North Dakota Junior Hockey Update (Feb. 23)

It has been a big week for North Dakota’s three junior hockey teams: the Fargo Force of the Tier I United States Hockey League and the Bismarck Bobcats and Minot Minotauros of the Tier II North American Hockey League.

Force receive national attention

The Fargo Force received national attention this week for a creative promotional video for 2013-2014 season tickets. The video was featured in blogs on NBC Sports, CBS Sports and Yahoo! Sports.

The Force went with a brilliant parody of the Sarah McLachlan SPCA ads. Instead of miserable abused animals looking at the camera with sad expressions, here it’s the poor Force players who need to be rescued. Watch.

As assistant coach Jesse Davis says in the video, these players are “checked into the boards, slapped with sticks, penalized for things they did not even do, some may even lose their teeth.”

Yet, despite their misery, these players are excelling on the ice. The Force sit in second place in the Western Conference at 28-15-5 (61 points). Fourteen of the 22 current Force players have committed to a Division I school to play college hockey. Forward Dominic Toninato was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

NAHL Top Prospects gives players valuable exposure

The NAHL held its annual Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, Michigan, from February 18-20. The tournament offers the top players in the league exposure to college and professional coaches and scouts.

The Bismarck Bobcats were represented by four players on the Dakota team: forwards Patrick Moore and Adam Knochenmus, defenseman Jeremy O’Keefe, and goalie Aaron Nelson.

Moore led Dakota in scoring and goals with three goals and one assist. Knochenmus was second on Dakota in points with three assists. O’Keefe finished third among all defenseman with two points (both assists). Nelson shined, leading all goalies with a .966 save percentage. He finished with a 1-1-0 record and a 1.64 goals against average.

Bismarck's Moore & Knochenmus at Top Prospects

(Ltdave/Canon Digital Photography Forums) Bismarck’s Patrick Moore and Adam Knochenmus crash the net for Dakota at the 2013 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.

The Minot Minotauros had three players on the Dakota roster: forwards Jake O’Borsky and Jadin Martin and defenseman Scott Dornbrock. Forward Tim Donohue was named to the team but was unable to play due to an injury suffered during a game on February 15.

Minot was also represented by three players on other Top Prospects teams. Goalie Tyler Parks was named to the Frontier team as a wild card selection. Forward Mason Morelli and defenseman Jake Clifford were named to the 18U Selects team, a team consisting of the top young players throughout the league.

Dakota’s Dornbrock and 18U Selects’ Morelli led all Minotauros with two points each. Both had one goal and one assist during the tournament. Martin scored one goal for Dakota, while O’Borsky assisted on one goal, also for Dakota. In two games, Clifford took one shot but did not score for the 18U Selects. Parks played one game for Frontier, going 0-1-0 with a 5.13 GAA and a .898 SV%.

Of the Bobcats and Minotauros at Top Prospects, only Parks currently has a college commitment. He will play at Division I St. Lawrence University.

Bobcats clinch a playoff spot

Despite a 4-3 shootout loss last night in Austin, the Bismarck Bobcats clinched a playoff spot. The Bobcats are the second Central Division team to clinch a spot, after the first-place Austin Bruins.

If the regular season ended today, Austin would have home-ice advantage in a first-round matchup versus Minot, while Bismarck would have home-ice advantage against Brookings.

This will be the Bobcats’ fifth straight appearance in the playoffs. Last season, the Bobcats won the Central Division and advanced to the Robertson Cup national tournament in Frisco, Texas, where they were eliminated in pool play.