Freedom Bridge…

Weddings. Workouts. Whatever.

That’s an apt description of what life is like for the Fargo Force players eligible for the NHL Draft, which starts tonight. The Force could have eight players who could be taken in the draft.

If they were to be chosen, they would be selected on Saturday, which is the second day of the draft.

Forward Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) said Friday he was actually getting ready for his brother’s wedding, which is later today and extends into tomorrow with another family function.

“It is a big day for him and his future wife,” Farley said. “I haven’t looked at the draft.”

Farley said he’s spent the last few weeks staying busy. He recently graduated from Fargo South and went to Duluth for a campus orientation before returning to Illinois for his brother’s wedding.

He and his family will be at their lake house on Saturday so cell phone reception might not be the best. Either way, his brother will use his smartphone to check out the draft to see if Farley has been drafted.

Down the road from Farley in Illinois is defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame), who said he’ll be spending the day watching his little sister.

“It is going to be a normal day for me,” he said. “If I get a call it’ll be cool or I will look online. I am not going to do anything special.”

Wade, like Farley, recently graduated from Fargo South and has been trying to enjoy his summer.

Wade, who will return to the Force next season, said he’s just used the summer to workout and catch up with friends he hasn’t seen due to splitting time between Fargo and his home in Aurora, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

Defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) actually spend Friday morning working out instead of thinking about where he could be taken in the draft.

“Yeah, I gotta be in Omaha in the next few weeks and I want to be there in shape,” Cooper said. “I am more worried about what (UNO coach Dean) Blais is going to think than NHL scouts. Come on, it’s Blais. He’s Blais.”

Cooper pointed out how Blais worked as a coach and how he’d need to be at his best when he arrived into camp.

“Well, that’s the thing about him,” Cooper said. “He talks to you and he’s a great guy. Put it this way. He’s (Force coach John) Marks. That’s what I am excited about. He’s like Marks but a little bit more intense, all the time. Marks is fun.”

Forward Jay Dickman along with Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) are both in Pittsburgh for the draft.

For Dickman, it is his second year as an eligible player while Toninato, the god son of NHL Hall of Famer Brett Hull, is in his first year of eligiblity.

Toninato, who lives in Duluth, said his family was not impacted by flooding which has crippled the region. He and his family left Duluth and reached Pittsburgh on Thursday where they took in the Twins-Pirates game.

“You know what, I am definitely excited,” he said. “I have talked to quite a bit of teams and it is unbelievable.”

Both Dickman and Toninato will play with the Force next season.

Big Pimpin’…

Back when the USHL Playoffs was an event here in Fargo and the Force were vying for a third Clark Cup Finals appearance, there was talk among NHL scouts.

Yeah, there was the usual talk. They were talking about the NHL Playoffs. Getting post-season and pre-draft meetings in order. They were discussing where and what to eat dinner that night. Those are the kind of items which become talking points.

Talk continued but the chatter centered around a player who wasn’t even on the ice on the particular night when his name was first brought up. He actually wasn’t even on the ice during the entire playoffs. What NHL scouts wanted to know was, “What’s up with Jay Dickman?”

They wanted to know (more like really see than anything) about the 6-5, 225-pounder who in high school scored 42 goals for St. Paul Johnson. A player who was able to make the jump to the USHL and has been described from being “a draft dark horse” to someone who “is built like an all-state wrestler and has soft hands.”

Dickman’s only appearance, other than walking around the Scheels Arena concourse, was on the videoboard when he flashed a giant smile when his brother, Andy, was welcomed back from his year-and-a-half long deployment in Iraq.

“We were not very close growing up,” Dickman said. “Going through high school, we fought like crazy and the past couple years, once he graduated, and got older, we started to connect and became really close.”

Having his brother back has added to what could be an intriguing and potentially life-changing off-season for Dickman.

Even though he didn’t feature in the USHL Playoffs, he still has a chance at being taken in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Dickman said he has been approached by various NHL scouts including ones from the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs to name a few.

Colleges have also shown interest as he’s spoken with recruiters from Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and St. Cloud State, which are all schools that have drank from the Force’s well before whether it be with recruiting players or snagging coaches.

All this is going on as he’s doing the high-wire balancing act that is graduating from high school, serving as captain of his high school’s golf team and doing daily workouts in the hopes that if his name is called, he can roll into a rookie camp and show why drafting him was a wise choice.

