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.

Hometown Glory…

Add finding a forward for tonight’s USHL Entry Draft plans for the Force as Jonny Brodzinski said this morning he would not return to the team.

Brodzinski, instead, will be playing next season at St. Cloud State. He said in a text message he would be going to college. The 6-0, 185-pound former Blaine (MN-HS) star committed to St. Cloud State shortly after he joined the Force last season.

He becomes the seventh known player to leave the Force due to a college commitment and is the fourth forward to depart.

Brodzinski was used in a multitude of roles during his one-plus year tenure with the Force.

Under former Force coach Jason Herter, he was used as a winger on the second and third lines putting up five points in 10 games. Under John Marks, Brodzinski became a third-line player who took a more active role in his defensive game.

He scored 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 58 games which tied for third among Force players with most games played this season. Brodzinski was tied with Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth) while Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and Taylor Richart, Brodzinski’s former high school teammate, played all 60 games.

Brodzinski and his line of Nate Arentz and Neal Goff were one of the Force’s strongest during the postseason playing a hybrid offensive/defense role, which got the team to the second-round for a tightly-contested series against the Lincoln Stars.

Back in February 2011, he came to the Force as a free agent signing as he led Blaine in scoring and to another Minnesota state hockey tournament. Following Blaine’s elimination, he and his family drove through blizzard-like conditions for him to make his Force debut and to get in the 10 games needed to stay protected for the following season.

His senior season and exposure with the Force resulted in Brodzinski being recruited by multiple schools including Bemidji State and Maine, which offered him a scholarship. He was also slated to visit with Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan before he committed to St. Cloud State.

Brodzinski’s father, Mike Sr., set numerous school records at St. Cloud State including most goals in a season.

Going to St. Cloud State adds to what is already a robust pipeline between the school and the Force. Former Force forwards Nick Oliver and Joe Rehkamp – a mid-season addition – played there along with former goaltender Mike Lee. Lee recently signed a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Brodzinski will also be joined by former Force teammate and Omaha Lancers forward Jimmy Murray next season. It remains to be seen if former Force coach Steve Johnson will be at St. Cloud next season.

Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times recently reported Johnson was under strong consideration for an assistant opening at Nebraska-Omaha, another school with a Force pipeline.

Brodzinski’s decision comes a day after his younger brother, Michael (Minnesota), had a successful operation to remove a tumor. Brodzinski posted a photo of his brother via Twitter, which showed bandaging around his head.

Michael Brodzinski led Blaine to another state tournament appearance this year and afterward, came to the USHL where he played with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He played in three games with the Lumberjacks picking up one point.

“He’s doing great,” Brodzinski said in the text about his brother.

Look Up…

Now that things (for now) have appeared to settled down it’s time to unveil the second annual Slightly Chilled awards.

Today’s awards will look at who was the Force’s best forward, best defenseman, best goaltender, most valuable player, rookie of the year, line of the year, most improved player and finally, the player to watch for next season.

Best Forward: Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota): There was a point where Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) was on pace to shatter every single franchise scoring record imaginable until he was injured. It took Farley time for him to get back to where was but while all this was going on, the Force were getting consistency from Chyzyk. Farley might have had 10 more points than Chyzyk, but Chyzyk provided an offensive punch as he was the team’s second-leading scorer and was one of the few players who could turn a penalty kill into a shorthanded goal in a matter of seconds. Chyzyk had offense, defense and was able to provide leadership on a young team. It’s fair to argue he was this team’s most complete forward throughout the regular season. He had moments this year which might not have as glamorous as Farley’s but they were important. There’s the moments where he pressured whoever at the puck at the point on a power play and pickpocketed them for a goal. Or there’s when Chyzyk, while on defense, dove and stuck his stick out to tip the puck out of bounds to kill a team’s momentum. All of those items helped Chyzyk have one of the more meteoric rises in franchise history going from an unknown in training camp to being a face of the franchise who has his bags packed to play at one of the nation’s college hockey powers.

