All Around The World…

Fargo Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis said defenseman Victor Bjorkung (Maine) will play with the team next season.

Bjorkung, 19, was a late-round selection last month in the USHL Entry Draft.

“We just offered him last week and he’s coming for sure,” Davis said. “He had to work on getting his visa and stuff like that. He got everything in place and booked his plane tickets and he’s coming to play in our league. The rumors that he was looking at other options are pretty much all done.”

Bjorkung has spent three of his last four seasons playing with the Djurgarden program in his native Sweden. He also spent a season with Malmo. He played 42 games last season scoring 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) for the U-20 team. In the 2010-11 season, he split time between Djugarden’s U-18 Elite Team, the program’s U-18 Allsvenskan and one game in the Super Elite league.

Between the three leagues, he scored 27 points in 38 games. Altogether, he played in 120 games scoring 77 points during his time in Sweden.

Davis previously said leading up to the draft the team hadn’t heard about Bjorkung but kept hearing his name come up from various parties.

Those same parties told Davis that Bjorkung had accepted a scholarship to play at Maine but was also weighing options to play professionally back in Sweden. It is why the Force took him in the later rounds and it’s what Davis called taking a pick on a player whose still sorting over their future.

“He’s all set to come over and we spoke with his father,” Davis said. “Now they’re just trying to figure out what to bring over. I just told them to pack some warm clothes.”

Bjorkung has been described as a, “high-end, skilled defenseman” at the time the Force took him in the draft. The plan would be for Bjorkung to play on the power play, which was one of the best in the entire USHL last season.

Getting the 6-foot, 174-pound Bjorkung could also help make up for the losses the Force’s blueline have suffered this off-season. The Force were already losing Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and potential second-round selection Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) to college for next season.

Shortly after training camp, the team lost Taylor Richart who accepted a scholarship from Miami (Ohio), where he will be playing next season.

It leaves the Force with at least four defensemen expected to return from last year’s team in Justin Wade (Notre Dame), Dominic Racobaldo, Neal Goff and Taylor Fleming. Defenseman David Mead’s future is still up in the air with the team which could leave another opening on the blueline.

The returning four defenseman plus Bjorkung and tender signee Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) give the Force at least six justified defensemen before heading into their pre-season camp which will begin in August.

Nothin’ On You…

Turns out the chat between Miami (Ohio) and Taylor Richart turned out to be a good one after all.

Richart committed to Miami on Friday and will be at the school for the fall bringing his tenure with the Force to an end after one season, which was certainly successful.

He was only one of two players to play all of the team’s 60 games last season and put up an offensive punch every now and again by scoring 16 points. Richart burst onto the scene picking up the league’s defenseman of the week award to open the season.

Richart might not have put up the numbers as he did finish outside the Top 25 among defensemen in points. Yet what he did do was give the Force a defenseman comfortable enough to play in every scenario.

The 5-9, 160 pound Richart was part of a power play and a penalty kill which finished in the Top 5 last season helping the Force overcome a torrid start to end the season in fourth heading into the playoffs.

Richart to Miami started to really generate momentum after the Force’s tryout camp, which was held last week here in the Minneapolis area. Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis addressed the rumors Richart committed right after camp stating both Richart and Miami were seen talking to each other in the lobby of the rink where the camp was held.

His departure now means the Force have lost two players for next season who could have come back. Forward Jonny Brodzinski, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Richart, said weeks ago he will play next season at St. Cloud State.

Richart’s departure also means the Force’s defense will have a bit of a different look. He becomes the third defenseman to leave the team meaning Justin Wade (Notre Dame), will be the team’s only Top 4 returning defenseman.

It appears, at least for now, Wade will be joined by fellow returners Neal Goff, Taylor Fleming and Dominic Racobaldo. Defenseman David Mead’s future with the team is in flux after he was one of four Force players selected in the NAHL Draft.

Assuming the Force only return four defensemen, the team does have its options. Tender signee Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) will be on the roster next year as league rules require the Force to dress him in a specific amount of games.

Though the Force do have plenty of options. Entry draft pick Charles Hemstrom appears to be one of the players the Force will rely upon to fill that void. Hemstrom spent last season in the NAHL and was a plus-19 in 38 games last season. Davis hinted weeks ago Hemstrom will make the team  when he said Hemstrom fit the one of the needs the Force would have for the 2012-13 season.