“I didn’t need to sit back and watch but I needed to keep working and getting better,” Dickman said. “So I came right back home and worked out with my old head coach from St. Paul Johnson and I’ve been helping them trying to get new kids and working out with them everyday.”

Anyone not familiar with Dickman and his situation with St. Paul Johnson, it’s not hard to figure out. He’s beyond committed to the program. In fact, he might as well just get on one knee, break out a diamond ring and pop the question.

St. Paul Johnson, known for being Herb Brooks’ alma mater, has seen an enrollment shift of a student body more into basketball than hockey resulting in what could be the end of the program. If it were to come to an end, there’s no doubting Dickman would be the last star to come from the program.

Dickman on several occasions has made it clear how much the school means to him. He talks about St. Paul Johnson the way a revolutionary talks about a cause. It’s about the struggle, the progress and the hope that something better could eventually come even when the climate says otherwise.

Usually when most USHL players leave a high school, that’s really it. But with Dickman he continued to do his schooling through Johnson while here in Fargo. Following his end-of-year meetings with the Force’s coaching staff, he sped back to school to play in a golf meet as he’s Johnson’s captain.

“It is just a nice, relaxing thing to do after hockey is so brutal and you’ve been taking a beating all winter,” Dickman said. “Come summer, you get to walk around and golf for free and you can’t beat that. I’ve won the past three tournaments with a 38, 39 and a 38.”

If life is a course, Dickman is shooting well under par.

There is the NHL Draft interest and in case it does come to fruition, he knows there’s a strong chance he could be in Pittsburgh to hear his name get called. Dickman said he knows his brother is buying him a plane ticket to Pittsburgh for the NHL Draft as a graduation present.

And if getting draft doesn’t happen, it’s just another year and opportunity for Dickman to make improvements while playing for the Force.

“I don’t think about that and sometimes people get a little hot-headed and forget about what they need to do and where they came from,” Dickman said about the NHL Draft. “Just you gotta sit back, keep working and don’t give up on anything whether I get called or I don’t get called. If I get called, it will be special but if not, it is just a stepping stone to overcome and make it.”

Dickman is extremely realistic about his draft chances. He realizes what he does well but knows his Achilles’ heel is his skating.

With his large frame, he’s been gifted with many things and speed, as he knows, is not one of them.

So that’s why he’s been in the rink since the season ended to work on his speed. He also wants to work on his physicality. Force coach John Marks told Dickman that he needs be more physical and Dickman agreed. Dickman said playing high school hockey didn’t allow him to be physical whereas in the USHL, it’s more or less a requirement.

“The next step is just needing to get stronger and faster,” Dickman said. “I’ve been told growing up all my life and everyone says I have improved a lot but it was probably sophomore year when I had a reality check when I broke my back and it pushed me harder and harder to get looks and from then on, I was crazy about it.”

Out There On The Ice…

Fargo Force defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) was invited on Thursday to the NHL’s Central Scouting Draft Combine.

Cooper, 18, was one of 13 USHL players invited to the camp which starts at the end of May in Toronto. Eighty-eight North American players (78 skaters, 10 goaltenders) were invited along with 17 European players (14 skaters, three goaltenders) to the combine.

In all, it is considered to be the best collection of players eligible for the NHL Draft.

The combine will run May 28 through June 2 giving NHL teams a chance to meet and speak with potential prospects.

Quite a few NHL teams have spoken with Cooper, who in the last three years has emerged as a possible third-or-fourth round pick in this summer’s draft.

The 5-10, 180-pound defenseman was the Force’s team captain and played a different style than he’s showed in the past. A young defensive corps made Cooper more of a stay-at-home defenseman who wasn’t involved much in the rush like had been in previous seasons.

Cooper finished the season with 24 points (6 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games and a plus-16 rating in 55 games this year. He also represented Team USA at the World Junior “A” Challenge for the second year in a row.

He captained the team to a bronze medal.

Cooper came to the Force as a 15-year-old and in his three-year career put up 70 points (20 goals, 50 assists) while amassing 293 penalty minutes in 161 career games while playing in a Clark Cup Finals as a rookie.

In all, he was a member of three playoff teams. He finished this year’s USHL Playoffs with three points in five games as the Force were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Lincoln Stars.

He’s currently a senior at Fargo South where holds a 3.8 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. After graduation, he’ll go to Nebraska-Omaha and has said he would pursue being a podiatrist if his hockey career does not work out.

Cooper is one of several Force players eligible for this year’s draft.

Defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame) along with forwards Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), Jay Dickman, Nate Arentz and Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) are all also eligible for the draft.

Show Me A Good Time…

Count Force coach John Marks among those impressed with how affiliates list player Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) did in his short stint with the team.

It appears Toninato won’t play Saturday in the regular-season finale against Lincoln with the playoffs starting Monday. Toninato did play last weekend scoring his first USHL goal in a 5-1 win over Sioux Falls.

“It was a flurry out in front, Brodz (Jonny Brodzinski) got a tap on it and it just came to me,” Toninato said about his first goal. “I don’t think there was any pressure. I did feel like I was a little snake-bit the last couple weekends but it is nice to get that first one out the way.”

Toninato played four games with the Force after high school season ended with Duluth East in March.

Toninato was drafted by the Force in last season’s USHL Entry Draft. His senior season resulted in Toninato scoring 73 points in 31 games helping Duluth East to what ended up being a fifth-place finish at the state tournament.

Marks said he was so impressed with Toninato he wishes the forward was available for the playoffs. Toninato is not eligible because he’s not part of the team’s active roster, which was submitted to the league office back in February.

“He was a really good player for us,” Marks said. “We liked what we saw and we’re looking forward to what we could see from him next year.”

Toninato is expected to compete on a team where its forward corps could provide an interesting mix.

Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), Dave Gust and Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth) – known as The High School Musical Line – will all return next season. Former Lakeville North star Nate Arentz is set to return for a third season. It also appears forwards Jordan Nelson, Stanislav Dzakhov, Pavel Zykov and Jay Dickman will also return to the team next season.

The Force, in all, could have a total of nine returning forwards along with three returning defensemen and a returning goaltender in Reed Peters.

He Got Game…

NHL’s Central Scouting released this morning its final rankings of North American skaters, a list which features six Fargo Force players.

There are 29 listed players from the USHL but the number might be higher when adding players like the Force’s Jay Dickman and Indiana’s Boo Nieves (Michigan), who are now playing in the league after playing for their high schools earlier in the year.

Defenseman and team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), to no surprise, was the highest-rated Force player checking in at 68th overall. The 5-10 Cooper was touted last season by Jack Barzee, now formerly of Central Scouting, as a player to watch in the USHL this season.

Cooper, 18, has scored 23 points in 54 games while leading the Force to what appears to be a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference.

Forward Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) is listed at 112th overall. Farley exploded this season as he was on a pace to break every team single-season scoring record until suffering a foot injury. The injury left him out for a month. He has scored 10 points in 12 games giving him 58 points in 49 games.

Fellow Bulldog commit Alex Iafallo came in at 133rd overall. Iafallo was drafted nearly a year ago by the team and made the squad out of camp. Iafallo along with linemates, Dave Gust and Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), have formed a partnership that has given the Force a secondary offensive threat to Farley’s line. Iafallo,who has four points in four games, has scored 31 points in 56 games this season. He will play next season in Fargo before going off to college.

Defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame) came in at 144th overall. Wade, in his second season, has been living up to the promise of being a shutdown defenseman. He’s been one of the reasons why the Force are statistically the second-best defense in the entire USHL. Wade’s punishing checks, annoying pokechecks and stay-at-home style has made him one of the league’s best shutdown defenseman. He’s also been able to contribute on offense picking up seven points in 55 games. He’s also a plus-17 on the year. Wade will be back with the team next season before going to Notre Dame.

Five spots after Wade was forward Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth), who has played the last few weekends with the Force. Toninato played high school hockey at Duluth East this season which went 27-1 heading into the Minnesota state hockey tournament but left with a consolation tournament trophy. Toninato scored his first goal on Saturday in the Force’s 5-1 win over Sioux Falls. Toninato, who wore No. 9, will be with the Force next season.

Forward Jay Dickman, who was still listed under St. Paul Johnson, rounded out the Force’s list at 203. Dickman has five points – all assists – in 11 games with the Force but made his name in high school. Dickman scored an impressive 45 goals this season to become Class 2A’s leading goal-scorer. At 6-5, 228 pounds he has been described as a draft dark horse. Ryan Kennedy, of The Hockey News, tweeted that an NHL scout said Dickman was built like an all-state wrestler but had soft hands to go along with his game.

NTDP defenseman Jacob Trouba (Michigan) was the league’s highest rated player nine while Dubuque’s Zemgus Girgensons (Vermont) was rated at 18.

