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Kevin Schnepf, Published April 12 2013

Schnepf: Cold weather not all that bad for Force

Fargo - Six months and 14 days ago, the Fargo Force junior hockey team opened its season on an 81-degree, sun-splashed day. It’s been about that long since folks in the Red River Valley have experienced such warmth.

That’s just fine with Force officials and fans – who, unlike most people aching for any signs of spring, are content with 30-degree temperatures and even Sunday’s expected snowstorm. After all, this is hockey weather.

“If there is any positive side with snow in April, it keeps people in the hockey mindset and groove,” said Force general manager John Kram.

“People are still looking for something to do. They want to be outside, but right now there’s not much to do outside. So right now, we are a very good option.”

It was Friday night at Scheels Arena, even though most of the 4,483 fans may have wished they stayed home to shovel snow. The Force, perhaps content with securing a playoff spot, lost to Sioux City 7-1 in their second-to-last regular season game.

Their last one is tonight against the same Sioux City team the Force opened the season against before 3,656 Scheels Arena fans back on Sept. 28.

That seems like a long time ago – especially considering there have been only four other 70-degree days since then. A Force season in the United States Hockey League lasts so long, it can start with an 80-degree day and end with one.

Logan Hughes of Fargo, a season-ticket holder for the last three years, wouldn’t mind seeing the snow continue. He has yet to experience a Clark Cup championship series game in Scheels Arena – something the Force were part of during their first two seasons in 2008 and 2009.

“If snowstorms is what it takes for them to keep winning, I’ll take the snowstorms,” said the 24-year-old, who after tonight will have sat in the front row, banging on the plexiglass, for 33 of the Force’s 34 home games.

“The only game I missed was for a Blenders concert on Dec. 23,” Hughes said.

Sweet music.

That’s all the Force have been creating ever since their first season back in 2009. There have been five straight seasons with 30 or more wins. For the second straight season, they will rank second in the league in attendance. And starting next Wednesday at Scheels Arena, they will make their fifth straight playoff appearance – building a 20-14 postseason record.

After reaching the Clark Cup finals the first two seasons, the Force lost in the second round in 2011 and 2012. And last year, when Fargo was experiencing its most tropic spring ever, the Force reached the second round again.

On a 62-degree, sunny April 17 day, the Force ousted Sioux City in the first round before 2,500 fans – a dip from their regular-season average of 3,730. People had more things to do outside on that particular Tuesday.

On a 51-degree April 27 day, 3,456 Scheels Arena fans saw Lincoln oust the Force from the second round. Cooler temps and rain showers, and a Friday night, certainly didn’t hurt attendance.

“We’re hoping people come out and support us in the playoffs the same way they did during the regular season,” said Kram, whose home-game attendance will end up averaging nearly 3,900 – the highest in team history.

That could very well happen if the forecast for the rest of this month holds true – calling for freezing temps and snow.

“The cold weather definitely keeps you in hockey mode,” Hughes said. “No matter how bad the weather is outside, it’s always a good atmosphere in here.”

That atmosphere could get even better if the Force reach the Clark Cup finals. If that happens, they could be playing as late as the last week of May.

Let’s hope the snow has melted by then. Even Force officials wouldn’t mind an 80-degree, sun-splashed day by then.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com