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MEN'S HOCKEY: Cichy excited about return to Grand Forks

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Mike Cichy was just 16 years old when he became the focus of an intense recruiting battle between UND and the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

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“I was a little hot shot back then,” he said with a laugh. “(Halifax) was pushing hard. I just wanted to play pro hockey like any kid. It was tempting, but my mom kept me level-headed and helped me make the right choice.”

Cichy ended up committing to UND and sticking with it.

Since that point, his journey has made some unexpected stops, going from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Boston to Kearney, Neb., to Indianapolis to Grand Forks to Kalamazoo, Mich. This weekend, it brings him back to Grand Forks where it all began.

Cichy is now a senior forward with the Western Michigan Broncos.

He is not a Hobey Baker Award or All-American candidate as some predicted he would be at this point in his career. But the New Hartford, Conn., product is comfortable with where he’s at in life.

He has carved out a key role for himself on a surging Western Michigan team, and when college hockey is all said and done, he will become the first member of his family to have a college degree.

“After the journey I went through, especially the ups and downs in my hockey playing career, it’s always nice to have the degree to fall back on,” Cichy said. “It makes you not regret going the college route instead of the major junior route. If I did (go major juniors), I might not be sitting here with a degree. I might not be playing hockey, either.

“At least I will have the degree. And I got some pretty cool experiences, too. I don’t regret it.”

This season, Cichy has frequently played on a defensive line for the 16-13-5 Broncos. Yet, he’s also been able to jump up to a top line when needed — like he did during Western Michigan’s win last Saturday over Denver.

“It’s been good,” Cichy said. “There have been ups and downs personally and as a team. We’ve been coming together pretty good lately. It’s fun to be a part of a team where everyone loves working for each other. The season is coming together pretty good.”

Cichy played two seasons at UND, but transferred to get more playing time. He was in-and-out of the lineup during his time in Grand Forks, but only had good things to say about it.

“Tons of memories,” said Cichy, who helped UND win a MacNaughton Cup, two Broadmoor Trophies and reach the NCAA Frozen Four. “I love the guys. It’s something you miss, but you move on. It was a fun part of my history.”

Cichy walked into Ralph Engelstad Arena on Wednesday night, stood on the visitor’s bench and looked around. It was his first time in the building since the summer of 2011.

“It’s surreal right now,” he said as he looked at the seats. “I haven’t seen it since I left. The last time I was here, I was in the home dressing room. Now, I’m going to the visitor’s and there are all these different rules. It’s weird being here, but it’s exciting. I’m glad I have a chance to finish the regular season out here.”

Cichy doesn’t know many players on the current UND roster. Only two of them — seniors Dillon Simpson and Derek Rodwell — were on the squad during his time. But most members of the staff and support staff are the same.

After the season ends, Cichy will leave Western Michigan armed with a degree and ready for either a pro hockey career in Europe or a job in the real world. But first, he’s ready for one last memorable experience in Grand Forks.

“It’s never a cakewalk coming in here,” he said. “Everyone knows that. And I know that pretty well.”

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Brad Elliott Schlossman
Schlossman is in his 11th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2014, he was named one of the top three beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.
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