Photo by Hickling Images
Team: Fargo Force
Head Coach: Cary Eades, 3rd season
“We were extremely proud that all 24 players on our season ending roster last season received D1 scholarship offers. However, with 18 of them advancing to college this Fall, that leaves us with only 6 returners for 17-18, so we've got some holes to plug. We drafted and recruited many players who have played 1-2 years of junior hockey in other leagues, so how quickly we can come together and play good team hockey will determine our start to the season. Our franchise took another step in the right direction by making the playoffs last season, and we look forward to building on that momentum in 2017-18.”
2016-17 Record: 36-19-4-1 (77 PTS, 3rd in Western Conference)
Top Returners: Ryan Bischel, Evan Dougherty, Brian Hurley, Jonathan McDonald, Clayton Phillips, Mark Senden
Notable Additions: Ty Farmer, Ryan Savage, Sammy Steele, Garrett Van Wyhe
The big storyline for the Fargo Force will be how they go about replacing the 18 players that moved onto college hockey, including last year’s dynamic top line of Jack Adams, Blake Lizotte and Hank Crone. Cary Eades’ club looks ready to do so, as along with returners from last year, the Force also welcome in a couple veterans with USHL experience.
First round 2016 Phase I Draft selection Ryan Savage will look to make an immediate impact in his first USHL season. The Miami University commit played six games in a Fargo uniform last year and spent the majority of the 2016-17 campaign with the Honeybaked U16 program, tallying 18 PTS (8G, 10A) in 17 games. Savage will also be in midseason form as the 2017-18 campaign opens, as he already has played in international competition with Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Savage will look to lead the way up front along with fellow forwards Evan Dougherty, Garrett Van Wyhe, who tallied 21 PTS (9G, 12A) in 57 games last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and newcomer Sammy Steele, who had a stellar 73-point season (37G, 36A) last year with the Westchester Express.
The blue line is where the Force have the most experience, so the Fargo defensemen will look to be the focal point of the team during the 2017-18 season. Clayton Phillips, who was selected in the 3rd round, 93rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable returner on the roster. In his first full USHL season, the Edina, MN native put up 20 points (7G, 13A) in 56 games, was named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and the USHL All-Rookie Team. He will look to step up his production even more this season and lead a group of defensemen that includes veteran USHL-er Ty Farmer as well as returners Brian Hurley and Jonathan McDonald.
Another key for Fargo will be how they transition away from Matt Murray between the pipes, who will start his freshman season at the University of Massachusetts this fall. The Force seem well-equipped to handle that, however, as Ryan Bischel will look to pick up where Murray left off last season. Bischel, a Clarkson commit, played in 16 games last season, sporting an impressive 2.21 GAA and .904 SV%. Bischel will look to continue his stellar play in 2017-18 and try to help his team return to the Clark Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.