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Published April 24 2012

Force's Hargrove, linemates hope to show improvement

FARGO – If this were a test, Colton Hargrove admits he would have failed.

The second-year Fargo Force forward is struggling. He hasn’t scored a point in his last eight games, making it the third time in his career where he’s had a pointless streak of at least seven games. Hargrove said he knows he needs to be better, while Force coach John Marks bluntly stated Hargrove wasn’t working.

Marks and Hargrove agreed that if the Force want to take command in its Western Conference semifinals series against the Lincoln Stars, which is tied 1-1, he needs to get better. His next chance is at 7:05 p.m. today in Game 3 of the series.

“I don’t think I have been playing like I am capable of,” said Hargrove, who was the team’s third-leading scorer in the regular season. “I am slowing things down a bit. Maybe too much. I am trying to slow things down too much and I need to start picking things up.”

Hargrove said he and his linemates, Austin Farley and Bryn Chyzyk, had a long talk with Marks on Monday about their performance. The linemates have combined for two points – a drastic change from the 146 they scored in the regular season.

He said Marks let the three know they were not playing up to potential. Farley, a Minnesota-Duluth commit, said Marks informed the entire line if they play this way next year in college, they probably won’t be playing at all. Hargrove is committed to Western Michigan while Chyzyk is committed to North Dakota.

Marks said after Tuesday’s practice that Hargrove, who has more penalty minutes (8) than shots (7) this postseason, didn’t have a strong enough work ethic and that he was on a “short leash” heading into Game 3.

“What’s wrong with him? He’s not working,” Marks said. “You cannot have a lot of success this time of year when you do not work hard against the people you are playing against. It’s work ethic. The way I’ve found to get out of a slump is to work harder. You gotta shoot more pucks, get to the dirty areas and do those kind of things. Bottom line is he’s not playing well.”

A series against Lincoln, Hargrove admitted, is tailor-made for his game. Lincoln is a big, physical team that uses its size to intimidate and outmuscle opponents while working them over for goals.

The same could be used to describe the 6-2, 210-pound Hargrove, who when he’s at his best, delivers in a dual role by being point-producing forward capable of owning the crease while serving as an enforcer when needed.

Marks said the qualities Hargrove can bring to a series such as this one is why he’s a little frustrated and, if needed, would be willing to make a change. Marks has already sat out Hargrove for one period this postseason in favor of another forward to prove he’s not kidding.

“It’s about basics in hard work,” Marks said. “You have to keep at it. It’s your will. How strong is your will? Those who have the strongest will usually are the most successful.”

Hargrove said he took quite a few things away from his meeting with Marks.

Farley said he had a meeting with assistant Byron Pool, who told the group they hadn’t been tested yet.

Then Hargrove was asked, if this postseason were a test, what grade he would have given himself and his linemates.

“At this point I’d say we’ve failed it,” Hargrove said. “We are letting our team down and not producing like we should be. We’re not playing like we should. I say we’ve failed everyone.”

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

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

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