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Chris Murphy, Published January 24 2014

Force winless in 16 straight games after loss to Waterloo

FARGO – When Cam Johnson walked into Scheels Arena on Friday prior to Waterloo’s 3-1 United States Hockey League win over Fargo, he walked into unfamiliar territory inside of a familiar place.

Traded 10 days ago to Waterloo from a Fargo team where he had battled 48 games as the Force goalie over the last two years, Johnson was a visitor in his second home at Scheels Arena.

“As I was coming in the building, as we got here, it was kind of strange turning right to head to the visitor’s locker room instead of left,” Johnson said.

Johnson did not play Friday, but, according to Waterloo coach P.K. O’Handley, he’ll be in net today at Scheels Arena. According to Force coach John Marks, Johnson will be seeing a familiar face in goal across the ice in Brendan Jensen, who also did not play Friday.

“Looking down and seeing him at the other end will be different,” Johnson said. “He’s one of my good buddies. I learned a lot from him. Emotions will be high.”

The two goaltenders spent their entire USHL careers together before the trade, fighting for the net. Tonight, they’ll have a chance to fight for a win. Marks understands the hype of the two facing each other. He got to see it all the time.

“I’ve seen it every practice, so it isn’t weird to me,” Marks said. “They are both very, very good. I can’t favor one over the other.”

Johnson – a University of North Dakota commit – has played 49 USHL games in his career, 48 of which have been with Fargo. Johnson compiled a record of 16-22-9 with a save percentage of .909 and 3.17 goals-against average with the Force, but will be remembered most for his help to push the Force to the Clark Cup Finals last season.

Johnson was in net for eight playoff games, stopping 93 percent of the 275 shots that came his way.

“Jensen had a great series against Waterloo that put us against Sioux Falls, and Johnson had a great series against Sioux Falls that put us in the Finals,” Marks said. “To ask me to favor one over the other or say that one is better than the other, I can’t do that. They’re both great kids.”

Facing Johnson is something Jensen has done for most of his USHL career. Today, however, it will count.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Jensen said. “He doesn’t want to lose against me and I don’t want to lose against him. We’ll be friends before the game, but once the puck drops, we’re going to be fierce enemies.”

Friday may have been a new experience for Johnson, but it was the same old story for Fargo. The Force dropped their ninth straight at home, moved to 5-25-4 overall – seven points behind any team in the USHL – and made it 16 straight games without a win, going 0-14-2 during that stretch.

Against a Waterloo (28-5-1) team that came into Friday’s game with the second-most points in the USHL and leading the league in shots, the Force were outshot 52-20 and outplayed everywhere.

“Teams win for a reason and teams lose for a reason,” Marks said. “It’s why we’ve only won five hockey games. It’s a lack of commitment to the goals against. It’s not taking pride in your performance.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, W, McCrea (Winiecki), 6:58. 2, W, Montour, 18:13.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, W, Lappin, 12:08, (pp). 4, F, Piotrowski (Cakebread, Ghafari), 16:33, (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.

SAVES: W, Petersen 6-7-6–19. F, Israelsson 18-16-15–49

A: 3,625

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548