Lincoln phenom Kevin Roy (Brown), who has 100 points this season, was rated 78th.

Former Force forward Ben Johnson was rated at No. 52 on the list. Johnson had a short stint with the team playing in five games. He returned to Calumet (MI-HS) where he was Michigan’s Mr. Hockey. Johnson then left high school signing with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL.

Johnson is one of three former Force players to play or intend on playing with a Major Junior team in the last three years. Blake Clarke, who played with the Force earlier in the year, was taken 15th overall by the Brampton Battalion on Saturday in the OHL Priority Draft.

Heart Skipped A Beat…

Certainly there was a lot that went on during the Force’s 2-0 win on Friday over Western Conference rival Des Moines.

Here’s a look back at what you might have missed from last night’s game.

The Playoffs: WIth the win, the Force clinched their fourth playoff spot in as many seasons. Black and Blue sit in fourth place and are out of third by one point. Waterloo sits in third but has played two fewer games than the Force meaning it could take a little assistance to get the No. 3 seed. The Force hold a 13-point lead in the standings over Tri-City for the fourth spot meaning they would get home ice advantage. A Force win coupled with a Storm loss tonight means the Force could lose every game for the rest of the regular season and still be guaranteed home ice in the first round.

Zane Gothberg: Gothberg (North Dakota) did get his second straight shutout which is an accomplishment by itself. But this was his sixth shutout of the season doubling the previous record for blankings in a season by former Roseau star Mike Lee, who is now at St. Cloud State. It adds to what has been really one of the more impressive individual seasons in this team’s history. Gothberg is 23-14-4 record a 2.29 GAA and a .919 save percentage putting him in the Top 5 in just about every goaltending¬†category of relevance this season. Oh and as for the shutout thing, he leads the league in that category too.

Justin Wade: Wade (Notre Dame) had two assists for what was his first-ever multi-point game in the USHL. His game is designed to prevent offense more than generate it but Wade is having a banner year compared to last season when it comes to points. Granted he only has six point (1 goal, 5 assists) but he’s become the team’s No. 1 shutdown defenseman and has a plus-12 rating this season. Though since January, Wade’s rating is a plus-17.

-Dominic Toninato: Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) made his Force debut last night wearing the No. 9. The former Duluth East star didn’t register a point but he did see ice time in his first game with the team. Toninato will play tonight but it is unclear on if he will play again for the Force this season. He’ll be with the team for sure next year.

-Jay Dickman: Speaking of Minnesota high school players, Dickman keeps showing why it was a good idea to go out and get him. Dickman picked up an assist last night giving him five points in eight games. He was known more as a scorer in high school. He led Class 2A in goals this past season but the Force probably aren’t complaining about the opportunities he’s created in his short term with the team.

You Could Have It All…

Barely two weeks have passed and Dominic Toninato finds life to be pretty boring these days.

This weekend he’ll find out what life will be like next season with the now-former Duluth East star making his debut with the Fargo Force tonight against the Des Moines Buccaneers.

“I am excited to get back to playing,” Toninato said. “I am excited to meet some of the guys and get to know them for next season.”

No one can exactly blame Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) for wanting another crack at the ice considering how his season ended two weeks ago. Toninato and Duluth East entered the Minnesota state boys hockey tournament as the No. 1 seed with a 28-1 record.

The Greyhounds suffered a surprising 2-1 loss to Lakeville South and ended up beating No. 3 seed Eagan in the consolation tournament, which became a graveyard for all top-seeded teams at the state tournament.

Losing in the opening round, he said, was tough but watching other top seeds fall didn’t make it any easier.

“Going into it you knew this was one of the deepest state tournaments,” Toninato said. “All the top seeds went down but the four teams that beat them all deserved to be there.”

Toninato’s individual efforts didn’t go unnoticed. He was a Mr. Hockey finalist because he finished the season scoring 61 points in 25 regular season games.

He was also named to The Associated Press’ second team for boys hockey making him one of two players the Force have to make the team. Forward Jay Dickman, who played at St. Paul Johnson before coming to Fargo, was also a second-team member.

Toninato said earlier in the week his plan was to arrive in Fargo a few days prior to today’s game in the hopes of getting used to the team and the system the Force uses.

“I want to work hard and get better because that is what juniors are for,” said Toninato, whose godfather is NHL legend Brett Hull. “Main thing is to get better and stronger for the next level.”

Unlike Dickman who is on the active roster, Toninato isn’t eligible for the playoffs.

