We’re a few days away from the Lincoln Stars-Fargo Force series resuming and you’ve probably noticed some familiar names.
That is if you are a University of North Dakota hockey fan.
There are several storylines between the Stars and the Force and one of them happens to be the ties both teams have to North Dakota. Both coaches – the Force’s John Marks and the Stars’ Chad Johnson – played at North Dakota.
Don’t forget the players either. Between the two teams they each have two players committed to North Dakota.
So here they are, the faces – past and future – of North Dakota hockey and the affect they could have in this series.
Chad Johnson, head coach: Johnson might have the most local ties of anyone involved in the series. The Grand Forks native played forward at North Dakota where he was a sixth-round selection of the New Jersey Devils back in 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Following his playing career became a coach. His first head coaching job came when he ran the Minot Muskies for a season and then took over the Bismarck Bobcats from 2001 to 2005. Johnson then moved east to Fargo where he was the head coach for the Fargo-Moorhead Jets for three seasons until the Force came to town. He was an assistant with the Force for two seasons until he left to become the head coach of the Stars. Johnson, in his first season, helped the Stars recover from one of the worst seasons in franchise history to reach the playoffs. He’s now two games away from leading the team to the Western Conference Finals.
-Luke Johnson, forward: Luke Johnson is Chad Johnson’s nephew and the son of former Force coach, former North Dakota star and current St. Cloud State assistant, Steve Johnson. Luke Johnson has starred in his first season in Lincoln scoring 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists) in 55 games. The 17-year-old Johnson did this after being a year removed from North Dakota power Grand Forks Central. He scored 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) in 25 games last season. In his time at playing at Grand Forks Red River and Grand Forks Central, Luke Johnson amassed 120 points (47 goals, 73 assists) in 94 games. Johnson’s offensive prowess helped Lincoln win the Western Conference regular season title. He has one more season before heading to North Dakota.
-Paul LaDue, defenseman: Like Luke Johnson, LaDue left home early after an extremely successful junior season at Grand Forks Central. LaDue helped Central to a state title and he was named an all-state selection and was named to the all-tournament team. He put up 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 27 games that season. He left high school and played last season in Alexandria (NAHL) where he put up 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games. LaDue’s season resulted in him being named an NAHL All-Rookie, second team selection along with getting drafted by the Stars. Since coming to the Stars, he has developed into what could be the team’s best defenseman. LaDue scored 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists) in 56 games this season playing in a variety of roles. LaDue was used everywhere from the last minute of games to power play situations to penalty kill situations and every in between. He is expected to be at North Dakota next season.
-John Marks, head coach: Marks spent three seasons at the University of North Dakota and was taken in the first round of the 1968 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks after his freshman year. Marks went on to have a successful NHL career spanning a decade before he got back into coach. He was an assistant at North Dakota for three seasons. Marks was a head coach in the ECHL for a number of years and this year was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame. Marks returned to the state last summer to take over the Force becoming the franchise’s fourth coach in as many years. He helped the team overcome a slow start to win nine games in a row and has them two wins away from their third Western Conference Finals appearance in four seasons.
-Bryn Chyzyk, forward: Perhaps no player on the Force’s roster benefited more from this season than Chyzyk. He went from a relative unknown in training camp to becoming the team’s most complete and arguably most popular player. Chyzyk brought a two-way style of hockey to the team constantly pressuring while on the penalty kill and buzzing the net while at even strength or the power play. Chyzyk’s play led to North Dakota offering him a scholarship which he accepted in February. Chyzyk will play next season in Grand Forks resulting in his lone USHL season where he scored 49 points (28 goals, 21 assists) in 57 games.
-Zane Gothberg, goaltender: Here’s the one man who could argue with Chyzyk about having a more beneficial season. Gothberg, a Boston Bruins draft pick, enjoyed one of the best seasons of any player in the USHL this year. He went 26-16-7 with a 2.22 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts. He sent the franchise records for most wins in a season, lowest GAA in a season (a record he actually set last season), most shutouts in a season, most shutouts in a career, most wins in a career and lowest GAA in a career. He’s continued that strong season throughout the playoffs by going 3-1 with a 1.46 GAA and an impressive .947 save percentage. He’s currently tied for the playoff lead in wins, leads the league in GAA, leads the league in save percentage and minutes. Gothberg will join Chyzyk and LaDue next season at North Dakota.