Mitchell Mattson’s first trip to Ralph Engelstad Arena was on a volleyball trip.
He arrived in Grand Forks with his sister, Sidney, for her volleyball recruiting trip, snuck in a UND men’s hockey game and left a fan of the program.
When he returns in a couple of years, he’ll be playing for UND.
Mattson, a 6-foot-3 forward from Grand Rapids, Minn., gave a verbal commitment Tuesday to play for UND in 2016 or 2017.
“I knew it was the right place for me,” said Mattson, who made a visit a couple of weeks ago. “The coaching staff is great and the facilities and the town are a perfect fit for me. I knew it was the place I wanted to go once I was there.”
Mattson also had an offer from Minnesota Duluth. He said he was planning to visit Minnesota until he made his visit to Grand Forks.
Mattson had 11 goals and 39 points in 27 games this season for Grand Rapids.
“He’s a real skilled player,” Grand Rapids coach John Rothstein said. “He sees the ice really well. He isn’t a lightning-fast wing or anything. He’s a very controlled, very smooth centerman. He anchored our power play as a sophomore. He does a lot of things that are difficult to teach. He makes passes that you don’t see setting up in the stands.
“He’s just an outstanding young man. He may be better off the ice than he is on the ice. And he has so much potential on the ice.”
Mattson said he will most likely play next season with Grand Rapids. He is expected to be picked in next month’s United States Hockey League draft, too.
Mattson is UND’s first 1998-born commitment.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m very excited.”