Though he could play in a few more games which is up in the air.

But for now, he’s just focused on trying to get an idea of what next season could bring.

“I know its a great place with a great coaching staff and a great bunch of guys,” Toninato said about Fargo. “They’ve got great fan support, the arena is really nice and the new workout center is unbelievable. It is just a great place.”

Tip The Scale…

Fargo Force forward Jay Dickman has no problem admitting he’s happy to be the newest member of the team.

He also has no problem admitting his heart is still back in St. Paul either. Dickman’s high school career ended last week when St. Paul Johnson (MN-HS) was eliminated in the section finals.

The loss ended Dickman’s season, which saw him score 45 goals in 28 games. Dickman believes it also brought an end to St. Paul Johnson’s hockey program.

“I am not totally positive but I think it is almost about 90 percent sure its over,” Dickman said. “There are no numbers. We had 15 seniors on the team, four underclassmen and then an eighth grader playing goalie. The Johnson tradition is so amazing and to see it die is a shock.”

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote a story in early February regarding St. Paul Johnson’s future projecting only 15 players could be in the program next season. It is a stark contrast between most hockey programs in the Cities and across the state which have 60 players between a varsity, junior varsity and a freshman team.

A merger between St. Paul Johnson and Como Park was mentioned, but it doesn’t appear it will happen with Como Park already having the numbers for a program. Como Park’s athletic director, Mike Searles, told the Star-Tribune players from St. Paul Johnson are welcomed to play at Como Park next season.

St. Paul Johnson is one of Minnesota’s more historic programs. The school has won four state titles and is known for being the alma mater of former Minnesota coach and “Miracle On Ice” architect, Herb Brooks, one of the most revered figures in this state’s hockey history.

Dickman’s reasons for the decline, he believes, are a mix of private schools getting players from St. Paul Johnson’s zoning district. He added the lack of numbers due to a growing black, Hispanic and Asian student body, which are three ethnic groups that don’t have a high representation in the sport on a local, state and national level.

“Kids are leaving for Hill-Murray, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and St. Thomas Academy and its kind of sad how they do it,” Dickman said. “There are also not many white kids at Johnson anymore and there’s maybe 50 white kids in the school. The rest are black, Hispanic and Asian so there isn’t much to work with.”

Dickman was asked if he was recruited by a private school to leave St. Paul Johnson and he said ‘Yes.’

He declined the offer because he doesn’t believe private schools should take a kid from their zoned high school in order to play hockey.

Dickman added he could understand a player leaving a school. He said if there’s a situation where its just not a right fit, then there is a need to leave. But if there’s no problems, then a player should stay right where he is.

“Its why I left Mounds View,” Dickman said. “I am originally from Shoreview and the kids around me, I just didn’t feel right there. I went to Johnson and I knew kids would be nice there. I went there and had a great class of people.”

Dickman’s ties to St. Paul Johnson go back a ways. His father was the football coach and athletic director at the school while his godfather is the school’s hockey coach.

He remembers days where he’d get out of elementary school and run around the Johnson campus.

That’s another reason why Johnson losing its hockey program hurts him.

“Its just such a great program and its bad that its dying,” Dickman said. “I still write “ESTP” on my sticks for East St. Paul and I have done it since I was in ninth grade. It is a tradition I will never leave and carry all the way though my hockey career.”

Dickman admitted he was surprised at how his hockey career has unexpectedly continued.

The Force signed Dickman on the USHL’s Trade Deadline Day, a move which was the culmination of a quick and somewhat surprising process.

Dickman, despite his high goal totals, said he didn’t have many offers to play in the USHL until Deadline Day. He had expected to spend next season in the NAHL but was then contacted by Force scout Jesse Davis.

“It was a big shock,” Dickman said. “I never had talked to Jesse until a week before they signed me.”

Dickman made his debut with the Force last Friday getting an assist in a 3-2 shootout overtime loss against Waterloo. He picked up another assist in the Force’s 7-1 win over Waterloo on Saturday.

He said he was surprised by how much playing time the coaching staff gave him.

Dickman said he spent his first game on the power play, the penalty kill and getting all sorts of ice time.

“I didn’t think I’d have any points in the first few games,” Dickman said. “I had some scoring chances but those chances will come back again.”

Dickman’s strong season coupled with his physical attributes have made him a dark horse for the upcoming NHL Draft this summer.

