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.

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.

Down By The Ohio…

Fargo Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis said today forward Dave Gust has committed to Ohio State.

Gust, 18, was a mid-season call up for the Force and turned out to be one of the reasons why they finished fourth in the Western Conference. Gust in 43 games, scored 30 points ranking fifth on the team in scoring.

He combined with forwards Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) and Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth) to become a potent line for the Force during the regular season combining for 20 percent or 90 of the team’s 455 points.

But it was in the playoffs where the group really made its mark accounting for 40 percent of the Force’s points.

The line, known as “The High School Musical”, led the Force in points during the entire postseason. They combined for 12 points with Gust getting three of them off two goals and an assist.

Gust had said during the team’s first-round playoff series he’d be committing to a school before the end of the summer. He apparently didn’t waste any time by choosing Ohio State.

Committing to Ohio State gives the school a class that has depth but has also enjoyed success in midget, prep and junior hockey. Ohio State now has 13 commits and seven, including Gust, are forwards, according to Chris Heisenberg.

Those forwards include Zach Stepan, who scored scored 65 points playing at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS) among others. Stepan told NHL.com’s Mike Morreale on Wednesday he would play next season with the Waterloo Black Hawks. Stepan is the cousin of New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan.

Ohio State’s recruiting class also consists of Green Bay forwards Matthew Weis and Nick Schilkey plus NTDP goaltender Collin Olson. The Force said in a release, Gust would go to Ohio State in 2014.

What Ohio State will be getting in Gust is a 5-9, 170-pound forward who used a combination of speed, scoring and playmaking prowess to establish himself during a game.

It was those qualities which prompted the Force’s coaching staff to call up Gust on a permanent basis. Gust, who started the season on the team’s affiliates list, had been playing midget hockey back in his native Chicago.

Teaming up with Guertler and Iafallo gave the line more speed and three players who were able to work well with each other, on or away from the puck. Some of Gust’s performances drew comparison to Force forward Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), who before a foot injury was on pace to shatter several franchise scoring records.

Having all three return for next season gives the Force, what will likely be the team’s No. 1 line. With all three having college commitments and a year of experience, there’s a strong possibility the line could buoy the Force which have up to 16 players returning for next season.

Of the 16 players returning, Gust becomes the fourth with a college commitment joining his linemates and defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame).

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.

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.

Confess…

Clutched inside the massive palms of Fargo Force defenseman Justin Wade was an iPhone 4 scrolling through a Twitter feed.

It was on this Twitter feed where Wade saw the comments of Boston Bruins fans who called Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward, who is black, the “n-word” for scoring a game-winning goal in Wednesday’s Game 7 victory.

As Wade looked at the Twitter profiles, he saw one of the people was wearing a Fighting Irish shirt. It gave him a face to the slurs and in Wade’s case the realization that even among fans of his future school, there are some people who may not be in his corner because he’s black.

“It doesn’t surprise me because there are people whether its on blogs or Twitter where you can be anonymous so it gives people that invisible shield of ‘You don’t know me,’” Wade said. “It gives people a little more balls to have that. Its something you are going to have to live with in terms of people who are backwards thinking and will say things like that. I don’t think they understand the impact it has on the younger generation or of any black athlete. Especially the ones coming into hockey.”

This latest incident keeps adding to what is becoming a stigma growing through the sporting world that maybe hockey and diversity might not work together after all.

It has been debated hockey is possibly more forward-thinking than its North American counterparts – the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball – when it comes to issues such as those surrounding the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community.

Hockey players, personnel and icons such as Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke, who’s son Brendan was gay, have said the NHL could be ready for its first openly-gay player in a few years.

But as hockey hopes to evolve to that point it still faces an issue when it comes the thought of anyone of African or Caribbean decent worrying about racial epithets. Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, in the course of two weeks, went from being victim of a banana peel thrown near him during a pre-season game to using a homophobic slur towards gay rights advocate and former New York Rangers forward Sean Avery.

Since then, the NHL has seen other issues such as Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban being the victim of a racial epithet or the controversial decision by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres and his wife dressing in blackface as they were trying to look the part of music moguls/power couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce.

Down the hall from Wade at Scheels Arena was Lincoln Stars goaltender Charles Williams (Ferris State), who is also black. Williams, who is from the Detroit suburb of Canton, Mich., said he and his brother, Des Moines’ defenseman Wayland Williams, along with their parents have been subjected to racial slurs.

Williams said he found a way to deal with the negative comments.

“I just used it as motivation more than anything,” Williams said. “I have had a few incidents in the past and I’ve been able to put it to the side and use it as motivation. I just try to keep it away from my teammates and keep going steadfast in my path.”

Both Williams and Wade, who know each other well, acknowledged Ward was just someone doing his job and he shouldn’t be subjected to racial slurs whether they be on Twitter or anywhere else.

They also agreed a reality such as that may not happen right away. That there are some people who wouldn’t get the picture even if the flash was on.

But the hope is someday the only issue at hand is the game on the ice.

“I hope for Ward, hearing the racial slurs is motivation for him too,” Williams said. “He’ll probably do better than he did last year in the playoffs. Hearing things like this will probably just up his game even more.”

Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites…

With the second round of the USHL Playoffs comes another revival of a Fargo Force-Lincoln Stars playoff series.

Lincoln has enjoyed its success against Fargo this season going 5-3. But that’s the regular season. When it comes to the postseason the Force are actually undefeated in five playoff games against the Stars.

Will an old habit die hard or is it time for a change when it comes to the series? Let’s find out.