Best Defenseman: Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha): This year’s blueline had a number of players who could have won. Cooper gets the nod because there was progression in his game this year. He didn’t lead the rush like he has done in previous years. He didn’t gun for the big hit as he has done in previous years. But what he did do was become more of a committed defenseman. Cooper was deployed in a role that made him more accountable on both ends but especially the defensive end. The shift in focus is why the penalty kill was the best its ever been in franchise history. The Force were third this year having finished mid-level the last two years and fifth in its first season. Cooper might not have had the flashiest season in terms of his points, but he played a more accountable game.

Best Goaltender: Zane Gothberg (North Dakota): When you set seven or so franchise records – most wins in a season, most wins in a career, lowest goals against average in a season, lowest goals against average in a year, best save percentage in a season, most shutouts in a season and most shutouts in a career – you are probably going to be the clear favorite for goaltender of the year or even more.

Most Valuable Player: Zane Gothberg: There are the reason mentioned above which make the argument. There’s the fact he’s the only player on the Force’s roster you can say was the best at his position of anyone in the entire USHL. There’s the fact that he overcame a rocky first season, personal loss in the summer and yet still remained dedicated to getting better and winning games. Most of all, there’s this. Where would this team have been without him?

Rookie of the Year: Gabe Guertler (Minnesota): Rookie of the Year is never easy because there are no clear guidelines for what a “rookie” really is. Technically, Chyzyk and Taylor Richart, who both have junior hockey experience, are rookies in the USHL. Both were candidates for the award. As were High School Musical members Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth) and Dave Gust. Iafallo was the team’s fourth-leading scorer and Gust came into Fargo and added a much needed offensive jolt. But when you think about what or in this case, who, made that line go, it was Guertler. At 5-8, he believes he’s 6-2 because he’ll take a run at any player regardless of size or how long they’ve been in the league. He fights to win face-offs, he can play the pretty brand of hockey the Force have displayed but he can also play an ugly style of game if need be. Guertler went through growing pains yet managed to still contribute in a variety of ways. John Marks in just about every post-game presser we had referenced The Musical by saying, “The Guertler line played well.” Guertler put a stamp on that line in so many ways. And he’s one of the things this franchise has going for it heading into next season.

Line of the Year: The BBC Line of Farley (who has the nickname of Bug)-Chyzyk and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan): There wasn’t a line who more or less dictated how the Force were going to perform more than this one. When this team struggled to open the season, most of this line struggled. When this team won nine games in a row, they were downright deadly with Farley scoring left and right, Chyzyk scoring and playing in a two-way role while Hargrove got goals and hammered opponents. At their peak, this line was one of the more unique in the league. There might not have been a line where you had finesse, nastiness and ability rolled into one. And as we saw in the playoffs, when this line was not scoring, it made it hard for the Force to win. That’s one of those reasons why there were expectations of this line. When they were on, they were lethal.

Most Improved Player of the Year: Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth): Simply, the guy kicked ass in Fargo. He made the switch from a hybrid defenseman-forward to playing straight defense and doing well. Corrin was one of two players – Richart being the other – to play all 60 games this season. Offensively, he was a power play dynamo with 17 assists and he was either a first or second-pairing choice on the penalty kill to boot. There were players who certain made improvements in the off-season but Corrin showed it in so many ways throughout the season.

Player To Watch For Next Season: Nate Arentz. He’s only 17 as his birthday isn’t until late June so he’ll be 18 next season as a third-year player. Arentz came a hell of a long way from where he was as a first-year player looking to adapt to the USHL. He used his speed on several occasions creating breakaways and odd-man rushes to create scoring chances. Some he buried, some he didn’t. But his finishing did get better throughout the season and showed it by scoring a goal in the Force’s final playoff game against the Lincoln Stars. He’s 6-1 and 185 pounds and has made a tremendous change from looking like the typical first-year player he was when he arrived from Lakeville North (MN-HS). Arentz was also on the two-way line with Neal Goff and Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) which was the team’s second-best line in the postseason. With two years under his belt, an improved physique, speed, size and two-way ability, Arentz is primed to be next year’s breakout player.

