In the spring of 2019, Cary Eades decided to give up his head coaching role with the Fargo Force to spend more time in his position as the team's general manager.

One reason Eades felt comfortable making the move was his hand-picked successor, Grand Forks native Pierre-Paul Lamoureux. Although Lamoureux was just 31 years old at the time, Eades considered him ready to be a head coach in the United States Hockey League after watching Lamoureux grow as a student assistant at UND and as an assistant and associate head coach with the Force.

So, Eades is not surprised to see Fargo in its current spot.

After a stunning rally in the USHL quarterfinals, the Force will begin their best-of-three semifinal series at 7:05 p.m. tonight in Sioux City. They will return home for Game 2 at 6:05 p.m. Saturday in Scheels Arena. If necessary, Game 3 will be played at 7:05 p.m. Monday in Sioux City.

"We didn't have playoffs last year," Eades said of Lamoureux's first year at the helm. "It was really too bad. We were like 7-1-1 in the last nine games before the season ended. We thought we were in really good shape to make a run. Like the rest of the world, things came crashing down. We're really excited this weekend for him and our organization."

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Last weekend, Fargo was on the brink of elimination against Western Conference champion Tri-City. The Storm won Game 1 and were 77 seconds away from advancing to the semifinals, holding a one-goal lead late in Game 2.

But Lamoureux pulled goalie Brennan Boynton for an extra attacker and got the tying goal when Roseau's Aaron Huglen tipped home a pass from linemate Tristan Broz. In overtime, Huglen made a nifty behind-the-back feed to his other linemate, Cody Monds, for the winner.

The next night, Fargo won 3-2 to advance.

Since Lamoureux took over as head coach, Chicago is the only USHL team with more victories than Fargo.

"He's got a real bright future in the game," Eades said. "He's a real student of the game. He does a lot of work, watches a lot of video, listens to people, goes to conferences. . . he's been a real sponge from the time he ended his playing days and joined us at North Dakota as a student assistant and he's carried it on here. He's got a bright future."

Eades said Lamoureux has several notable strengths.

"He's a really good communicator," Eades said. "He cares. Players can see that. It's that old saying about coaching: 'They don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care.' That fits Pierre really well. He's a caring person, he's intense, he pushes players to play at the highest level they can, but he's also a good people person and he loves them."

Lamoureux has had success with local and area players, too.

Roseau's Huglen, Grand Forks Red River's Mason Salquist, Grand Forks Central's Tucker Hodgson and Warroad's Grant Slukynsky have all been regulars this season for the Force.

Fargo is looking to win its second Clark Cup in franchise history.

It won its first in 2018, beating Youngstown in the final. Eades was the head coach of that team and Lamoureux was the associate head coach.

To get back to the Clark Cup Finals, the Force will have to go through the hottest team in the USHL in Sioux City. The Musketeers, who have UND commit Matteo Costantini on the roster, are 14-1 in their last 15 games.

"They've really been on a roll," Eades said. "They've done a really nice job of building their team and growing their team. They had to really battle to get in the playoffs. Now, they've eliminated Omaha. We know we have our work cut out for us. We just beat the No. 1 team in the Western Conference in their rink. We're looking forward to a big Game 1 in Sioux City and also the home game Saturday night in Fargo."

USHL wins since 2019 (regular season + playoff)

81 - Chicago

59 - Fargo

57 - Dubuque

57 - Omaha

57 - Muskegon

55 - Tri-City

55 - Waterloo

54 - Green Bay

49 - Sioux City

47 - Des Moines

47 - Team USA

39 - Sioux Falls

32 - Youngstown

19 - Cedar Rapids*

12 - Madison*

* Did not play in 2020-21