Escapee…

In John Marks’ mind, none of this makes any sense.

The Fargo Force head coach said Saturday he was surprised defenseman and now-former team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) only went in the fifth round of the NHL Draft of Saturday.

“It couldn’t have been something off-ice,” Marks said.

Cooper was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks with the 127th pick in the draft, one spot below teammate and forward Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marks said he was happy the Force had three players – Cooper, Toninato and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) – were all drafted tying a franchise record of three players taken in the draft. Hargrove was taken in the seventh round by the Boston Bruins.

Still, it left Marks wondering why teams didn’t take Cooper in the earlier rounds.

“He’s a 4.0 student, did really well from school, did really well away from school too,” Marks said. “He has everything you’d want in a kid.”

Cooper said Saturday he was projected to go anywhere from the third to the seventh round. He said going in the fifth round met that projection.

Though Cooper did fall within those parameters, going in the fifth round did raise some eyebrows considering Chicago Steel defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Colorado College) was taken towards the end of the fourth round by the Carolina Hurricanes.

By comparison, Cooper was a bit more well-known than Slavin coming to the draft.

Cooper’s name might have carried more notoriety given he has been talked about since he came into the league at 15. He also had been talked about as one of three USHL players to watch last April for the 2012 NHL Draft by NHL Central Scouting.

Yet Cooper’s offensive production wasn’t what some were considering. Cooper’s second season with the Force resulted in a 33-point season largely predicated on his ability to lead the rush, buzz the net and use a booming hit when needed to free the puck and create chances at the other end.

This past season saw a different version of Cooper. He was more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Cooper did get points, scoring 24, but those rushes which became synonymous with his game were not frequent. Cooper was still a second-team selection to the all-USHL team.

But choosing Slavin might not be all that surprising considering he had better numbers than Cooper.

Slavin was a integral part of the revival that was the Chicago Steel’s season. The Steel won nine games in the 2010-11 season and bounced back this season to contend for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference before falling short.

At 6-2 and 170 pounds, he put up 30 (three goals, 27 assists) in 60 games for the Steel this season.

Marks was then quick to point out he believes Cooper could make the NHL, it just might not be as a defenseman.

“I could see him making the move to forward,” said Marks, who spent nine NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. “That’s what I did. I was an All-American at defense my last two years of college and when I got to the Blackhawks they moved me to forward. Something like that could definitely happen.”

Most Wanted…

Once again, the Fargo Force found a way to make an off-season interesting.

This time it had nothing to do with another coach leaving. The Force tied a franchise record as it had three players taken in the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday.

Forward Dom Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) was taken 126th overall in the fifth round and with the very next pick the Anaheim Ducks took defenseman and captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha). Forward Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) was taken 205th overall by the Boston Bruins.

Toninato played with the Force towards the end of the season after playing most of the year with Duluth East (MN-HS), which reached the Minnesota state tournament. Toninato was one of the state’s best players and became the first Minnesota high school hockey player outside of Shattuck-St. Mary’s to be taken in the draft.

He scored 61 points while playing for Duluth East and with the Force had one point in four games with the team. Toninato, who the Force drafted in 2011, will be with the team next season.

As for Cooper, he ends his three-year career by getting drafted by a Ducks franchise which appears to have promising defensemen in its stock.

Cooper, who is 5-10 and 180 pounds, played 50-plus in all three seasons and this year played 55 games scoring 25 points.

He marshaled a defense, which ranked among the best in the USHL and he also captained Team USA to a third-place finish at the World Junior “A” Challenge in British Columbia.

As for Hargrove, the 6-2, 210-pounder was a mix of an offensive threat who could provide punishing hits. He played on the team’s first line, which at times was one of the more dominant first lines in the USHL.

Hargrove going to the Bruins means he’ll be at the team’s camp with former Force teammate and close friend, Zane Gothberg (North Dakota), who was drafted by the team in 2010.

 

Check back later for more details.

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.

Fancy Footwork…

For now, at least, it appears there could be some familiar names who have a shot at representing Team USA at one of the world’s most premier tournaments.

Recently former Fargo Force captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and former teammate and current Western Michigan star Garrett Haar were invited to Team USA’s evaluation camp in August at Lake Placid, N.Y.

The list, which features more than 40 players, was released by USA Hockey this morning.

Cooper was part of a roster which featured a numerous amount of USHL based players while Haar was just one of quite a few players already playing college hockey to make the list.

What’s on the line for both Cooper and Haar is a chance at playing in the IIHF U-20 World Championships, which by all purposes is the largest and most premier amateur tournament in the world.

It also ranks as one of the more important tournaments in all of world hockey on any level.

The tournament has seen current NHL stars such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews make their mark and really announce themselves to a hockey world who may not have followed their previous hockey accomplishments.

Cooper, 18, just finished his third and final year with the Force having led the team to a second-round playoff appearance. He also stands a strong chance at being taken on Saturday at the NHL Draft.

Force coach John Marks, a former No. 1 selection back in the 1960s, recently told NHL.com he expects Cooper could go in the third round. Projections have called for Cooper to go anywhere between the second and fourth rounds

Cooper was invited to Team USA’s camp last season where he was among the youngest players to receive an invite. Though he was one of the first players to be cut, he described it as a good experience which prepared him for any future possible chances he’d have with the national team.