Another option could be another entry draft pick Victor Bjorkung (Maine), who is also weighing offers to turn professional in his native Sweden.

This also means there’s a stronger chance both Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota) and Dante Suffredini among others could be included in the team’s plans for next season.

Pelnik, who at 6-4 and 185 pounds, might have been the team’s most vaunted prospect for the entire year. He committed to North Dakota at 15 becoming the first person from North Carolina to do so.

It was expected for Pelnik to play for the Force last season but he spent the season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS) to further his development.

Suffredini, however, spent last season at Detroit Honeybaked playing midgets.

With You Friends…

Fargo Force chief scout Jesse Davis told the team’s website on Sunday defensemen  Dominic Racobaldo and Taylor Richart will be back next year.

The Force had a story on their blog looking at the college options of players such as forward Dave Gust, Racobaldo and Richart. Gust, who will be back next season, told Slightly Chilled during the playoffs he’d hope to have a decision made by the summer.

Having Racobaldo and Richart return adds to what could be an experienced defense which could have a hard time allowing any new faces to break into the frame.

Racobaldo was part of an early season trade with Omaha and his addition gave the Force a physical edge which it showed against Lincoln in the second round of the USHL Playoffs.

Richart, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Force forward Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), gave the Force a consistent top-4 defenseman with offensive upside. His 16 points were third among the team’s defensemen.

The Force, barring any changes, will lose two defenseman in captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth).

It appears next year’s defense could feature Richart, Racobaldo, Justin Wade (Notre Dame), Neal Goff, David Mead and Taylor Fleming among its returning players practically giving the Force six defensemen to roll with.

Those six defensemen, assuming that’s what the Force have by the time training camp starts, would give the team one of the most experienced and potentially promising blue lines in the USHL next season.

Wade developed into the stay-at-home, shutdown defenseman many had expected this season and still can continue his development. Fleming and Goff, both first-year players, developed throughout the year with Goff being extremely vital in the playoffs in a forward-defenseman hybrid role. Racobaldo and Mead added a physicality the team was lacking earlier in the year while Richart could be a culmination of all those assets.

The Force will also be adding 16-year-old defenseman Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) to next year’s roster. Ghafari was the team’s first and only tender signing this season. Tender signings, per league rules, prompt teams to dress a player in a specified amount of games meaning Ghafari would feature frequently for the Force.

Ghafari, who is already 5-11 and 185 pounds, will feature in at least half of the team’s games next season.

Having Ghafari would give the team seven defensemen already and that’s not even including the much-talked about Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota).

Pelnik was the Force’ tenth overall in last season’s Futures Draft and was expected to play for the team this season until it was determined he needed more development before coming to the Force.

Pelnik, who is 6-4 and 185 pounds, spent this season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS) where he played in 44 games and put up 11 points.

Ghafari and Pelnik are two of three defensemen the Force had on its affiliates list this year who could come in and play next season. The other, Dante Suffredini, played 26 games for Detroit Honeybaked this season.

Of course all that could change as the USHL Entry Draft is on May 22.

The Entry Draft allows teams will holes to fill for the upcoming season or the foreseeable future. It appears the Force should have quite a bit to work with at defense for next season but it’s possible the team could still draft more defensemen.

In Defense Of The Genre…

There are plenty of reasons why the Fargo Force were able to reach the USHL Playoffs.

One of them was the Force’s defense, which statistically ranks as one of the Top 3 defenses in the entire league. It also happens to be arguably the best in the entire Western Conference.

Conference-wise, the Force had the lowest goals allowed total in the West. In the league, they were third. Throw in a penalty kill which ranked third in the league and it is easy to see why the Force could be an attractive choice to make when it comes to picking a Western Conference champion.

