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Chris Murphy, Published September 19 2013

Scoring ability will be put to test early for Force

FARGO – Defenseman Butrus Ghafari laughed Wednesday when he was informed his one goal scored during last year’s United States Hockey League season ranks third among this year’s returning Fargo Force hockey players.

“I’m really not a goal scorer,” Ghafari said. “Not at all.”

So far, no one is on the Force. That’s what the next seven months are for, as the Force open the season at 7:05 p.m. today at Scheels Arena against Sioux City.

And they do so returning just 14 of the 265 goals they scored last season in the Force’s run to the Clark Cup.

“Coach is expecting me personally to step up and pop a lot of goals this year,” said Gage Torrel, the Force’s only returning forward, who scored eight goals for the Force last season, including the only returning playoff goal. “You want to be the guy. You want to step up in key situations and control the game and have the puck on your stick.”

The other five returning goals were from Neal Goff. Like Ghafari, Goff couldn’t help but laugh hearing his name involved with scoring, considering he, too, is a defenseman.

“Definitely not my role, but it’s nice to get a ‘G’ here and there,” Goff said. “I’m the only three-year USHL guy on this team, and that comes with a lot of responsibility, but I’ll take it. I love the responsibility. I like having a leadership role.”

Goff is not too worried about the Force finding the back of the net.

“All you got to do is get a few games under your belt, and these new guys will feel right at home,” Goff said. “They’ll start putting the puck in the net.”

Force coach John Marks isn’t worried either.

“The goals will come,” Marks said. “We aren’t going to get shut out every night. If you score two goals a game, that’s 120, and we lost 200, so we got to find another 80. It all transfers. It’s not as big of a problem as you think it is.”

Last season, Marks was trying to figure out who was going to stop goals in the net, and this season he’s trying to find who is going to put goals in the net.

Stopping goals again will be University of North Dakota commit Cam Johnson and Brendan Jensen, two of the six returners for the Force.

Marks hopes to find more scoring from guys like Christian Cakebread, Troy Degler, Jeremy Butterworth and Mike Eyssimont.

“You’re always trying to get the best of the level they are playing at to come to Fargo, and you hope it transfers to the next level,” Marks said. “The guys we have have proven they can score. Eyssimont scored 93 goals last year. I would think a guy like that is going to transfer. The same for Butterworth, Degler and Cakebread. All these guys have proven they can score at the level they came from, and now you hope it transfers.”

If not, that’s what the other seven months are for.

“It may not transfer overnight,” Marks said. “They will need to get used to the game and get their whiskers. There’s skill here and there’s speed here, and that should equate to offense.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548