Be Alright…

Despite having the chance to stay in his native Russia, forward Pavel Zykov will return to the Fargo Force next season.

Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis said Zykov, who was taken in the second round of the KHL Amateur Draft earlier this month by Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the program which cultivated NHL star Evgeni Malkin.

“All we’ve heard is that he is still coming back,” Davis said of Zykov. “We haven’t heard anything different.”

The 6-1, 175-pound Zykov was a free agent signee by the Force about midway through the season after being spotted by Davis at a tournament in Chicago. He played 20 games with the Force scoring two points while adjusting to living in the United States for the first time.

Davis said it became apparent Zykov,17, was going to return to the Force given that he left all of his personal belongings in Fargo.

“I think he misses the food here too,” Davis joked. “He liked the American-style food like the fast food and he might be back even quicker and you see him at Hardee’s.”

Getting Zykov’s commitment for a return means the Force will have seven forwards from last season’s playoff team which suffered a consecutive second round exit from the Western Conference playoffs.

Davis said fellow Russian forward Stanislav Dzahkov would return while forward Nick Stoskopf would not be returning. Davis said Stoskopf has accepted a scholarship to play at Division III Wisconsin-Superior for next season.

Stoskopf, who was a high school free agent signee under former coach Jason Herter, played 65 games with the Force scoring 14 points and was a minus-19 including a team low minus-17 this season.

Davis added defenseman David Mead appears as if he is on his way out of the door as he’s trying out with other teams in the league along with being a first-round pick of the Wenatchee Wild in the NAHL.

“If I was a betting man, that’s a spot he’d end up,” Davis said about Mead going to the NAHL. “Bliss Littler is the head coach there and he has a good relationship with him because of their time in Omaha together. Looking up and down their roster, they need a guy like him.”

If Mead leaves, it gives the Force four returning defenseman for next season plus a number of options as the team could draw from its affiliates list, draft picks and potential free agents.

Work Hard Play Hard…

It’s becoming clear the Force’s roster plans are getting murky.

The last week has seen the Force’s roster, which was set to return up to 16 players, undergo potential changes which could give the team a bit of a different and younger look for next season.

It appears the Force could lose up to five players from the 2011-12 team heading into next year.

Forward Pavel Zykov was drafted in the second round of the KHL Amateur Draft less than a week ago by Metallurg, the program which produced Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Zykov was also one of four Force players drafted in last week’s NAHL Draft.

Defenseman David Mead along with forwards Nick Stoskopf and Stanislav Dzakhov were also taken in the NAHL Draft.

The Force already lost forward Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) to college after he’d been teetering back and forth between school and staying another year with the team.

“We’re in a situation where we can only have four (1992-born) players on our roster for next season,” said Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis. “We have some guys who are on the fence for next year.”

Davis said its a situation which is up in the air right now and final plans will not be determined until later.

Whether or not those players will return becomes even more of a question considering none of them were at the Force’s tryout camp, which was held in the Minneapolis area over the weekend.

Davis said last week in a text message Zykov was back in Russia making it unlikely he would fly back for the team’s camp regardless.

As for Dzakhov, Mead and Stoskopf, not being at camp isn’t exactly damning. Last season, defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), was not at the team’s camp as he was back home in Alaska.

Twelve players expected to return for next season’s team were present at the camp.

The only notable absentee from Sunday’s all-star game was forward Nate Arentz, who was a senior this year at Fargo South which held its graduation ceremonies on Sunday.

If the departures were to occur, it means there are five potential openings the Force have and plenty of options to choose from.

Affiliates list forwards Brendan Harms (Bemidji State), Zach Doerring and Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) are just a few of the forwards the team could rely upon to fill the gap next year. Davis also said following the USHL Draft, incoming forwards Matt Pohlkamp (Bowling Green) and Futures picks Mason Morelli and Michael Booth are expected to make the team next season.

That’s not including if the Force find favor in a forward who they didn’t draft similar to the way they did with Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), who came out of nowhere to become one of the team’s best players.

Defensively, the Force would return five defensemen and will already have Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) coming into the fold. Similar to their forwards, the Force have a number of options off the affiliates list such as Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota), Dante Suffredini or any one of the players they took in the Entry Draft.

Davis said he was pleased with how the camp went as they saw some promising performances from their Futures Draft players.

It also appeared to be a good camp for defenseman Taylor Richart, who spoke with Miami (Ohio), Davis said. Davis acknowledged the rumors of Richart accepting a scholarship with the school, but said that isn’t true.