So how does a defense like this work? We asked the boys on the blueline to either define their role on the team or what makes this one of the USHL’s best defenses. Here’s what they had to say:

On what makes this one of the league’s best defenses:

“First thing is we don’t spend a lot of time playing with the puck. If we play with it turns into a turnover. Secondly, gap control. Thirdly, just pressure to the corners. Just the defensive zone always keeping the guy in front. I’d say those are three things we do well,” – Dominic Racobaldo

“What makes it works is everyone knows all the defenses in our system. We have certain players who compliment each other pretty well. We’ll back up each other and we can read each other pretty well,”  – Justin Wade (Notre Dame)

“Honestly, we do the little things right. We are not flashy. We are not looking to get points every single night. We’re a grinder, defensive team. We get in our defensive zone. We contribute in the offensive zone. Contributing in the offensive zone helps us in the defensive zone,” – David Mead

“Coach has us paired up with the right guy. You can take me and Wade. He’s a really physical guy and I am not the most physical guy. I am skilled guy and he’s more of a physical guy and we even each other out a lot. That goes all the way down. T-Bone plays really well with Rocco. One’s a small guy and the other is a big guy. Cooper and Fleming. Both are littler guys but they can wheel around,” – Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth)

 

On what your role is on this defense:

“My role is to bring energy every night. I’d describe myself as a puck-moving defenseman. My role is to make good plays, make good breakouts and regroup when its over. That’s my role as a defenseman,” – Taylor Fleming

“I think my role is kind of getting the puck out and blocking shots. Doing the grinding stuff. If I get a chance to jump up into the play, then I will but its mainly knowing where to be at all times.” – Taylor Richart

“Just more of bringing my ‘A’ game everyday. If things are not going well, I just want to simplify it a bit. Just throwing my points in here and there to help out the team and knowing that the guys can trust me. That I can be a safety valve. I want to be out there the last minute-and-a half whether we are up a goal or down a goal. I want to be the rock,” – Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha)

Stick of Dynamite…

Whether the Force stay fourth in the Western Conference or move up the standings, they used Friday to prove they are ready for the playoffs to get here.

Black and Blue used an 8-0 victory over Sioux Falls in what was the team’s most domineering win all season given the large cushion. It was the largest margin of victory the Force have had all year. The victory was the team’s fourth in a row, which is the longest active winning streak in the USHL.

It was also a game where some records were set too.

-Zane Gothberg, goaltender, North Dakota: Getting the feeling he might be on to something special? Gothberg’s victory now gives him 39 career victories, the most by a goaltender in the team’s four-year history. He also now has seven shutouts too. In all, Gothberg owns the franchise records for: most shutouts in a season, most shutouts in a career, most wins in a career, lowest goals against average in a season, lowest goals against average in a career, best save percentage in a career and best save percentage in a season. If he gets two more wins, he owns the franchise records for most wins in a season. Oh, he made 30 saves in the victory too. So yeah, he’s done nothing at all this year.

-Bryn Chyzyk, forward, North Dakota: Chyzyk picked up a goal and an assist giving him three points in two games. He, to our knowledge, hasn’t set any franchise records but he is further cementing what’s been one of the better individual seasons in Force history this year. Chyzyk, as its been documented, came in as an unknown and will leave Fargo for North Dakota in a few months time. He has 46 points in 53 games this season. Once again, not a bad season.

-Dave Gust, forward: Gust had his second straight two-goal game in the win for four points in his last two games. His 13 goals and 15 assists in 39 games has given the Force another dimension down the stretch. Gust and the rest of High School Musical are also giving people a glimpse at what could be one of the more potent lines in the USHL for next season. Though if they have it their way, they could prove it during the playoffs too.

-Gabe Guertler, forward, Minnesota: Speaking of the Musical, its ring leader was back at it with his second straight, two-assist game. Guertler, like Gust, now has four points in his last two games. He now has 26 points in 52 games and as a rookie that isn’t too bad. Between the Gophers vying for a national title and the Miami Heat being title favorites, life’s good for the Force’s favorite Floridian.

-Justin Wade, defenseman, Notre Dame: Yep. We know now for sure the End of Days are around the corner. Wade scored again. Guy went 60-plus games without a goal yet he has scored two goals since Feb. 25. Wade went plus-2 giving him his third straight plus-2 performance. No one is complaining about his recent offensive production. But combine his shutdown ability with the fact he could pick up a helper here and there and he’s showing why this Force defense is deceptively good.

