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Tom Mix, Published March 03 2013

Lou Nanne praises USHL, Scheels Arena


Longtime Minnesota hockey personality Lou Nanne was in Fargo last Friday and Saturday to take in the Fargo Force-Lincoln Stars United State Hockey League series at Scheels Arena.

It was Nanne’s first trip to the nearly five-year-old hockey venue and the former Minnesota Gophers and Minnesota North Stars player gave the home of the Force a glowing review.

“This building is magnificent,” said Nanne, who was watching his grandson Vinni Lettieri play against the Force. “I am blown away. It really is a great spot.

“The people of Fargo should be very proud of this franchise. The hockey here is very high end. It is a stepping stone to college hockey, but it is not that far below college.”

Nanne remains involved with the Gophers hockey program and said he follows the USHL closely.

“It is a terrific junior hockey league,” Nanne said of the USHL. “They have done a tremendous job throughout the USHL getting very competitive teams with good talent in good cities.”

In its four years as a USHL franchise in Fargo, the Force have produced several players that have gone on to have successful careers at the collegiate level, most notably in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The University of North Dakota has three former Force players – Colten St. Clair, Zane Gothberg and Bryn Chyzyk – on its roster. Gothberg is 6-3-3 in 12 starts at goalie for UND and St. Clair, who played three seasons with the Force, has two goals and three assists in 32 games played.

Mike Lee, who played goalie for the Force during the 2008-09 season, played three seasons at St. Cloud State University and is currently playing for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.

The University of Minnesota has also enjoyed the fruits of the Force. Nate Schmidt and Nate Condon both played for Fargo in 2009-10 and are having strong seasons for the Gophers.

Condon has 11 goals and 18 assists and Schmidt has eight goals and 21 assists.

Lettieri is committed to play for the Gophers. He is playing in his first full season with the Stars after a standout senior season at Minnetonka where he posted 23 goals and 37 assists for the Skippers. Lettieri has 18 goals and 20 assists for the Stars this season.

Nanne advised his grandson to play in the USHL.

“I thought it was a really good move for him,” Nanne said. “I watched his high school career and after his senior year he was ready to move up.

“He loves the competition. He knows it is very important for his development. This league has developed so many good hockey players. It is extremely competitive and it is a great foundation for guys who want to go on to play college hockey.”

Nanne also has a tie to the Force. While general manager of the North Stars in 1987, Nanne hired Force head coach John Marks to coach the North Stars’ farm team in Kalamazoo, Mich. It was Marks’ first coaching job in professional hockey.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562