Richart, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Brodzinski, only played one season with the Force after coming over from Aberdeen (NAHL). He put up 16 points for the Force and was one of two players to play in all 60 games during the regular season.

Miami recently lost NTDP defenseman Patrick Sieloff, who opted to play next season with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League.

“He hasn’t accepted anything from them,” Davis said. “I think what it was, was people saw him talking with Miami in the lobby.”

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.”

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.

El Burrito de Belén…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though there is one thing to note about the draft.

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

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

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

Below are a list of the teams:

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

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

This Bright Flash…

Anytime guys on the Fargo Force get a chance to compete against one another, they’re always up for the challenge.

It just so happened, this time the bragging rights went to who did the most for charity. The Force raised more than $25,000 on Saturday night for the Purple-N-Pucks campaign, which raised money for Embrace. Embrace is a program designed to help cancer survivors and its color is purple, the universal color for cancer.

Part of the fundraiser included a post-game jersey auction. The team auctioned off the purple jerseys they wore following a 4-3 loss to the Tri-City Storm.

“I think the players are always excited for it every year,” said Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner. “They are excited to see the jerseys and have a competition.”

Competition led to 12 jerseys being sold for at least $1,000 starting with team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha).

Baumgartner, who has worked with the Force for four seasons, said Cooper’s jersey sold for $1,000.

It set the tone for what was certainly an interesting auction highlighted by players “stripping” to drive up the price. Forward Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) was one of them.

“I took my jersey off and twisted it over my head,” Guertler said. “Then I took my t-shirt off. I figured that’d drive up the price.”

Though the team did not release details about how much every jersey went for, Guertler believed his jersey did go for a decent amount. Baumgartner addeed Cooper, who dyed his hair purple before the game, told the crowd he didn’t dye his hair for nothing in the hopes of driving up the price.

She also added how the dance stylings of Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) also made its way to the auction stage yet he didn’t showcase his remarkable ability to do the moonwalk. Type in “Willie Corrin” on YouTube and you’ll get the idea.

Yet the unquestioned winner of the jersey auction was first-year Russian forward Stanislav Dzhakov. His jersey went from $1,900 to an even $2,000, according to players.

The price didn’t surprise anyone. After all, former Force goaltender Ryan Massa, now at Nebraska-Omaha, had his jersey go for $2,000 last year at an auction.

But if people would have gone around and taken pre-auction bets on who’s jersey could have brought in the most dough, Dzahkov’s name wouldn’t have been up there, according to a few teammates.

In fairness, Dzahkov is becoming a bit of a popular guy in Fargo these days. Since filling in for injured forward and leading scorer Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), he’s practically scored in every game including a game-winner with three seconds left in a 3-2 win at Sioux Falls a few weeks ago.

“It was funny because you got Guertler going up there and stripping,” said Force forward Nick Stoskopf. “But then you have Stan, standing up there all awkward and Russian and his jersey goes for the most.”

Lonely Star…

As the music blared following a victory, voices could be heard bouncing off the rubber floors and the concrete walls in the bowels of Scheels Arena.

Then a clanking sound soon followed. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. It was a one-two, one-two staccato. It was the sound of metallic grey crutches belonging to Fargo Force forward Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth).

Farley was dressed in a black suit, a white dress shirt with the top button undone and a black tie in a Windsor knot. He was wearing a black Force winter skullcap with the top sticking up like a fauxhawk. On his right foot was a protective boot and the obvious sign he could be out for a while.

Given how Farley’s season has gone, this was probably an image most didn’t see coming.

The Force’s leading scorer, his 48 points and antagonistic play are going to be out for a month after he was diagnosed with a fractured toe. The team said prior to Friday’s 3-1 win over Tri-City, he would be out up to five weeks.

‘It happened during a game against Lincoln a few weeks ago,” Farley said of his injury. “I took a puck off my foot.”

Farley’s injury comes at a time when the Force are trying to do more than just make the playoffs.

Winning Friday put the Force in third place in the Western Conference. A win tonight coupled with a Lincoln loss gives the Force second place for the moment. Finishing first or second guarantees a first-round playoff bye.

Finishing third or fourth means home ice advantage in the first round, which is what the Force did last season when they finished fourth.

Whatever happens to the Force, they’ll have to do the bulk of it without Farley.

“It obviously sucks,” Farley said. “I am down about it but I am glad guys are picking up the slack.”

The Force, in the interim, don’t appear to missing the man who exploded into a league star and at one point in time was the league’s second-leading scorer. It has been a fill-in-when-needed basis.

