Fargo Force claims first USHL Clark Cup championship
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—The Fargo Force overcame the Covelli Centre turning into a ghostly House of Horrors to capture their first United States Hockey League championship.
With 3 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in regulation, former Phantoms defenseman Ty Farmer scored the tie-breaking goal to lift the Force to Saturday's 4-2 victory for a 3-1 series triumph in the Clark Cup Finals.
"It means a lot," Farmer said of clinching the Clark Cup trophy back where he began his USHL career. "I spent the majority of my time in this league here. I don't know—I'm sorry, I'm speechless."
Farmer played 39 games for the Phantoms in the 2014-15 season, then 19 the following season. He began the 2016-17 season at Youngstown then finished with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Last summer, the Massachusetts-Amherst recruit joined the Force.
"You hate seeing it," Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said with a smile of Farmer's Cup-clinching goal. "But at the same time Ty did a lot for us. He was here for a long time. I love him to death. We still have a great relationship. He'll go on to school, he'll do great things. Do I like it that he scored? No, but at the end of the day you want guys who come through your program to have good things and I'd be hard-pressed to say anything other than that. He had a great series."
Farmer spoke moments after he skated with the Clark Cup overhead.
"I wouldn't want to do it with any other group of guys," Farmer said. "It's amazing."
Farmer said he received kind words from his former teammates during the handshake line.
"They were all supportive and real happy for me," Farmer said.
Griffin Loughran, another former Phantom, was named Clark Cup Playoffs most valuable player after scoring seven goals.
"He should have," Patterson said.
Last season, Loughran played nine games for the Phantoms, then joined the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays. He arrived in Fargo last summer and scored 18 goals and 42 points in 50 regular-season games.
"Unbelievable, especially here," Loughran said of clinching the title in Youngstown. "Me and Farmer, we played here last year so it's even more special with this group of guys, especially on this ice."
Loughran said the Force were departing for the 19-hour bus ride home right after the on-ice celebration ends.
"The bus ride, that's where you build memories that will last a lifetime," Loughran said. "It's going to be the longest and best bus ride of our life."
Much of the first period was played in a fog. Covelli officials said Saturday's power outage downtown combined with the high humidity outside to create dangerous conditions. Pregame fireworks smoke contributed.
Three times, play was halted so the players could skate to disperse the ghostly mist. Neither team scored in the choppy opening period.
Force defenseman Evan Bell, who scored the fluky long-range goal in Friday's 3-2 victory, snapped the scoreless tie with a power-play goal 5:15 into the second period. Robbie Stucker and Grant Hebert assisted.
Ten minutes later, Garrett Van Whye made it 2-0 with a goal set up by Spencer Meier.
Like Game 3, the Phantoms came on strong late. Matthew Barry ignited the Phantoms by scoring with 39 seconds remaining in the second period. Then with 3:43 gone in the third, Curtis Hall tied the game.
The Phantoms dominated play the next 10 minutes, then sagged a bit just before Farmer's goal, struggling to get the puck out of their end.
Mark Senden scored an empty-net goal with a second left and officials declared the game over.