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.

Hands On The Wheel…

Quite a few things can be taken away from the Force’s first-round sweep over the Sioux City Musketeers.

There’s no denying that if the Force can continue what they did in the third period of Game 2, this could be a team that could challenge for the Western Conference title.

But before we look ahead, let’s look back. As in, let’s look back at the three Force players who made a big difference in the first-round sweep and what they could do later down the road.

3. Neal Goff, defenseman/forward: As its been written about quite a bit on this blog, there was mystery into who would play alongside Nate Arentz and Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) on the third line. Goff won the role and certainly sparkled. He used Game 1 to get comfortable in the role giving the Force a defensive-minded, shutdown line which certainly did its job in a 2-1 overtime victory. Goff stepped it up on offense in Game 2 adding a few more shots including one move where he worked his way around the defense to get a shot on net. As the Force started flexing its muscle, he played a little bit more at defense showing his versatility. Force coach John Marks said last night he liked what he’s seen from Goff in this series and that he should be a vital piece to next season’s team.

2. Zane Gothberg, goaltender (North Dakota): Before this goes any further, we’d like to announce the following: Zane Gothberg really is the best goaltender in the USHL and he showed it in this series. Gothberg went 2-0 with a 0.98 goals against average and a .964 save percentage. There just never seemed to be a moment where Gothberg appeared be rattled and/or taxed for that matter. We’ve gone into great detail about his regular season but let’s re-hash it again. He went 26-16-7 with a 2.22 GAA, a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts. All he did was set the franchise records for: Most wins in a career; Most wins in a season; Lowest GAA in a season (a record he held from last year); Lowest GAA in a career; Highest save percentage in a season; Most shutouts in a season and finally, yes, finally Most shutouts in a year. Marks has told us repeatedly the Boston Bruins, which drafted Gothberg, are extremely high on him. Let’s go ahead and open this debate because we really want to see the opinion here. But is it fair to ask: Is Zane Gothberg the best player in franchise history? It looks like he could be.

1. Gabe Guertler, forward (Minnesota): Guertler might have not only been the team’s most consistent forward but he might have been the team’s most consistent player. Guertler had the kind of series where it felt like he tried to generate something every time he was on the ice. His first shift opened with him scoring a goal less than a minute into the game for a 1-0 lead. Guertler and the rest of The Musical went on to generate decent scoring chances that just got stopped by Sioux City’s Matt Skoff (Penn State), a goalie who has won at least 20 games a year over the last three seasons. Guertler didn’t look different in Game 2 creating chances but also getting physical when he needed to picking up four penalty minutes. Like Marks pointed out in a story we did on The Musical in Monday’s Forum, Guertler believes he’s 6-2 but he’s really 5-9. His strongest period of the series came in the third when he set up Dave Gust for two goals. Guertler’s finest feed came when he flew down the right wing, slowed the pace, was left by himself on the wing and then found a trailing Gust for a goal and what was a 5-1 lead. Marks labeled Guertler as one of the best competitors in the league and he’s still only 16 years old. Remember. It was this time about a year ago when the Force drafted Guertler second overall in the USHL Futures Draft. At the time, someone asked us on Twitter if we’d have a Taylor (Cammarata) vs. Gabe scenario at some point in the season. Cammarata (Minnesota) certainly won the regular season battle scoring 69 points in 60 games for the Waterloo Black Hawks, which is unheard of for a 16-year-old. Guertler scored 28 points in 57 games, which isn’t bad either. But with both players having three points and leading their respective teams in the playoffs, it seems like the Taylor vs. Gabe debate could be an interesting post-season topic.

Carry That Weight…

Scoring the overtime winner certainly made the Force’s Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) a popular man, but he wasn’t the only defenseman showing what he could do on the offensive end.

First-year defenseman Neal Goff anchored a line with Nate Arentz and Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), giving the Force a shutdown line which certainly did its job in the team’s 2-1 win over Sioux City on Monday.