He stands at 6-5 and 228 pounds and fields a surprisingly slender frame when he’s on the ice.

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News tweeted about Dickman the day he signed with the Force. Kennedy tweeted how a scout described Dickman as being built like an all-state wrestler but having incredible soft hands.

Dickman said he doesn’t agree with the assessment of being an NHL Draft prospect just yet.

“To be named as an NHL prospect, I got a lot of work to do,” Dickman said. “I have to work…I have things that can’t be taught, like size, skill and vision. But there are things I can be taught and need to be taught. Like speed and strength. People say, ‘Oh you are NHL material’ and I just say ‘Thank you.’ I am just shocked.”

Dickman said his goal would be to play in college and then the NHL someday.

If it were to happen, he hopes it would serve as a reminder to how good the Johnson program is and how it can continue to produce quality hockey players.

That’s if the school is still around.

“I will go anywhere that’s willing to take me and improve me as a player, student and as a person in general,” Dickman said about his college future. “And that’s what Johnson was based on. It was based on bringing you into being a better person and one where you believe in work. My dream is to play in the NHL but my No. 1 dream is to be the best person I can and give back to the communities I have been in and that’s about it.”

Come Around…

Say what you want about last night’s 3-2 shootout loss but it is a sign of things to come.

The sign being: moving up in the Western Conference this late in the year isn’t going to be easy. The Force held a 2-1 lead in the third period before the Black Hawks tied it at 2-2 before winning in the shootout.

Here’s a look at some of the figures from last night’s game and how they shaped the outcome.

-Stephon Williams, goaltender, Waterloo (Minnesota-Mankato): This is why Waterloo had no problem making a move for Williams. Guy has won close games against the top teams in the West this time of year. He did it again last night by being flawless from the third period on making 27 saves and stopping two shots in the shootout. With Williams in net, it makes Waterloo much more dangerous and a lot harder to beat.

-Mark Naclerio, forward, Waterloo (Brown): Naclerio is the reason the game even went into overtime in the first place. He scored in the third tying it at 2-2 before his team went onto victory. Waterloo certainly has a lot of offensive firepower but this is a guy who is getting overlooked. He has 23 points in 35 games and two points in the last two. Guys like this are how teams win championships

-Alex Iafallo, forward, Fargo (Minnesota-Duluth): The Musical looked more like Big Time Rush with Jay Dickman filling in for the suspended Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) who has to spend two more games in the stands. Iafallo scored early in the game showing he and Gust can still work together if Guertler is out. Two more games might not sound like much, but it really is at this time of the year.

Jay Dickman, forward, Fargo: Dickman got on the board by getting an assist in his first USHL game. It marks what has been a whirlwind, up and down week for him. His high school team, St. Paul Johnson, was eliminated from the Minnesota high school playoffs despite Dickman’s efforts during the entire postseason including a 4-point game in the opening round.

-Making adjustments: Seems like a weird category to add but here’s why. The Force have had a lot to juggle as of late. Missing leading scorer Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) appears to be something they’ve handled quite well. Now with Guertler out and Dickman on the team, it could mean adjusting to a few more changes during a stretch where the team is fighting for playoff positioning. John Marks said last week as long as there are five guys with hockey sense on the ice, a team should be fine. Losing in a shootout night not sound great, but it is an improvement from the 4-1 loss last Friday to Omaha. Consitency is key right now and if the Force can get it, it can unlock some serious doors come playoff time.

You Yes You…

With Jay Dickman already on the active roster, it means the Force have two Minnesota High School hockey players playing as of Thursday.

Now, it’s down to one.

Forward Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) is headed back to the state tournament as Duluth East won the Section 7AA finals last night. Forward Zach Doerring had his season end with Blake losing in a 7-5 thriller to Breck in the Section 2A finals.

Here’s a look at how Toninato and Doerring did last night.

-Dominic Toninato: It could be argued he was easily the star of the night in the 4-1 win over Andover. He scored two goals and an assist helping cement the assumption Duluth East will win the Class 2A state title this year. Toninato and East finished second at state last season. Once he’s done with the high school season, he’ll finish school before joining the Force next season.

-Zach Doerring: If Toninato was Class 2A’s star last night, Doerring might have had the best performance of anyone in these section finals. He scored five points (2 goals, 3 assists) only to have his team come up short against Breck. Doerring’s Breck career comes to an end and in his final season scored 59 points in 28 games. Doerring will finish out high school and like Toninato will join Black and Blue for next season.