-Dominic Racobaldo, defenseman: The Roc knew his role and made others shut their mouths picking up two assists in the win. Roc, believe it or not, has 10 points in the 43 games he’s played with the Force. Looking back at the Racobaldo-Tanner Lane trade, it appears the Force might have gotten the better end of this deal given what Racobaldo has brought to the team. He brings a physical edge. He brings a shutdown capability yet more than anything, he’s another presence on the league’s second best defense.

-The defense: They are the second-best defense in the league. Seriously. That’s no joke people. They’ve given up the least amount of goals in the Western Conference and the second-least in the entire USHL. It might seem a bit improbable given the hideous start to the season where the team lost 13 of 15, but the defense has really helped turn things around this year. With Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Taylor Richart, they have a nastiness. Between Racobaldo and Wade, they have two physical bodies who don’t mind delivering a punishing hit. Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and Taylor Fleming also provide some offensive skill. And don’t forget David Mead and Neal Goff too. Mead’s game isn’t too flashy but he has been efficient. Same with Goff, who was really starting to progress prior to his suspension. These guys also have the third-best penalty kill in the entire USHL too. Face it Force fans. Your defensive corps is as good as it gets in the league.

Hit The Lights…

If there was a drawback from Moorhead goaltender Michael Bitzer’s state tournament it could be it diminished his chances of playing closer to home next season.

Fargo Force assistant and chief scout Jesse Davis said a few days ago Bitzer’s performance was enough to get him recognized by multiple clubs in the USHL including the Force.

“He’s proved himself time and time again and not just this year,” Davis said. “I think being from Moorhead, we just took him for granted but he proved himself and he’s a guy that we are going to be looking at for sure. His stock has definitely gone up and unfortunately everyone in our league saw him too.”

Bitzer helped Moorhead upset No. 3 seed, Eagan, with a 34-save performance in a 4-0 victory. He helped Moorhead advance to the semifinals where it lost to state runner-up Hill-Murray. Moorhead then went on to the third place game where it lost to Lakeville South and Mr. Hockey winner Justin Kloos (Minnesota) to end the tournament.

Bitzer’s week resulted in him going 1-2 with a 1.00 goals against average, making the all-tournament team, becoming the first goaltender to ever win the Herb Brooks Award and winning the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s Best Senior Goaltender.

He had already signed a tender with Alexandria (NAHL) but it appears Bitzer could be taken by a team in the upcoming USHL Entry Draft on May 22 leaving him choosing between the NAHL and the USHL, which is the primary pipeline for Division programs.

Davis, one of the premier scouts in the USHL, said state tournaments give scouts a chance to get one more impression about a player and whatever questions there were about Bitzer were answered.

“For me personally when I come and watch them in settings like this its a lot different character of the kid because there’s a trophy involved in the end,” Davis said. “There is pressure, everyone’s watching them. You have 19,000 people in the stands and for me its more than watching a regular game. This means something for sure.”

Scouts like Davis are constantly on the road checking out various tournaments this time of year while their teams are getting ready for a playoff run.

Davis spent last week scouting in Michigan along with taking in the Minnesota state hockey tournament while the Force won two consecutive games holding on to third place in the Western Conference.

Davis said he’s looking for good players but players who can fit within the Force’s system whether it be now or a few years down the road. Planning, however, can be difficult considering junior hockey players’ futures are never concrete.

Take the Force. Davis said defensemen Taylor Richart and Dominic Racobaldo have been getting approached by colleges and there’s a chance they could be gone next season. If so, that’s two more defensemen the team have to replace.

The Force, in all, are going to at least lose seven players next season to college including goaltender Zane Gothberg (North Dakota/Boston), who won the Frank Brimsek Award back in 2010.

With Gothberg leaving and the Force having one returning goaltender, Reed Peters, it would make sense to draft Bitzer.

“We got guys right now that are going to be returning to our team but that changes with the college commitment,” Davis said. “It is going to come down to draft day and plugging in some holes. I can tell you if we were to draft today, it’d be one way but when we draft on May 22, it could be something different.”

El Burrito de Belén…

When Force forward Bryn Chyzyk said he was going to accept food, he wasn’t joking.

Chyzyk (North Dakota) drafted teammate Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) on Tuesday for the team’s upcoming skills competition on Sunday. The draft was held after practice and the teams where chosen by Chyzyk and Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth).

Chyzyk chose Hargrove with his second pick and then shipped him to Farley’s team in exchange for Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and a Qdoba burrito. Yep. You read that right. Hargrove was traded for a burrito.

