Grimaldi pitches college hockey

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College Hockey Inc., held a showcase for prospective players in southern California on Thursday, and Rocco Grimaldi stopped by to give his thoughts on playing college hockey.

He also told a little-known story.

Grimaldi said he almost left the NTDP early to go play major juniors.

“It didn’t work out and I’m glad it didn’t,” he said. “Going to North Dakota was one of the best things that’s happened in my life.”

Grimaldi touted not only the thrills on the ice, but also how much he enjoyed off the ice stuff as well. He noted that he met his fiance at UND and that the groomsmen who will be standing next to him at the wedding are people he met at UND as well.

“I went to North Dakota and I believe it’s the best school in the world and I’m always going to try to sell the program,” he said.

But Grimaldi also sold college hockey as a whole. He said that once you go to a school, you are always part of that school.

“For me, I’m a Fighting Sioux alum,” he said. “I’ll always be a Fighting Sioux. You are always welcomed back. I’ve been to North Dakota three times already this summer to visit guys.

“You build relationships with friends, teammates and students, wherever you go to school. You have a family there with all the different people you meet, especially the guys you play with and the freshmen you go in with. You guys go in together and you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not the smartest guys. I was lucky to go in with a great class. There were 10 of us. I made special bonds with everybody, but those 10 guys in particular. I’ll always be alumni there.”

Grimaldi was at UND for three years, but took full-time online classes to graduate from UND in the spring. He returned to college to walk for his graduation ceremony.

He said the hockey was second-to-none, too.

“A lot of major junior guys tell me today that they wish they would have gone to college,” Grimaldi said. “You’ll never get that atmosphere again.

“You’ll never be able to play in front of students like college. It’s the greatest atmosphere you’ll ever play at.”

At the end of Grimaldi’s presentation, he asked the players if they had any questions. One asked about travel.

Grimaldi laughed.

“At North Dakota, we’re spoiled. We had charters everywhere, and when you get on the plane, there is a basket on your seat with a meal in it.”

St. Cloud State the latest to adopt ticket policy

Add another school to the list of those trying to keep UND fans out.

St. Cloud State has posted on its ticket site that it will not allow fans to buy single-game tickets to the UND series until the day of the game. Instead, fans will have to buy a flex-pack.

Details of the flex-pack are not listed on the website, but presumably fans will have to buy tickets to a few other non-UND games to get UND-SCSU tickets prior to game day.

It appears that group tickets of 20-plus would be an option. Waiting until game day could work since St. Cloud State usually does not sell out its home games.

The UND series is St. Cloud’s only home series of the year where single-game tickets are not available.

St. Cloud State is the third school in the last couple of years to put up roadblocks to UND fans for buying tickets. Denver tried a similar move two years ago.

Omaha barred fans from buying single-game tickets online earlier this month, forcing fans to get them in person or try by phone. Several UND fans told the Herald that they couldn’t get through on the phone. Both games sold out within 90 minutes.

UND lands Tyson Jost

The first commitment of the Brad Berry era is an elite one.

Tyson Jost, the BCHL star and potential first-round draft pick, gave his verbal commitment to attend UND on Monday afternoon.

To read the full story, including quotes from his coach on what separates him from other players, go here.

Jost is a top-end player who should be able to contribute offense immediately, even though he’ll be coming in as a young freshman. It also means it’s possible that UND has three first-round picks up front in 2016-17 if it gets Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser back.

UND has had tremendous success in developing forwards who are selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. The most recent ones to develop and sign out of UND are Brock Nelson, Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, Travis Zajac, Drew Stafford, Zach Parise. All have been tremendous NHL players.

That had to be part of Jost’s decision to come to North Dakota.

Jost will be on campus next season, when UND has a host of big-time nonconference games lined up, including the showdown against Boston College in Madison Square Garden.

Needless to say, future teammate Jackson Keane is excited about the commitment.

Boeser wraps up big camp

UND freshman Brock Boeser wrapped up a standout World Junior Championship evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Boeser finished as the second-leading goal-scorer and the third-leading overall scorer at the camp, which bodes well for his bid to make the World Junior team this winter.

The high number of goals reflects the scouting reporter on Boeser that he’s a good finisher.

UND sophomore Nick Schmaltz also was at the camp. He had a goal and an assist, while playing in five games.

Top U.S. scorers

1. Matthew Tkachuk 5-3–8
2. Scott Eansor 2-5–7
3. Brock Boeser 4-2–6
4. Anders Bjork 4-1–5
5t. Austin Matthews 2-3–5
5t. Jack Roslovic 2-3–5
5t. Jeremy Bracco 2-3–5

UND women land Swedish star

The UND women’s hockey team landed a major offensive talent as Swedish forward Hanna Olsson committed to the program for the 2018 season.

