SIOUX CITY | Matyas Svoboda has been an amazing addition for the Sioux City Musketeers.
Svoboda’s goal with 3:08 remaining in the third period off a Bauer Neudecker assist gave the Musketeers their fourth straight victory, 2-1 over the Fargo Force in a key United States Hockey League game at the Tyson Events Center Friday night.
A 6-foot-3, 219-pound native of Udlice, Czech Republic, Svoboda has scored in each of the Musketeers’ last four games, all wins over the Force. Svoboda has contributed three goals and one assist in that time frame for Coach Luke Strand’s 15-13-5 squad.
“It was actually great,” said the towering Svoboda. “We had a good breakout. I got a good pass from Bauer. I’m just trying to play my game. I want to work for a team. That’s the first thing I want to do. I’m in a good time and I’m in the right place.”
Svoboda has taken advantage of his linemates during this four-game stretch that has seen Sioux City go two games over .500 for the first time this season. Neudecker, who has a goal and five assists in nine games since coming in a December trade from Dubuque, has issued three assists to Svoboda, who celebrated his 19th birthday the day after New Year’s Day.
Martin Pospisil may have seen his six-game scoring streak come to an end, but two of his five assists in Sioux City’s longest scoring streak of the season came to Svoboda.
“I’m enjoying this,” said Svoboda. “I’m really glad I can be here. The guys are awesome. The coaches are awesome. I think it’s great here. Those two guys (Pospisil, Neudecker), I really like playing with them because of their skating. They’re working hard. That’s what I need from my teammates.”
“Matyas has been consistent,” said Strand. “He loves the game. At the end of the day, he’s a competitor. Everything he does is very competitive for himself. He’s put himself into good spots with good opportunities. I think him and Pospisil and Neudecker have been dynamite together.”
Fargo (19-11-6) lost for the first time in three games at the Tyson Events Center this season. The Force remain tied with Tri-City (21-8-2) for the Western Conference lead at 44 points, as the Storm were blanked 2-0 by Central Illinois at the Viaero Event Center in Kearney, Neb., Friday night.
Fargo scored only one goal in the “Four-Game Series” against Sioux City for the third time after rallying from a 3-1 third-period deficit to force overtime in Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout loss at Scheels Arena. The Force took the lead for the first time in the last eight days when Evan Bell scored a power-play goal with 5:48 left in the first period.
The ultra-competitive series became tied for the fourth time when the Musketeers’ Micah Miller scored his 11th goal of the season, assisted by Sampo Ranta with 15:01 left in the third period. It was Miller’s fourth goal against the Force while Ranta, Sioux City’s scoring leader with 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) made it four assists and four goals with this very familiar opponent.
Sioux City’s penalty kill stopped three Fargo man-advantage chances the rest of the way. Winning goaltender Matt Jurusik (14-10-4), the USHL’s goaltending leader with 1,641 minutes, made 15 straight saves after allowing Bell’s second goal of the season, both of which came in the series.
Fargo pulled goaltender Strauss Mann (10-5-2) with about a minute and a half left in the game in its desperate attempt to tie the contest. Jurusik made four critical stops in that time frame while winning by the 2-1 score for the eighth time this season.
There was a nervous last minute of the game when Ranta was knocked to the ice on the boards near Mann. Two team trainers lifted the 6-1, 195-pound left wing from Naantali, Finland, who was coughing up blood when he was taken to the locker room, lying on his back, not able to enjoy the team’s celebration.
“Obviously, he played hard right at the end of the game when he went into the end wall,” said Strand, unsure about Ranta’s upper-body injury or his status for tonight’s home game against Sioux Falls (17-11-6). “We’ll see about the doctor’s evaluation and see what that means. Just pray for him.”