OK Force fans. You know the situation. Win and your boys force a Game 5 and a chance at the Western Conference Finals.
Lose and the only season left is the one that involves golf clubs.
We’ve done previews for every game in the Force-Lincoln Stars’ Western Conference semifinal series. But for this one, we’re changing the format. We’ll look at offense, defense and goaltending. Though instead of looking at a player, we’re going to take a look at what the Force have to do right to keep the series alive or what the Stars have to do to end this bad boy for good.
What the Force have to do right: Score. Score early. Score often. Score at rate like Bernie Madoff was ripping off the Tri-State Area. That’s no joke. Goals have been at a premium for both teams and any team who can score first, as Lincoln proved in Game 4, certainly has an advantage. If the Force can get goals, especially from the BBC Line (Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota)-Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan), it makes this team that more dangerous. We know that, you know that and Ringo over there definitely knows that.
What the Stars have to do right: Find a way to own that first period. As we’ve mentioned, scoring helps. But something Stars forward Dominik Shine (Northern Michigan) said at Thursday’s practice is if the Stars play their game, they can control the tempo. That will be important given the Force are: A.) More desperate than an ABC show in its final season. B.) Have nothing to lose by trying everything possible to get going and C.) Are the kind of team that once they get momentum and build on it, they are harder to stop. If the Stars use that controlling, physical brand to establish their command, it increases the chances of a series-clinching victory. If not, then prepare for a Game 5.
What the Force have to do right: Clearing traffic in Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) is certainly a start. Gothberg’s view wasn’t clear when Lincoln scored its opening goal last game and it doesn’t help his case the Stars are basically a bunch of redwoods on skates given their height. Aside from clearing traffic in front of net, another thing to get right would be spacing. Lincoln uses its spacing on the power play but they stretch the ice when they operate in the opposition’s zone. If there’s a way for the Force to make the ice smaller and in Gothberg’s case, clearer, it will go a long way.
What the Stars have to do right: Keep making sure the Force do not get in good position for the rebounds. Stars goaltender Charles Williams (Ferris State) has been solid but if there’s a flaw, it would be the rebounds he allows. It just appears there have been more times where Lincoln’s defensemen can position themselves to not be vulnerable to a rebound giving up a goal. The Force must find a way to take advantage of those second and possible third chances. It’s pretty clear: The Force must capitalize like a second-grader on a spelling test.
What the Force must do right: Truthfully? Just give Gothberg a chance to do his job. Much has been said about this team but one thing nobody can question is how Gothberg has performed these playoffs. Let Gothberg be himself and if that happens, the Force have more than just a chance at forcing a Game 5.
What the Stars must do right: Give Williams help around the net. When the Force buzz the net, that’s when they are at their strongest. If there’s a way to clear the net for Williams so he can make easier saves, they must do it. Otherwise, same thing that applied to Gothberg applies to Williams. Just let him keep doing his thing.