FARGO-Scheels Arena stood silently a few hours before the Force took the ice to practice Tuesday. The lights were turned off. In the upper corner of the arena hang three banners for Western Conference championships and two for awards for United States Hockey League's organization of the year.
A fourth Western Conference championship flag will be added at some point.
The Force have not discussed where they would hang their first Clark Cup championship flag. Companies that make rings have reached out to both the Force and Youngstown in case championship rings need to be ordered. The Force have stayed away from that order.
The Force organization is in its 10th season of existence. The Force are 0-3 in the Clark Cup Final. They are currently tied 1-1 in the best-of-five series with Game 3 and Game 4 at Youngstown on Friday and Saturday.
They know not to speak or think of things like having the Clark Cup along for the 1,044-mile bus ride back from Youngstown, Ohio.
"We're focused on Game 3 right now," Force center A.J. Drobot said. "We're not trying to get ahead of ourselves."
No one in the Force organization is talking about winning the Clark Cup, even about simple things like ordering Clark Cup championship T-shirts. That bridge will be crossed if needed.
"We're not really worried too much about closing somebody out," Force coach Cary Eades said. "We got to win Game 3. It's best of five, so first one to three wins. Obviously, Game 3 is very pivotal. It's going to give that team, whoever wins it, the lead and one win away from the Clark Cup, so we're not really looking too far beyond Friday night."
On May 7, 2010, the Force were 49 seconds away from winning the Clark Cup one season removed from losing in the Clark Cup to Indiana. Scheels Arena was Urban Plains Center then and the crowd of 5,192 that night to see the Force sweep the series is still a record crowd for a Force game. They watched as current New York Islanders forward Anders Lee tied the game for Green Bay with 49 seconds remaining in regulation on May 7, and Ryan Furne won it for the Gamblers 1 minute, 38 seconds into triple overtime past midnight. The Force then lost the next two games and the series. They would lose three more Clark Cup games in 2013, getting swept by Dubuque, before breaking the six-game losing streak in the Clark Cup Final last Friday against Youngstown.
This is why the Force don't discuss the possibility of bringing the first Clark Cup to Fargo. Talk to them after the series.
"I wasn't all that familiar with (the Force history)," Force defenseman Jonathan McDonald said. "Coming into the USHL was a new thing for me. I wasn't all too familiar with the league before I came here, so I didn't know much about Fargo or the organization's history, but learning about it lately it's special what we're doing and it's a lot of fun to be a part of."