Although she’s only 16 years old, Olsson made the Swedish National Team and played in the IIHF Women’s Worlds this spring. She also played in the World U18 tournament and led the Swedes in scoring.

Her coach in Sweden called her “an incredibly exciting player” when she was selected to the national team. He said that she is one of the team’s most exciting players, a “very great talent” and other qualities included: toughness and aggressiveness.

By age 15, she already had five NCAA offers, according to a Swedish report, and she has the ability to play both center and wing.

The obvious connection here is UND associate coach Peter Elander, who was the former Swedish National Team coach.

UND has some major momentum rolling right now in Scandinavia with commitments from Olsson and Finnish forward Emma Nuutinen, two of the top available Europeans. Both commitments came this summer.

Olsson is the youngest European to ever commit to UND. It will still be a couple of years until she hits campus, but she figures to be a major offensive threat for North Dakota when she arrives.

She’ll also have some great experience through playing U18 Worlds and Women’s Worlds. She’s on track to be on the 2018 Swedish Olympic team, too.

Freshmen get numbers

UND’s freshman class has been assigned numbers for the 2015-16 season, and the roster has been posted on UNDsports.com. There are:

13 Mike Gornall
16 Brock Boeser
18 Chris Wilkie
19 Shane Gersich
21 Danys Chartrand
22 Rhett Gardner
24 Christian Wolanin
25 Joel Janatuinen
28 Hayden Shaw
31 Matej Tomek

A few notes about the numbers:

  • None of the returning players changed numbers.
  • Goalies continue to stay away from No. 1. The last to wear it was Jean-Philippe Lamoureux in 2007-08.
  • Now that Wade Murphy has left, No. 7 is blank. Murphy was the first player to wear No. 7 and not be an All-American since the mid-90s. Travis Roche, Brandon Bochenski, T.J. Oshie and Danny Kristo wore it consecutively.
  • The only players who will be wearing the same number as they did last season are Gardner and Shaw. Many of the others wore 30 or higher, which UND doesn’t do.

Hakstol gets his old captain

Dave Hakstol will be reunited with his old captain.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed former UND captain Chris Porter to a one-year, two-way contract for next season.

This is no big surprise, as Hakstol loves the way Porter plays — fast and hard — and he loves the way that Porter is always in shape and ready to go. Being a fourth-line type of player, Porter is a guy who is often in-and-out of the lineup at the NHL level.

The luxury he provides is that, no matter how long he’s out, Hakstol won’t have to worry about putting him back in. If a guy has been a scratch for two weeks, coaches are often concerned about their performance jumping back in, but that’s not the case for Porter.

Everyone in Grand Forks knows this to be true — Porter set an NCAA record by playing in 175 consecutive games. He never missed one during his career. He also won the team’s Iron Man competition (offseason strength and fitness) three times.

To get him on a two-way deal is definitely a luxury for the Flyers. Porter was previously on a one-way with the Blues.

For those who may not know, Hakstol has a very long association with Porter and his family.

In the fall of 1996, Hakstol just finished rehabbing a knee injury that he sustained while playing for the Minnesota Moose in the IHL. It wasn’t easy finding a job coming off the surgery.

Out of nowhere, the head coach at Sioux City (USHL) quit a week into the season. Through USHL commish Gino Gasparini, Hakstol’s former coach at UND, he was offered a job coaching in Sioux City.

Hakstol accepted it.

“Within 72 hours, I decided I was done playing, I’m going to some town called Sioux City, which I’ve never been to, and I’m going to try to coach,” Hakstol said.

Hakstol said that when he got to Sioux City, a lot of things were in disarray, but he met some very influential people there who made a big impact on life. One of those people was the team’s orthopedic surgeon, Gord Porter.

Gord and Hakstol became friends. Gord’s son, Chris, was not a prospect at the time. He was just 12 years old. Gord eventually moved to Thunder Bay, but the two kept in touch.

As fate would have it, that 12-year-old kid turned into a good college prospect, and Hakstol (along with Brad Berry and Dean Blais) recruited him to North Dakota.

When Chris committed, Hakstol was still an assistant coach. But Years 2-3-4 on campus, Hakstol was the head coach. Chris was Hakstol’s captain as a senior.

Now, 19 years after the Porter family helped a young coach get his feet on the ground, their son is in the NHL, and he’s playing for that same coach, who has quickly risen through the ranks.

Crazy how things work sometimes.

Today’s updates

Lots of news coming out this Friday morning.

For starters, Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague resigned for two incidents of sexual harassment of non-student university employees, according to the school. According to KARE 11 TV, Teague says he became intoxicated at an event and sent inappropriate text messages.

As I wrote a few years ago, I think, now, Minnesota fans know what it’s like to have a bad athletic director. Although Joel Maturi received a lot of criticism, he was not a bad AD.