“You know, me and Farley have some creative minds,” Chyzyk said about the trade. “We tossed it around in our heads and I decided to pull the trigger.”

Don’t worry. Chyzyk will not have to worry about trading a side order of nachos at a later date or anything like that.

He and Farley, who are close friends, actually know what one another order from Qdoba so Chyzyk knows what to expect.

Chyzyk, who was tongue-in-cheek during most of the interview, did joke about explaining to Hargrove why he did trade him.

“We shook his hand and told him we hope for the best,” Chyzyk said. “We told him there were no hard feelings. Now let’s see if he gives me the puck on Friday.”

Trading Hargrove, who is from Texas, for a burrito was only part of the story of the draft. Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner said Corrin showed up to the draft wearing sweat paints but had a suit jacket on treating it as if this was an actual draft.

Baumgartner and Chyzyk both said Corrin showed up stating how he was going to be the No. 1 pick, or at least a first-rounder. Corrin was taken second by Farley before being traded for Hargrove and the burrito.

“Oh, he thought he was going first and that’s because he’s the oldest guy on the team,” Chyzyk said. “He’s starting to lose his hair and he needs a wheelchair. The old guy did look good today.”

He then joked about how he didn’t know if Corrin was worth a burrito but he’ll find out on Sunday.

The first overall pick of the draft belonged to Farley and he selected first-year forward Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth), who has scored 22 points this season and is fourth on the team in points while defenseman Taylor Richart was the draft’s second overall pick.

Chyzyk said he was pleased with how the draft went and said Nate Arentz, who he drafted, could be the skills challenge sleeper to watch.

“He’s an underrated guy on the team,” said Chyzyk, who actually took Arentz with his third pick. “I feel like he’s going to wipe up in the fastest skater competition just from looking at the things he’s done in practice.”

Though there is one thing to note about the draft.

Defensemen Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Justin Wade (Notre Dame) were the last two players taken in the draft.

Isn’t it kind of weird that the two guys who could get taken in this summer’s NHL Draft were chosen last?

“It is a little bit of a coincidence I would say,” Chyzyk said. “They are a couple of defensive-minded guys in an offensive game but I am glad we got Cooper in the last round. I think he could win the hardest shot competition.”

Below are a list of the teams:

Team Chyzyk: Chyzyk, Richart, Arentz, Reed Peters, Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Taylor Fleming, Nick Stoskopf, David Mead, Pavel Zykov, Cooper.

Team Farley: Farley, Hargrove, Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), Zane Gothberg (North Dakota), Dave Gust, Neal Goff, Jordan Nelson, Dominic Racobaldo, Stanislav Dzakhov, Wade.

Push It…

Think Gabe Guertler is the fastest skater on the Fargo Force or do you believe Brian Cooper has the hardest shot?

We’re about to find out.

The Force announced this morning they will be hosting a skills competition on Sunday, March 4 at 4 p.m. The event is free to the public and will pit Force players against each other to see who is the fastest skater, most accurate shooter, most skilled player among other tests.

Players will be split into two teams, a blue team and a white team, and the team is asking fans to choose captains for both squads via Twitter, Facebook and the Force’s official website. Once captains are selected there will be a mock draft to choose players for each side.

It is the first time the Force in their four-year history will be hosting a skills competition.

Here’s a list of the categories and the players who’ll be participating:

Fastest Skater: Nate Arentz, Alex Iafallo, Taylor Fleming, Neal Goff & Gabe Guertler (Minnesota)

Accuracy: Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Jordan Nelson, Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) & Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth)

Skills Course: Dave Gust, Stanislav Dzakhov, Pavel Zykov, Taylor Richart & Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth)

Goalie Competition (select shooters to be named later): Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) & Reed Peters

Hardest Shot: Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), Dominic Racobaldo, David Mead, Nick Stoskopf & Justin Wade (Notre Dame)

Breakaway Challenge: Farley, Guertler, Hargrove, Cooper & Chyzyk

Love Me Tender…

What the Fargo Force did Monday could be the first step towards the USHL being able to compete with Major Junior and the National Team Development Program.

Defenseman and Detroit Compuware star Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) became the first player to sign a tender with a USHL club as the Force added him to the roster. Each team is allowed two tenders to sign 15-year-old players in the hopes of building for the future.

Signing Ghafari to a tender it means the Force will not have a first round pick in the upcoming USHL Futures Draft. If they were to sign another player to a tender, the team would forfeit their second round pick.

Hypothetically speaking, the new tender process could eliminate the need for a Futures Draft assuming every team were to use the league’s newest method.

Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner said Ghafari would not be joining the team until the 2012-13 season.

“I’ve looked at their history and they are always moving players to the next level,” Ghafari said in a phone interview with the Force. “I’ve talked to guys in the USHL and they say that when they go to Fargo, they always have a great atmosphere.”

Force assistant and chief scout Jesse Davis said in the release he expects Ghafari to play three seasons with the team before heading off to Western Michigan. Ghafari, in turn, would be the fourth player in team history to play at Western Michigan.

Per league rules, according to the release, the Force would have to play Ghafari in half of their games next season and will not be able to be traded.

Getting a Michigan-born player isn’t a surprise given how heavily Davis recruits and knows the area because he is from Detroit.

Adding Ghafari for next season could add to a defense which is slated to lose quite a few pieces heading into next season. The Force, for sure, will be losing Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) to college. Defenseman Taylor Richart is undergoing the recruitment process and there’s a chance he could also be gone for next season. There’s also a chance Racobaldo could be gone next year if he makes a college commitment this season.

Assuming Racobaldo stays for another season, it could leave the Force with a defense headlined by a three-year player in Justin Wade (Notre Dame) along with a few more experienced defensemen in Racobaldo and David Mead. Then there’s also Neal Goff, who has been splitting time lately with Mead.

Ghafari with the addition of the 6-4, 185-pound Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota) could add offense to a Force defensive corps which would be known more for providing a shutdown role as opposed to scoring.

If it all works out that way, it also gives the Force a big defense where the average height would be 6-2 and the average weight would at least be around 195 pounds.

Ghafari, who is 6-feet and 175 pounds, has scored 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists) in 24 games with Compuware, which is in its first season in the newly-established High Performance Hockey League.

Purple Haze…

Fargo Force coach John Marks knew his team was prepared Saturday. Who they prepared for, well, that’s the issue at hand.

Marks said following the 4-3 loss to Tri-City on Saturday quite a few of his players focused more on items such as having purple sticks, purple eye-black and purple hair instead of the game. The Force were taking part in Purple-N-Pucks, a fundraiser used to raise money for cancer awareness with purple being the universal color for cancer.

“You have to learn to prepare and I think tonight guys spent more time preparing for purple than they did the game,” Marks said. “Purple under the eye. Purple hair. Purple sticks and they spent more time on that then they did for the game. If we have this next year, there will be no purple regarding that part. Purple jerseys are enough. Just goes to show the immaturity that you are easily distracted enough to not handle the job at hand.”

Marks’ point goes back to some of the things players did in anticipation of the game.

Forward Nick Stoskopf painted the shaft of his sticks purple and defenseman Dominic Racobaldo tweeted how he had loaned a stick from Stoskopf prior to the game.

Team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) after taking his ACT earlier in the day went to a local salon and died his hair purple in addition to having it cut in a way where he had a mohawk up front, a mullet in the back and the sides shaved with three lines near his temple on both sides of his head.

“That’s one of those things when you win its OK and when you lose its a big deal,” Cooper said after the game. “No one went to far with it. Stov did his sticks. I did my hair and (Alex) Iafallo brought the purple eye stuff and it was a distraction before the game but we do have to focus at the end of the game.”

The Force went down 2-0 before launching a comeback late in the second period when they tied the game at 2-2 to end the frame. The Storm rallied to score two goals – one early in the third – before staving off a last-minute attempt by the Force.

Forward and assistant captain Bryn Chyzyk said guys getting into the purple theme might have been a reason for why the team was distracted earlier in the game and why the team got off to a slow start.

But in terms of how the game ended, Chyzyk said, it was all on the Force as to why they didn’t win.

“Guys were excited about it and it is a fun night for the organization,” Chyzyk said. “But what I feel is it attributed to the slow start but we were in a 2-2 hockey game and it was done with. We were in a 2-2 game and we blew it.”