So we interrupt (OK, for a few minutes) the Force’s playoff run to remind folks about the affiliates list.
Remember those guys? They are the ones set to be the next members of the Force. Some will get to Fargo next year. Some will get to Fargo in a few years and others, such as Corey Ward (Bemidji State), don’t appear to be coming at all.
Here’s a look at how the Force’s future is looking at the present time:
-Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota), defenseman, Shattuck-St. Mary’s: Pelnik’s lone season at Shattuck is over. He featured in 44 games for the private school’s U-16 team scoring 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). He helped the team to a 28-15-11 record and appears he will be playing for the Force next season on a blueline which could return as low as three or as many as six. The 6-4, 190-pound Pelnik,16, was the Force’s No. 10 pick in last season’s USHL Futures Draft.
-Brendan Harms (Bemidji State), forward, Portage (MJHL): Harms was a monster during the MJHL playoff scoring 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 21 games helping Portage to its fourth league title since 2005. Harms will now try to lead Portage to a consecutive Anavet Cup, which goes to the winner of a best-of-seven series played between the MJHL and SJHL champions. His playoff campaign adds to what was an already strong regular season with Harms scoring 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists) in a shortened 42-game schedule. He missed part of the season with a shoulder injury but appears to pretty healthy these days. Harms is expected to join the Force next season.
-Brett Heikkila (Northern Michigan), forward, Marquette Electricians (Midget Major): Heikkila’s season ended with Marquette in March but showed improvement compared to last season. He finished with 54 points (26 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games. Heikkila had 24 points in 53 games last year. Heikkila, 17, appears he will be in Fargo next year and beyond as he’s expected to be at Northern Michigan in 2014, according to Chris Heisenberg.
-Johnny Baiocco (Yale), forward, Delbarton Prep (NJ-HS): Baiocco was a big part of helping Delbarton repeat as New Jersey’s private school champions this season. Delbarton went 28-1 as Baiocco scored 54 points (27 goals, 27 assists) re-affirming the school’s dominance in New Jersey. He was also a first-team selection by the Newark Star-Ledger and was a first-team all-state selection to boot. Baiocco, a junior, will spend one more season at Delbarton and will then come to the Force for a year before heading off to Yale.
-Trevor Hamilton (Miami (Ohio), defenseman, NTDP (USHL): Hamilton and the U-17s suffered an expected first-round exit from the USHL Playoffs at the hands of defending Clark Cup champions, the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Hamilton ended his first season at the NTDP scoring eight points in 29 games. He also overcame an injury this season somewhat limiting him in his first season. Hamilton will stick with the NTDP for a second season playing more of an international schedule rather an a USHL-based schedule. Hamilton will join the Force after he has aged out of the NTDP and will spend one year here before heading to Oxford, Ohio.
-Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan), defenseman, Detroit Compuware (Midget Major): Ghafari was actually in town a few weeks ago to take in a weekend so he could get a feeling of what to expect next season. Force trainer Paul Wixo said at a recent practice Ghafari’s hands were massive and he already had strength for a 15-year-old. Ghafari, who is listed at 5-11, 175 pounds, finished his season with 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists) in 28 games. Ghafari was the first – and appears to be only player – the Force have tendered with the new system.
-Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth), forward, Duluth East (MN-HS): Toninato played four games with the Force scoring a goal before the playoffs started. Coach John Marks said he was pleased with how Toninato played and said he was looking forward to him joining the Force next season.
-Cory Ward (Bemidji State), forward, Aberdeen (NAHL): Ward is having one of the better seasons of any player in the NAHL for what is the second year in a row. He finished the regular season with 63 points (35 goals, 28 assists) in 55 games. He also had three points in four playoff games. Ward, however, will go straight to college next season meaning he will not play with the Force next season.
-Zach Doerring, forward, Blake (MN-HS): Doerring was in town for the Force’s last regular season game of the year. He and his dad confirmed that he’s received quite a bit of interest from school in Hockey East such as Northeastern and UMass. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as Doerring brother, Blake, just finished his first season at Vermont. Doerring scored 53 points for Blake this season and his 40 assists were tied for ninth in the state and sixth among players in Class 2. The 6-3, 175-pound Doerring will be in Fargo next season.
-Nick Kulmanovsky, goaltender, Alaska (NAHL): It has been established Reed Peters, this year’s back-up, will be the No. 1 guy heading into next season. Kulmanovsky, though, appears to be one of a few names in the running for the team’s No. 2 goaltender. He went 21-11-3 with a 2.61 GAA and a .906 save percentage. Kulmanovsky spent time with the Force last season appearing during the stretch of games where injuries and international commitments left the team without a No. 1 goaltender.
-T.J. Black, goaltender, Chicago Mission (Midget Major): Black finished as one of the best goaltenders in the High Performance Hockey League this year. He went 8-4 with one shutout, a 2.34 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He finished third in GAA while playing in a two-goaltender system. The 5-8, 165-pound Black was in Fargo a few weeks ago where he did practice with the team. A couple of players described him has being “quick” in net. Black, should he come to the Force next year, would be a junior in high school.
-Dante Suffredini, defenseman, Detroit Honeybaked (Midget Major): Suffredini was part of an immensely-talented Honeybaked team which finished second in the HPHL this season. He played in 26 games scoring eight points (1 goal, 7 assists). Given that the Force will lose at least two defensemen from this year’s team, it could result in Suffredini and potentially Pelnik joining Ghafari on next season’s roster.
-Gage Torrel, forward, Alexandria (NAHL): Torrel had a strong first season with the Blizzard scoring 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 53 games. Torrel left what would have been his senior year in high school to play for the Blizzard which were just recently eliminated by Austin in the NAHL Playoffs.