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Western Conference leader Sioux City knocks off Force

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Fargo, ND - Sioux City has Fargo's number in the early going of the United States Hockey League season. A 3-1 win at Scheels Arena on Friday, Jan. 6, pushed Sioux City to 4-1 against the Force, outscoring them 18-8 in the five games.

Then again, considering the Musketeers are the best team in the Western Conference, the Force aren't alone in feeling their pain.

"Well, they're a good hockey team. They have everyone's number," Force coach Cary Eades said. "They've lost six games out of (28). They're playing pretty good hockey, and they did it to us tonight. They're really well coached. They're sound defensively, and they're getting good goaltending. They're hard to play against. That's why they've only lost six regular games in (28)."

Sioux City (19-6-3) was short-handed Friday, missing its leading scorer Eeli Tolvanen to injury. The Musketeers were also without Aapeli Rasanen, who was in the World Junior Championship, and Jacob Wilson, who was out with an injury. Rasanen and Wilson are No. 3 and No. 6, respectively, in scoring for Sioux City.

"We obviously knew that some of their big guns were out, so it's frustrating, but we're going to come back tomorrow with a different mindset and make sure we play a full 60," Fore left winger Hank Crone said.

Eades didn't want to hear about the woes of Sioux City.

"We're short-handed too. We've got three of our top nine forwards out. Both teams are missing some players," Eades said. "They outplayed us and won the hockey game. They played a good road game. It was a real frustrating game for us."

Crone opened the scoring 33 seconds into the second period when Cody Haiskanen found him in the left circle with just Sioux City goalie Matiss Kivlenieks in front of him. Crone fired and the Force (16-11-2) had a 1-0 lead.

"Just like tonight, you can see, if we don't play a full 60 minutes it's not going to work out," Crone said. "Just some breakdowns defensively. If you don't come to play every shift they're going to take advantage of it."

Carson Vance's wrister slipped over Force goalie Matt Murray's shoulder to tie things up seven minutes later for Sioux City. Solag Bakich's wrister did the same less than two minutes later to put the Musketeers up 2-1.

"We had some chances, but we were too perimeter," Eades said. "Lost face-off turned into a comedy of errors and the puck in the back of the net for the first goal, and sleeping on a forecheck, long bomb, 3-on-2 to a breakaway. We played a real good game, but they capitalized on some errors and forced us into errors."

The Force were 12-4-2 in their last 18, heading into Friday's game, but Brian Rigali's goal on the empty net with 1:06 sealed Friday's loss for the Force.

"They're a good hockey team. We can't have the letdowns at times," Eades said. "I thought both goaltenders were outstanding. Could have been a 5-4 game either way, but we need more."

FIRST PERIOD: no scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, F, Crone (Haiskanen), 0:33. 2, SC, Vance (Rigali), 7:26. 3, SC, Bakich (MacLean, Pospisil), 9:18.

THIRD PERIOD: 4, SC, Rigali, 18:54, empty net.

SAVES: SC, Kivlenieks 9-16-9—34. F, Murray 7-7-9—23

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