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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published October 25 2013

U.S. Under-18 team skates past Force

FARGO – Fargo Force coach John Marks has been searching for offensive production from his team.

There were no answers during Fargo’s 4-1 loss to the U.S. Under-18 team in front of 3,565 fans on Friday night at Scheels Arena.

The Force have now scored 10 goals in eight regular-season games – one of them being an empty-netter.

“You don’t win a lot of hockey games with that, obviously,” Marks said. “Tonight, you could see the U.S. team is better than us, more skilled than us, handles the puck better than us and moves the puck better than us.”

The American squad, which is a collection of the top 1996-born players in the country, improved to 7-0-1 against United States Hockey League teams this season. It will play against UND at 7:07 tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Wisconsin recruit Jack Dougherty and Boston University recruit Jack Eichel – both potential NHL first-round picks – notched two goals each for the Under-18 team, while goalie Edwin Minney added to Fargo’s offensive frustrations by stopping 20 of 21 shots.

Garick Gray scored Fargo’s lone goal on a shorthanded breakaway at 4:35 of the first, but Team USA responded with a power-play goal just 40 seconds later.

Dougherty scored the eventual game-winner at 9:40 of the second on the power play. Eichel added goals at 15:22 of the second and 2:05 of the third for the final margin.

“Some fellas, we expected a lot more out of and right now, we’re not getting it,” Marks said. “We’ve got to be patient, I guess, and hopefully the light goes on.”

Marks said players have been showing a lack of vision and execution offensively.

“If you don’t see it, you don’t execute it,” he said. “Some fellas aren’t showing a lot of hockey sense. You’ve got to have hockey sense. I thought we had more than what we’re showing. Maybe in training camp we got fooled a little bit. Hopefully, we can develop it.”

Fargo, which received 27 saves from goalie Cam Johnson, dropped to 3-5 overall and to seventh place in the Western Conference.

The Force travel to Sioux Falls for a 7:05 p.m. game. Marks said the team has a long way to go.

“We’re at ‘A’ in the alphabet right now,” Marks said. “We’re not in the middle. We’re not at ‘M’, ‘N’ or ‘O’. The team we played tonight is at ‘M’, ‘N’ and ‘O’. So, we have a long ways to go. We’ve got 26 steps to take.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, F, Gray, 4:35. 2, USA, Dougherty (Eichel, Fortunato), 5:15 (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 3, USA, Dougherty (Fortunato, Milano), 9:40 (pp). 4, USA, Hitchcock, 15:22.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, USA, Eichel (Milano, Tuch), 2:05 (pp).

SAVES: USA, Minney 20. F, Johnson 27.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald