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Published April 11 2012

Force coach isn't thrilled with new playoff format

FARGO – The upcoming United States Hockey League playoffs have the Fargo Force in position to potentially play as many as seven games in nine days.

That doesn’t sit well with Force coach John Marks.

“You play 60 games in seven months and that comes out to under nine games a month,” Marks said, referring to the USHL’s regular-season schedule. “Now you’re possibly playing seven games in nine days?”

The Force (31-21-6) close the regular season this weekend with a Friday game at Lincoln and a Saturday home game against Lincoln.

On Monday, the Force open the playoffs at home.

Though the playoff format is the same as last year, there are some differences, according to USHL spokesman Brian Werger.

Last year, the Force had five days between the end of the regular season and their first-round playoff game to prepare and rest players.

“It was a decision by our owners, board of directors and the USHL to have the schedule the way it is,” Werger said. “Weekend dates are premium, and the first round historically hasn’t had the greatest attendance, and the playoffs go long enough as is.”

The Force’s first-round games last season were played during the weekend and drew an average of 3,582 fans for two games.

But with games starting Monday, it remains to be seen how the team will draw. Playing on a Monday also left Marks with a few more questions.

One question being: What will Marks and his staff do with the players on Sunday, the team’s only day off.

“We’ve talked about having a short practice,” Marks said. “We’ve talked about maybe having a meeting or taking the team out to a meal. Right now, it’s all up in the air.”

Another point Marks mentioned was how playing games on Monday and Tuesday hurts the team’s high school players. The Force have eight players enrolled at Fargo South this year.

Forward Dave Gust, who is enrolled at Fargo South, said the schedule does make things a little daunting.

Gust said the coaching staff has talked to the team about managing their time. The message has been to handle schoolwork, but also get rest when possible.

“We know we’re looking at a rough patch,” Gust said. “But I think we’ll be fine.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com