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Chris Murphy, Published December 04 2013

Force's woes continue in loss to Sioux City

FARGO – It’s hard to find a positive number for the Fargo Force this season. Wednesday’s scoreboard at Scheels Arena offered a few more negative ones, as the Force fell to Sioux City 3-1 in United States Hockey League action.

“I don’t know what the identity of our team is,” Fargo coach John Marks said. “I asked the team and told them you need to find out what kind of team you are.”

The score wasn’t the only rough number to swallow Wednesday. The Force moved to 5-13-2 overall, tied for the lowest point total in the USHL. They’ve scored six less goals than any team in the USHL and have given up the most goals in the Western Conference. The Force have outshot their opponents just once on the season. Wednesday was no different, as the Force were outshot 56-24, moving to 2-11-2 in their last 15 games.

“I’ve been in this game for 31 years and I’ve said it for 31 years,” Marks said. “It doesn’t take that much skill to play defensively. You don’t have to be a fast skater. You don’t have to be a great stick handler. You don’t have to be big. You just have to play your position, do your job and try to do it well.”

It’s not pretty for a team that has never lost a first-round playoff series and has gone to the Clark Cup Finals three of its five years of existence. As of now, the playoffs seem an eternity away for the Force.

“I’m running out of answers,” Marks said. “We don’t win the puck-to-puck battles. I know we’re not a big, strong team, but you have to take better pride in your performance.”

Fargo defenseman Josh Elmes shattered the glass on a check 47 seconds into the game, which caused a 30-minute delay. The only one taking hits after that was the Force.

Sioux City forward Jared Thomas came up with a steal feet away from Force goalie Cam Johnson. Thomas made two moves and Johnson had no chance, putting the Musketeers up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game. Johnson made 53 saves on the game, but it was not enough.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “This season alone I’ve seen more rubber than I ever have. With all the new faces we got, it’s going to happen. I’m just trying to come in day in and day out and battle and make as many saves as I can and give our team a chance to win.”

C.J. Hayes tied the game at the end of the first period, but two second-period goals from Waltteri Hopponen proved to be enough for Sioux City (13-7-1).

“I think we need to come out here and focus,” Hayes said. “I don’t think we really take the time to actually listen to (Marks). We need to start going out there and playing with more desire and momentum.”

The Force head on the road to take on Omaha Friday and Saturday before returning to Scheels Arena Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 to take on Sioux City and Sioux Falls, respectively.

“I think we need to work on everything,” Johnson said. “Every year, the Force kind of struggle right off the get-go. I don’t know that we’ve ever struggled this bad.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, S, Thomas, 3:57. 2, F, Hayes (Buchanan, Goff), 16:29.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, S, Hopponen (Adduono, Mantha), 10:59. 4, S, Hopponen (Hawkins), 17:46.

THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.

SAVES: S, Hayton 7-7-9–23. F, Johnson 19-21-13–53

A: 3,202

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548