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Tom Mix, Published March 23 2012

Force player Goff eligible to return from suspension after Saturday's game

FARGO – There is some resolution two weeks after an off-ice incident in which two Des Moines Buccaneers players assaulted a Fargo Force player and his 79-year-old grandfather.

United States Hockey League commissioner Skip Prince and USHL head of officiating Scott Brand met with Fargo’s Neal Goff and Des Moines’ Kevin Irwin and Tanner Karty prior to the team’s game on Friday at Scheels Arena.

The meeting was to gain a better understanding of what occurred during the Buccaneers-Force series March 9-10 at Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale, Iowa, and attempt to gain some closure.

Prince said Goff, who admitted to directing a racial slur at Buccaneers player Trent Thomas-Samuels during the March 9 game, has been issued an eight-game suspension. The suspension has been reduced to six games based on what Prince confirmed as a private apology made by Goff to Trent Thomas-Samuels, who is black. Goff is available to play for the Force following the conclusion of Saturday’s game.

“We’re treating this as two separate incidents,” Prince said. “The first was the on-ice incident involving Neal Goff. We were able to address that this evening. I just want to make sure folks recognize this is a young man who has admitted he has made a mistake.

“The league suspended him based on recognizing it as a serious breach of our code of conduct.”

Prince said he considers that matter closed. However, the matter of the assault allegedly carried out by Irwin and Karty remains unresolved, but Prince did confirm that both players remain suspended indefinitely pending a resolution by the Urbandale Police Department.

Irwin, 18, and Karty, 17, are charged with assaulting Goff and his grandfather Gerald Pipes following the March 10 game in response to Goff calling Thomas-Samuels a “monkey.” Pipes received a black eye and fell down several rows of benches at the arena.

Irwin has been charged with two counts of assault causing injury by the Urbandale Police Department, and Karty has been charged with two counts of assault with intent. The pair will be arrested when they return to Des Moines following the two-game series this weekend in Fargo.

If Irwin is convicted, he could face up to a year in jail and a $1,500 fine. Karty is a minor and police officials say it will be up to the county’s juvenile courts to decide his punishment.

Prior to the game, Force head coach John Marks confirmed the pregame meeting and said there was a comment directed at Goff from an unconfirmed Des Moines player that ignited Goff’s comments two weeks ago.

“I know the USHL were speaking with the Des Moines people,” Marks said. “Obviously the two boys are being charged and our boy (Goff), there was a comment made in response to a comment. That’s what has gone unnoticed is that something initiated it. … The match got thrown on somewhere.”

Prince said the meeting did not confirm if Goff’s comments were in response to another comment.

“We didn’t address that situation as if it was retaliatory,” Prince said. “Because whatever was said or wasn’t said, the only person that we knew said something was straightforward in admitting what he said was wrong.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 451-5651