FARGO, ND – It took some extra hockey, but the Dubuque Fighting Saints scored in overtime of Game Three to complete the sweep of the Clark Cup Final series over the Fargo Force to capture the championship.
Fargo came out firing in the first period and capitalized on a power play goal midway through the frame to take a 1-0 lead. Austin Ortega ripped the puck into the top shelf off a perfect pass from Chris Buchanan. Dubuque would take 12 shots in the period but Force goaltender Cameron Johnson stopped them all.
Early in the second period, Brandon Carlson would get the equalizer for Dubuque. Off a scramble play in front of the net, he buried the puck for his first USHL career playoff goal, coming against his former team. Saints goaltender Arthur Brey was up to the task in the period as he stopped all 11 Fargo shots in the frame.
Just over eight minutes into the third period, Shane Sooth fired a shot that trickled past Johnson to give the Saints their first lead of the night. Dubuque was ready to celebrate a championship but Fargo wasn’t done. With the goaltender pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Alex Iafallo tied the game with just 29 seconds left to bring the crowd of 3,480 to their feet and force overtime.
It was back and forth in the extra session until Frank DiChiara took a pass from Sooth and slipped it past Johnson for the game-winner and series-clincher.
Brey stopped 29 shots to earn his ninth win of the postseason while Johnson had 40 saves in the loss. Dubuque forward Mike Szmatula was named Clark Cup Playoffs MVP as he collected 12 points (7g, 5a) over 11 playoff games, including three goals in the Clark Cup Final series.
It is the second Clark Cup title in three seasons for the Dubuque Fighting Saints and for head coach Jim Montgomery who now leaves the USHL to take over as head coach at the University of Denver.