With the two most penalized teams in the USHL, the whistle was bound to blow fast and often during the game Friday between the Lincoln Stars and Fargo Force at the Ice Box.
The Stars used momentum from the physicality and the whistle, capitalizing on chances in a 3-0 shutout by Stars' net minder Tomas Vomacka.
Vomacka picked up his second shutout of the season, stopping 16 shots, while the Stars poured on 29.
“With the two most-penalized teams in the league, and if you think it was going to be 5-on-5 the entire night is a little hopeful, but I thought our special teams was very good tonight,” Stars' coach Cody Chupp said. “We came up with some big blocks, some big clears when we needed to, and especially late in the game. Your best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and by far he was tonight, and that was the difference in the game.”
Chupp said earlier in the week if the Stars could take advantage of Fargo's penalties, he liked their chances in the matchup.
After Austen Long answered the bell to protect a teammate and was ejected in the second period, Casey Dornbach scored his fourth goal of the season just 1:09 into the second frame to give the Stars a much-needed boost and an 1-0 advantage.
“That was huge,” Dornbach said. “It's always tough playing penalty kill, power play when there is not much flow to the game.
“I thought we did a good job bouncing back, and put together a good second period with a good team effort.
Hot heads prevailed in the second period. Lincoln began the frame on the power play, and the two teams didn't combine for 10 skaters throughout the next 10 minutes until Lincoln's Paul Cotter netted his team-leading fifth goal of the year. During that time, Long was called for cross checking and roughing, then ejected for abusing an official.
The Stars also lost Christian Krygier to an ejection in the second, leaving the team down two veteran players for the rest of the contest.
Overall, the two teams combined for 68 penalty minutes.
Ashton Calder netted Lincoln's third goal in the third period on a power play as the Stars continued to take advantage of Fargo's mental mistakes and fatigue.
“Just kind of put the body on the line for the team and wanting to win,” Stars' defenseman Carter Long said. “Tonight we wanted to play in front of Tomas and play very well in the D-zone. Last weekend I don't think we played too good in front of them and (Sioux Falls) got three quickly on him.
“We played our game and it just shows when we play our game we can compete with anybody in this league.”
Lincoln plays a three-game set next week, starting at the Ice Box Wednesday against the Tri-City Storm.
USA Hockey named forward Cotter and defenseman Krygier to the U.S. Junior Select Team for the World Junior A Challenge Dec. 10-16 in Truto, Nova Scotia.
Cotter, a Western Michigan commit, will make his first international appearance and leads the Stars in goals this season. It will be the second international appearance for Krygier, a Wisconsin commit, who played on Team USA for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup this past July.
The U.S. has captured the World Junior A Challenge title six times, including the 2016 gold medal.