Goff hopes his line can replicate what it did on Monday in the hopes of closing out the series tonight at 7:05 p.m. The Force hold a 1-0 lead in a best-of-three series.

“I thought our line played really well and our line had some (scoring) chances,” Goff said. “I am getting the hang of forward to where I am totally comfortable up there. The first couple of games its hard to get your grips being a defenseman. I felt I contributed both ways and I plan on doing that in the rest of the playoffs.”

Goff won the “Play with Nate Arentz and Jonny Brodzinski” Sweepstakes after Force coach John Marks said he was going to use Sunday to figure out who’d be the best fit on the line.

Goff actually played with Arentz and Brodzinski on Mar. 31 in a 3-0 loss at Sioux City. Even in the loss, the line did not give up a goal going even in plus/minus ratio.

Marks chose Goff from a list which included forwards Jordan Nelson, Stanislav Dzakhov and Pavel Zykov. Nelson dressed and was on the sparingly-used fourth line while Dzakhov and Zykov watched the game in the stands.

“I was really excited,” Goff said about playing on the team’s third line. “I played with them for a few games prior to tonight and we work well together.”

Goff’s role on the line was to serve in what Brodzinski described as a “high-low” role.

Picture an inverted pyramid where Arentz is on the left, Brodzinski is on the right and Goff is in the center, or in this case, the slot, which is about five to 10 feet in front of the net. The scheme allows Arentz and Brodzinski to work in the corners to dig for the puck.

When they do get the puck it sets up what could be a point-blank opportunity for Goff. But in case it doesn’t, it allows Goff to quickly skate back on defense giving the Force a three-man wall to prevent or at least slow down any odd-man rushes.

“He was like a third defenseman out there,” Brodzinski said. “But he was also a forward at the same time. He was the third guy high as me and Nate just battled in the corners. The goal was to just keep him floating out high so we could feed him the puck.”

The 6-4, 180-pound Goff said he was pleased with his performance but there were some things he’d like to refine coming into tonight’s game.

Goff said offense was the aspect of his game he wanted to improve the most.

He didn’t register any shots on net, according to the stats. He attributed that to having his head down instead of keeping his head up and looking for a spot to expose on Musketeers’ goaltender Matt Skoff (Penn State), who made 36 saves in the loss.

“I think sometimes, I am a little quick to shoot it,” Goff said. “And maybe pick my head up too. Overall, I think we played pretty well and we just have to keep rolling.”

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing…

Force coach John Marks was rattling off the list of names who could join forwards Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) and Nate Arentz on the team’s third line for the playoffs.

When Marks reached the end of the list, he was then asked about would he consider defenseman Neal Goff to play alongside Brodzinski and Arentz.

“Absolutely, absolutely” Marks said in his strong Canadian prairie tone which is eerily similar to that of Hockey Night In Canada’s Don Cherry. “I know he is going to work and be responsible defensively and that’s a key element come playoff time.”

Goff, who has scored five points in 32 games this season, has been splitting time at forward lately trying to work his way onto what could be the ninth and final forward spot.

Marks has said for the last two weeks he’s going to roll three lines in the hopes of getting more consistency and flow from his forwards. He admitted Saturday night he could send out a fourth line but they wouldn’t be used frequently unless the situation called for it.

“You know what, I just have to do everything within my power and keep working as hard as I can,” Goff said. “Whether its on forward or defense, so be it. I think I can be used at forward and it might be at forward. Hopefully, like you said, I can get on that third line. I enjoy both positions and I plan on doing whatever (Marks) wants.”

Finding someone to go with Brodizinski and Arentz has been almost a season-long task.

It appeared Jordan Nelson was the obvious choice until he suffered an injury in early March and didn’t return until March 31. Nelson has scored two points in six games since returning from the injury.

Then it became an open competition which has seen the likes of Stanislav Dzakhov, Taylor Fleming and Pavel Zykov all emerge as viable options. Marks has said he’s seen good and bad things from everyone going for the final spot.

He and his staff will review those things Sunday afternoon leading into Game 1 against Sioux City at 7:05 p.m. on Monday.

