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WCHA hockey: Johnson joins St. Cloud State as assistant coach

The United States Hockey League isn't a league just for players with college or NHL aspirations.

It is a place for coaches to chase their dreams. That's what Steve Johnson did Tuesday.

The Fargo Force coach stepped down to become an assistant coach at WCHA school St. Cloud State.

"I've gotten to know (St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko) and I've really liked what he's done with the program," said Johnson, who will be introduced at St. Cloud in the next few days. "Coaching in the WCHA has always been a dream of mine."

This is Johnson's first college coaching position.

Johnson's departure means the Force will look for its third coach in as many years. The team said in a statement it has started looking for Johnson's replacement.

It might not take long to find a replacement. The Force open camp Friday and start the season Oct. 1.

Johnson's brother, Chad, was rumored Tuesday to return to Fargo to take the vacant head coaching job. Chad Johnson was an assistant in Fargo last season before he was hired last summer to become a USHL head coach in Lincoln.

Johnson's lone season behind the bench resulted in the Force advancing to the Clark Cup Finals for a second consecutive season.

Fargo lost the series to Green Bay. Green Bay, coincidentally, is the new home of Eric Rud. Johnson replaces Rud, who was named Green Bay's head coach/general manager.

"This is a developmental league not only for players but coaches too," said Force forward Colten St. Clair. "We all hate to see him leave but we're all happy for him."

Johnson said he's had a chance to speak with some of his players. He plans to speak with the rest of them throughout the week.

He leaves the USHL with 470 victories, making him the fourth winningest coach in league history.

Johnson captured most of those wins in Lincoln, where he coached for 11 seasons.

"I've enjoyed my time here in Fargo," Johnson said. "Fargo is a great hockey city and the USHL is a great league. It was a good stop for me."

Ryan S. Clark is a writer for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.