Team: Fargo Force
2015-16 Record: 32-26-2
Top Forward: Denis Smirnov (61 points, 29 goals)
Top Defenseman: Tommy Muck (17 points, 4 goals)
Top Goaltender: Ryan Wischow (24-22-1-0, 2.29 GAA, .917 SV%)
Power Play: 14.9% (13th in USHL)
Penalty Kill: 85.4% (3rd in USHL)
Fargo finished just a single point out of the Clark Cup Playoffs in 2015-16, and they’ll certainly be looking to get over the hump during the 2016-17 campaign. Players expected to return to Fargo for the upcoming season include forwards Hank Crone and Blake Lizotte. Christiano Versich, another USHL veteran forward who skated with the Chicago Steel last season, will be looked at to provide secondary scoring and leadership along with Crone and Lizotte.
In net, the Force will rely upon first year goaltender Matt Murray. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst commit was named the CJHL goaltender of the year last season after posting a 23-4-0 record with 2.59 GAA and .910 SV%. Murray played in the AJHL with the Spruce Grove Saints, as well as for Team Canada at the World Junior A Challenge where Fargo Force head coach and general manager Cary Eades witnessed his talents first hand.
Ryan Savage, the Force’s first round selection in the 2016 USHL Phase I Draft, could play a handful of games for Fargo this season and try to provide an offensive spark. The Miami University commit was impressive with Team USA at Five Nations, finishing with five goals in four games.
Eades enters his second season with Fargo and has been able to put more of his players and staff in place. Here are his thoughts about his club heading into 2016-17:
“Hopefully fans can expect more scoring from the 2016-17 Force. We were ‘offensively challenged’ at times last year, finishing 3rd to last in the USHL in goals for, so it’s an area of our team we wanted to improve on while still maintaining our stingy play defensively, where we were 2nd in goals against.
We had an emphasis in our drafting and recruiting this offseason on forwards who could score goals and make plays. By the looks of our tryout camp in June, we have made some strong additions to our lineup to support the group of veteran forwards we return from last season’s team.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 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.