2003) interference penalty with three minutes left in the third period. As the game went on and the Force’s shutout continued, the Steel’s players seemed more and more uneasy, as their most effective weapon had been neutralized. Fargo had the depth and experience to make it work; Chicago didn’t. 3-0 final score, with the Force’s players hollering from the bench after every defensive play all the way through the third period.

 

 

2. Jack Peart and Scott Morrow

 It is always difficult to pin an entire win on two defenders, but the way Jack Peart and Scott