“Guys have had plenty of opportunities to show,” Marks said. “I was really disappointed in some performances (in the Force’s 2-1 loss to Lincoln on Saturday.)

Marks said it comes down to who is willing to “get their nose dirty” and work for a spot.

It sounds like Goff would be up for the challenge.

Goff has played, either at forward or defense, in four of the team’s last five games. He was starting to show his development prior to being suspended in March by the USHL for an incident involving a racial epithet against a Des Moines Buccaneers player.

Goff, a former Minnesota state track champion, analyzed his season by saying it has been an “emotional roller coaster.”

He recalled playing in the first 10 games of the season until he was getting scratched in favor of other players. Goff said the adversity he’s faced this season has made him a better player and a better person who wants to contribute to the team.

Goff proved it last weekend when he had a 2-on-1, empty-net chance that he gave up so Zykov could score his first USHL goal. Marks said immediately after the game he was extremely pleased and proud of Goff for how selfless he was.

Maybe this time around, its Marks who throws Goff a line.

“I think coming back, being out for six games, I hopped back in,” Goff said. “Any player that sits out plays hungry. I am hungry for ice time, hungry for more and more opportunities and they’ve given me that. I am showing that I can be a continuous guy to put in every night and hopefully they see that and I can contribute come playoffs.”

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.

The Lonely Toilet…

Maybe we now know the reason why Regg Simon was “happy” to get fired from the Des Moines Buccaneers on Tuesday.

After all, someone did put a toilet in the man’s parking spot the day before he was fired.

Simon, who recently started a Twitter account, tweeted on Monday a photo of a toilet in his parking space under the title of “How Fitting!”

Yep. That’s a toilet. That’s a parking lot. That’s a toilet with a Green Bay Packers sticker in a parking lot.

The Packers sticker is more than likely aimed at the possibility Simon is a Minnesota Vikings fan. He is from Elk River, Minn. which is about 30 or so miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Having a toilet in his parking space is the latest detail in what has certainly been a crazy tale.

Simon told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday in regards to his dismissal, “This is one of the happiest days of my life, and I am glad it happened now rather than later.”

We’ve seen some crazy stuff this season in the USHL.

As of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the craziest news appeared to be when Sioux City Musketeers assistant John Grahame signed a contract with the New York Islanders to come out of retirement.

Coaches in the USHL just don’t come out of retirement to go play in the NHL. Then again, they don’t come to work on Monday morning to find toilets in their parking spots either.

Simon, 36, spent nine years with the organization. That’s basically one-fourth of his life. He spent two years as a player and the following seven years either as a head coach or as an assistant. His first stint as head coach saw him win a USHL title back in 2006, when he was coaching players such as Islanders winger Kyle Okposo.

Lately, however, a championship seems like a long time ago. Des Moines is on the verge of missing the playoffs for a fifth-straight season. The team has also lost seven games in a row heading into the weekend.

Firing a “happy” Simon, a toilet in his parking space and possibly missing the playoffs are just the latest problems in Des Moines.

The Bucs also had two players recently charged for allegedly assaulting a Fargo Force player and his 79-year-old grandfather in the stands. Force defenseman Neal Goff admitted to police that, during a March 10th game, he used a racial epithet against Des Moines’ forward Trent Thomas-Samuels, who is black.

Goff, a day later, sat in the stands with his family and, after the game, was immediately assaulted. Police issued arrest warrants last week for Bucs players Tanner Karty and Kevin Irwin (Ohio State) in connection with the assault. Both players were charged with assault.

The team’s struggles have prompted fans to take to various message boards, with most of them speaking out against Simon.

Though no recent comments have been made, there was some talk from Bucs fans about the team firing Simon.

One comment following the team’s 2-1 loss to Sioux Falls on March 18 said, “It’s time some major moves are made in the organization. From coaching all the way to ownership. Buc’s (sic) fans deserve much better and quite frankly are fed up and pissed.”

At least now, those fans have a toilet to vent their frustrations with.