ON OFFENSE:

For the Force: The line which could really make the difference could be that of Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan). It was a line which led the team in points during the regular season but was somewhat non-existent to open the first round. That line had two points, which wasn’t a strong showing compared to the six points posted by The High School Musical and the three points by the defensive-minded Minnesota line. PLAYER TO WATCH: We’ll take Chyzyk because his ability to create and destroy on the defensive end could be quite important against one of the USHL’s most potent offenses.

For the Stars: We could go with Mr. You-Know-Who but for now let’s hold off. Lincoln’s strength has been the depth they’ve had at offense this season. The Stars have eight forwards with 20 or more points this season. Altogether the Stars have 10 players with 20 or more points. Offense hasn’t been an issue with this team at any point in the season given the depth they posses. PLAYER TO WATCH: Who else? Kevin Roy (Brown) has done damage against several teams in the league including the Force. He has scored 13 points in seven games this season against the Force. But something to keep in mind is the fact the Force have held Roy pointless on a couple of occasions.

 

ON DEFENSE:

For the Force: Maybe the following statement isn’t a surprise. But defense is where this series will be won or lost for either team. Fargo and Lincoln feature similar defenses in terms of personnel. They each have a do-everything-defenseman (Fargo has Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) while Lincoln has Paul LaDue (North Dakota). They each have that gritty defenseman willing to lay out a hit (Fargo has Justin Wade (Notre Dame) and Lincoln has 6-5, 220-pound freak of nature Mike McKee (Western Michigan) among other similarities. PLAYER TO WATCH: Dominic Racobaldo/Neal Goff. Racobaldo will be important because he has the style of game which should work well in this series. He is a tough, physical defenseman who tries to minimizes his time with the puck. Goff because he will be in that defensive/forward role which could be huge.

For the Stars: People outside of Lincoln may not realize how gifted of a defense this really is and can be in the postseason. They have all the pieces you could need to win games. Its just a matter of they’ll match up against a defense so similar. But this defense’s strongest trait could be what it does on the offensive end. Ladue and Ralfs Freiburgs  (Bowling Green) move the puck really well in that system and it could lead to Lincoln generating offense in its end. Though something to keep an eye on is penalty minutes. Lincoln led the league with 1,424 penalty minutes. Of the five Stars players with the most penalty minutes, three of them are defensemen. It could be a difference maker as Lincoln’s penalty kill ranked 11th in the regular season and the Force featured the fifth-best power play in the league. PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Carlson is certainly an interesting figure. He’s been on both sides of this rivalry and has been in enough playoff runs to know what it takes. Carlson will add a presence on the ice but his experience can help Lincoln away from the ice too.

 

GOALTENDING

For the Force: Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) has been a constant this entire season for the Force. From the rocky start of losing 13 of their first 15 to the nine-game winning streak and beyond, he’s been that constant. That shouldn’t change as Gothberg has looked strong as of late. Whatever challenges he faced against Sioux City, he handled with ease. Gothberg, the leading candidate for the USHL’s Goaltender of the Year, is 2-3 against Lincoln this season. How Gothberg performs will not only shape this season but it will shape how far the Force will go this postseason.

For the Stars: Charles Williams has been the latest to emerge as the No. 1 in what was a two-man system this year. CW3 took over for Jackson Teichroeb down the stretching silencing critics about Lincoln’s woes between the pipes. Williams has been steady in net winning 20 games this season and having a goals against average in the Top 5. He’ll face an offense which has firepower across its three lines but he faces a goalie in Gothberg who will provide a massive challenge. If Williams could get the best of Gothberg in a five-game series, there’s no telling what it will do for his confidence and the Stars’ confidence going forward.

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)

D.A.N.C.E.

Playoff runs and prom just simply don’t mix.

With the USHL Playoffs around the corner every game counts and Saturday is no different. A win could be the difference between third place and fourth place in the Western conference for the Force.

But regardless of the outcome, it means the team’s high school players will be missing out on prom at Fargo South High School. The Force have six players enrolled at South.

“All the boys we’ve ever had on the team that have gone to Fargo South have missed prom,” said Dorian Nelson, who is the billet family coordinator for the Force. “They miss out on prom and they don’t even make it to post-graduation parties put on by the school because they are heading home or they’re heading to tryout camps.”

Missing prom might not sound like much to some but it is another example of how playing junior hockey means missing out on certain events commonly associated with being a teenager.

But its more than just dances.

Nelson said playing for the Force also means players miss out on playing high school sports, being involved with clubs and in some cases, missing out on family events such as birthdays.

“Justin (Wade) is 18 today,” said Nelson, who is Wade’s billet mother. “He won’t be at home with his family and his grandparents. But his dad is flying down to the game in Lincoln tonight.”

Force captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) said Wednesday he wasn’t disappointed about missing out on things like prom.

He also added that his girlfriend understood why he isn’t able to make it.

Look at what the Force have to deal with just this weekend alone.

They left town yesterday for Lincoln where they will face the Stars at 7:05 p.m. After the game, they will drive to Sioux Falls and spend the night there. They’ll get on the road Saturday morning, arrive in Fargo later in the day and play at 7:05 p.m.

Games usually don’t end until 9:45 p.m. and the team also has a post-game jersey auction. By the time the auction would be completed, players showered and dressed, some guys are looking at leaving Scheels Arena around 11 p.m.

“They all have curfews too,” Nelson said. “Part of being on the Force means all players, no matter how old they are, have a curfew. Curfew is 11 p.m. during the weekend and usually midnight on the weekend unless a player is having dinner with his parents. Even if they were available to go to a post-prom, they’d have to be home by midnight. Most post-proms don’t start until midnight. The dance usually starts at 9 p.m. and goes to midnight and post-prom starts after that and goes until 3 a.m.”