Under Maturi, Minnesota’s profits skyrocketed, facilities improved and he did remarkable work for women’s sports. Yes, he made a bad football coaching hire with Tim Brewster, but his body of work as an AD was impressive.

From a college hockey perspective, Maturi was an outstanding supporter of the sport.

*****

The Gwoz is back. Sorta.

Former DU coach George Gwozdecky will be coaching high school hockey this season in suburban Denver. Read more about it here.

It sure seems like this is setting up for a return to college hockey for Gwozdecky, which I think would be terrific for the sport. He was a great personality for college hockey.

*****

The hope that Auston Matthews would play college hockey this season is gone.

Matthews has officially signed with Zurich in the Swiss League, and will play his draft year there. He’s expected to go No. 1 overall in the 2016 NHL Draft.

UND was one of five finalists at the NCAA level for Matthews.

*****

Ryan Kennedy’s Hot List this week features UND freshman Brock Boeser and recruiting target Dante Fabbro. Read that here.

Random updates

More unfortunate news on the women’s hockey side of things.

Soon after the Herald reported that Amanda Kessel won’t play out her senior year for Minnesota, it’s now confirmed that one of UND’s players has been forced to retire due to chronic injuries.

EGF’s Leah Jensen, who was so highly touted by the coaching staff after her arrival, was injured in her first month on campus and four years later is still having trouble with back pain. Read her story here.

Jensen is one of top athletes to go through East Grand Forks and could have been a key offensive contributor for UND if she was able to stay healthy. It’s definitely a loss for UND not having her for this season.

UND still does have some talent on this squad as evidenced by USA Hockey’s picks for the national festival Aug. 11-15 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Forward Amy Menke, who developed into a big offensive threat as a sophomore, is one. Defenseman Gracen Hirschy, a puck-moving blue liner, is the second. Goalie Lexie Shaw is the third.

Goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie also was invited, but could not attend because she’s recovering from an offseason operation. It’s unclear if Amsley-Benzie will be cleared to play by the start of the season. If not, Shaw is proven and more than capable to be a No. 1.

Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, who are launching a new fitness and wellness program at Altru, also will participate.

*****

I wrote about the ticket policy that Omaha enacted for the UND series in this column.

No surprise, I had several fans tweet at me that they weren’t able to get through via phone. The series is now sold out.

Ticket policies like these shouldn’t be a surprise to UND fans in the future. I think when Denver tried it two years ago, it was only the beginning. They’ll have to get creative to find ways into the building.

*****

USA Hockey made cuts at the World Junior camp. Both Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz are still there, though.

Schmaltz figures to be high on the list for USA Hockey as he was on last year’s team. Boeser is putting himself in a good spot with his play, scoring four goals in two games so far this summer.

*****

The AHL is coming to North Dakota.

The top minor-league teams of the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild will play in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday, Oct. 2, and in Fargo’s Scheels Arena the next night.

The Manitoba Moose and Iowa Wild are the teams. At this point, there’s no sure bet that a UND player will be suiting up in those games.

*****

UND hockey’s head statistician, Erik Martinson, has been named director of game operations and facilities. He previously worked in accounting.

As I wrote on Twitter, he’s a name to watch in the future as someone rising through the athletic department. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in an AD role some day.

He’s still young, but already has a background in finance and now game ops and facilities. He basically ran the Fargo regional last year, too.

Martinson is expected to continue his work as the hockey program’s head statistician.

*****

As BGSUhockey.com noted on Twitter, Arizona State coach Greg Powers would be the second-highest paid coach in the WCHA, which probably signals that Arizona State is not going to the WCHA.

The NCHC or the Big Ten have to be the most desired leagues for the Sun Devils, but they probably have to address their arena situation in short order or those leagues will be uneasy about accepting them.

ASU coach deal; Boeser shines

Greg Powers is now a Division I head hockey coach — and he’s getting paid like one.

The Arizona State head coach — who also was previously the school’s club hockey coach — has a new, five-year contract that kicked in on July 1, the Herald has learned. He’s getting paid $250,000 annually during the term, with possibilities of bonuses.

His base salary also gets an automatic bump if the team reaches the NCAA tournament during those five seasons.

Arizona State’s first foray into Division I hockey will be Oct. 9-10 in Anchorage, taking on the Seawolves and Nanooks in the Kendall Hockey Classic (I think it’s still called that?).

*****

UND freshman Brock Boeser is ripping it up at the U.S. World Junior evaluation camp.

He had a hat trick today in leading USA White to a 10-4 win over Sweden. Teammate Nick Schmaltz set up the third of Boeser’s three goals — a combo that UND may look at using.

USA Blue was routed by Finland, but Crookston’s Paul Bittner scored a pair of goals.

Check out Boeser’s goals in the video below. He’s certainly got a one-timer and finishing ability.