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Published December 26 2010

USHL: Grading the Force

Five-goal beatdowns and thrilling victories have been the latest memories the Fargo Force junior hockey team has provided.

No matter the method, the Force are winning. They’ve won seven out of the last 10 games.

But that wasn’t always the case, with the team having a seven-game winless streak earlier in the year.

With the United States Hockey League being at

Christmas break, the Force don’t play again until Dec. 29 at Dubuque.

But here’s an assessment of how the team did in the first half of the season.

Goaltenders

Nebraska-Omaha commit Ryan Massa gave the team a first-choice netminder when he arrived last season. North Dakota commit Zane Gothberg has helped solidify the net with strong performances this season. Massa ranks third in the league in goals against average and Gothberg ranks 11th.

GRADE: A-

Forwards

Miami (Ohio) commit Jimmy Mullin is fourth in the league in scoring. Tanner Kero is 10th. This all comes with Chad Demers, who has 16 points in 18 games, on the shelf with an upper-body injury. The only real knock on the group is the turnovers that can lead to odd-man rushes. The offense is the second-best in the Western Conference and sixth overall in terms of goals scored.

GRADE: A-

Defensemen

This group has been good and bad at times. They are good about being physical and making teams earn shots on goal. Then with Brian Cooper, Garrett Haar, Ian Young and Dan Weissenhofer, they’ve been able to add a bit of offense. Yet they’ve been bad about leaving Gothberg and Massa out to dry at times while struggling to consistently move the puck on the power play.

GRADE: B

Coaching staff

There’s always something going on. Jason Herter and his staff have found ways to handle it. Herter wasn’t hired until a week before training camp. They’ve had to deal with installing a new way of doing things while losing players to international tourneys, injuries or trades. This is a young, talented team. Talent alone doesn’t win, and Herter’s coaching along with his staff’s is proof.

GRADE: A+

Overall

They’re tied for third in the Western Conference, and it appears things are only getting better judging by the last 10 games. With Dubuque tied for first overall and having the league’s best home record, the first post-break game could be an indicator of the rest of the season.

GRADE: B+