Jordan Nelson picked up the slack last week when he scored two goals though it has been Stanislav Dzakhov, who has been taking the task of filling Farley’s place. He had two goals and an assist on Friday and last Saturday scored the game-winning goal with three seconds left against Sioux Falls.

While his teammates are venturing further into what could be an interesting finish to the Western Conference, Farley will have to watch from a suite.

“For two weeks I can’t do anything,” Farley said about his rehab. “Mostly just doing upper body workouts.”

Farley’s hope is he can come back and contribute to a team which has the pieces needed to make a deep playoff run this season.

A long playoff run could make up for a long layoff. It could also make up for what Farley lose this season.

Farley’s season was so dominant, so torrid he was on pace to shatter the franchise’s single-season scoring record of 66 points set by Matt Leitner (now at Minnesota-Mankato) during the 2009-10 season.

With 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) and a projected return of March 10, Farley would have to score 19 points in 11 games to break the record. If Farley could manage it, pulling off the feat would only add more to his season and it could without question make it the most impressive season in franchise history by an individual player.

“I’ve thought a lot about it reading the blogs and whatnot,” Farley said. “And I was going to shatter the record and all that. But in the long run, it’ll work out.”

P.I.M.P.

Between every whistle the buzz around Scheels Arena was growing about what was on the Fargo Force’s bench.

Stanislav Dzakhov scored two goals and an assist, but that wasn’t it. Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota) was having one of those nights where he was showing what has made him one of the league’s better players this season. That wasn’t it either.

It was Force coach John Marks. Marks hadn’t said anything to get people talking but instead it was the fedora he was wearing while coaching the game. The always sharp Marks was dressed to kill. Or at least do some bodily harm.

He wore a black fedora with a dark grey suit with a white-colored dress shirt featuring grey pinstrips and a black tie with a pattern of grey-colored hockey players.

“It’s kind of retro I guess,” Marks said. “My first coach I ever admired was Billy Reay. Every year I’ve always brought one out in honor of Billy Reay. God rest his soul. it is an honor to him but it is kind of coming back. Maybe if it was lucky tonight, maybe a few more people in the stands will wear them.”

Reay, who died in September 2004 from lung cancer, had a long stint with the Chicago Blackhawks and was the only coach Marks had during his entire NHL career which was in Chicago.

Marks said there wasn’t anything special about Friday which made him break out the hat but he felt this would be a good time to do it.

Considering the Force won 3-1 and now sit in third place alone and a point out of second, yeah John, you could say it might have worked.

During the postgame interview, Marks was told he looked like he could go to open mic night somewhere and start singing a few Frank Sinatra hits.

It led to a visitor in the coach’s office saying, “Have you heard his voice?”

“I am wearing to also cover up my grey hair,” said Marks, who also joked he wore the hat because it was cold outside. “It doesn’t look bad does it? We’ll have another one on tomorrow.”

Under The Weather…

From Austin Farley’s (Minnesota-Duluth) Twitter account to Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner, one thing is clear.

Farley isn’t playing this weekend and it could be a while before he plays for the Fargo Force any time soon. Farley tweeted Thursday how he was on crutches and was going to be walking around in a boot.

Baumgartner confirmed Farley’s tweet by saying he won’t be in action against Tri-City and a timetable for his return is unknown.

The Force said last week Farley was out with what was classified as a “lower-body injury” but he was obviously limping around the locker room for the last week. He spent Tuesday’s practice rehabbing while the rest of the team was on the ice.

Missing Farley, who leads the team with 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists), could potentially be a crippling blow to the Force, which currently sit in a tie for third place with Waterloo in the Western Conference heading into this weekend.

Farley has been the Force’s most dominant player following an early season struggle when the team was mired in a lengthy losing streak before reeling off nine in a row.

He was scoring and grabbing points at a torrid pace and at one point was four points off the league lead in points and currently sits in a tie for third two points behind Indiana’s Daniil Tarasov and 10 points behind what appears to be eventual scoring champ in Lincoln’s Kevin Roy (Brown).

Farley was also on pace to shatter the Force’s single-season scoring record for most goals and points in a season. He also had a chance at becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in franchise history. It appears his shot at history could take a blow depending on how long he will be out.

The Force (20-15-4) went 1-1 last weekend without Farley in the line-up and have received contributions from just about every line to fill the void. Forward Jordan Nelson scored two goals in the team’s 4-3 overtime loss to Omaha while Stanislav Dzakhov scored the game-winning goal with three seconds left in a 3-2 win over Sioux Falls.

Defenseman-turned-forward Taylor Fleming filled for Farley on a line with Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) going pointless and only picking up two shots between both games.