Haar, 18, just finished his first season at Western Michigan, where he helped the program win a conference title and have one of the best seasons in school history

It was this time a year ago when Haar started to gain more visibility. Following his first season in Fargo, Haar impressed in the playoffs and was taken by the Capitals in the seventh round of last season’s draft making him the only Force player to be taken.

Haar went into the Capitals evaluation camp where he was declared to by the “surprise of the camp” by general manager George McPhee. Haar was set to return to Fargo after decommitting from Northeastern, a day after he was drafted.

Weeks before the Force’s pre-season camp, he was offered a scholarship by Western Michigan.

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.

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.”

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.

Honestly…

OK Force fans. You know the situation. Win and your boys force a Game 5 and a chance at the Western Conference Finals.

Lose and the only season left is the one that involves golf clubs.

We’ve done previews for every game in the Force-Lincoln Stars’ Western Conference semifinal series. But for this one, we’re changing the format. We’ll look at offense, defense and goaltending. Though instead of looking at a player, we’re going to take a look at what the Force have to do right to keep the series alive or what the Stars have to do to end this bad boy for good.

Let’s begin.

OFFENSE:

What the Force have to do right: Score. Score early. Score often. Score at rate like Bernie Madoff was ripping off the Tri-State Area. That’s no joke. Goals have been at a premium for both teams and any team who can score first, as Lincoln proved in Game 4, certainly has an advantage. If the Force can get goals, especially from the BBC Line (Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota)-Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan), it makes this team that more dangerous. We know that, you know that and Ringo over there definitely knows that.

What the Stars have to do right: Find a way to own that first period. As we’ve mentioned, scoring helps. But something Stars forward Dominik Shine (Northern Michigan) said at Thursday’s practice is if the Stars play their game, they can control the tempo. That will be important given the Force are: A.) More desperate than an ABC show in its final season. B.) Have nothing to lose by trying everything possible to get going and C.) Are the kind of team that once they get momentum and build on it, they are harder to stop. If the Stars use that controlling, physical brand to establish their command, it increases the chances of a series-clinching victory. If not, then prepare for a Game 5.

DEFENSE:

What the Force have to do right: Clearing traffic in Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) is certainly a start. Gothberg’s view wasn’t clear when Lincoln scored its opening goal last game and it doesn’t help his case the Stars are basically a bunch of redwoods on skates given their height. Aside from clearing traffic in front of net, another thing to get right would be spacing. Lincoln uses its spacing on the power play but they stretch the ice when they operate in the opposition’s zone. If there’s a way for the Force to make the ice smaller and in Gothberg’s case, clearer, it will go a long way.

What the Stars have to do right: Keep making sure the Force do not get in good position for the rebounds. Stars goaltender Charles Williams (Ferris State) has been solid but if there’s a flaw, it would be the rebounds he allows. It just appears there have been more times where Lincoln’s defensemen can position themselves to not be vulnerable to a rebound giving up a goal. The Force must find a way to take advantage of those second and possible third chances. It’s pretty clear: The Force must capitalize like a second-grader on a spelling test.

GOALTENDING:

What the Force must do right: Truthfully? Just give Gothberg a chance to do his job. Much has been said about this team but one thing nobody can question is how Gothberg has performed these playoffs. Let Gothberg be himself and if that happens, the Force have more than just a chance at forcing a Game 5.

What the Stars must do right: Give Williams help around the net. When the Force buzz the net, that’s when they are at their strongest. If there’s a way to clear the net for Williams so he can make easier saves, they must do it. Otherwise, same thing that applied to Gothberg applies to Williams. Just let him keep doing his thing.

Keep’N It Real…

Even from the first sentence of the post-game interview, Fargo Force coach John Marks was honest in his assessment.

He said his team’s 3-1 loss to the Lincoln Stars was the result of many things. Marks started off by saying his team had a lack of urgency and it showed in the third period with the Stars outshooting the Force 13-4.

“I’ve seen us play better and I am not taking anything away from Lincoln,” Marks said. “But we are not playing as well as I’ve seen us play.”

The performance put the Force in a 2-1 series hole meaning if the Stars win Game 4 on Friday, the season is over and the Force will have been knocked out of the second round for a consecutive campaign.

Marks, during his post-game interview, talked about “a few players I was down on” referring to the team’s top line of Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth) and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan).

Coming into Wednesday’s game, the three combined to be the Force’s least productive line with two points through four playoff games with Chyzyk and Farley having the two points. Hargrove, specifically, had been struggling more than anyone as he hadn’t scored a point in his last eight games going back to the regular season.

For Hargrove, who didn’t get a point last night, it now extends his drought to nine games. It is the third time this season where he’s had a point drought of at least seven games. Hargrove finished the game as a minus-2 and had four shots on goal.

Chyzyk recorded a second straight game with a minus-2 rating making him minus-2 for the playoffs as he’s gone pointless in his last four games. It’s the third time Chyzyk has gone without a point in four games this season. Four games without a point is Chyzyk’s longest streak.

Farley, who led the team in scoring in the regular season, was also pointless going a minus-1 and is a minus-4 over the last two games. He does also not have a point in his last three games. It’s the third time this season Farley has had a streak of at least three games without a point. His longest streak of the year was six games.

To their credit, the three did spend time in Lincoln’s zone and had a few moments where it appeared as if they were going to create a scoring chance. The three combined to take nine or 39 percent of the Force’s shots.

So what did Marks have to say about the line’s performance?

“I thought they played harder,” Marks said. “But I don’t think they accomplished anything.”