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HOCKEY: Thompson to UND, Ausmus to Denver U

Keaton Thompson had some news to share with Gage Ausmus when he showed up at his East Grand Forks house on Monday morning. Coincidentally, Ausmus had similar news to share with Thompson. The local standout defensemen and good friends, who will be...

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Keaton Thompson had some news to share with Gage Ausmus when he showed up at his East Grand Forks house on Monday morning.

Coincidentally, Ausmus had similar news to share with Thompson.

The local standout defensemen and good friends, who will be teammates on the U.S. Under-17 team in Ann Arbor, Mich., beginning this fall, both made Division I college commitments within minutes of each other Monday.

Thompson, a Devils Lake product, is headed to UND. Ausmus, of East Grand Forks, is headed to the University of Denver.

"For me, a defenseman has to handle the puck, make outlet passes and get the puck out of the zone," said Scott Oliver, who coached both players in the Minnesota high school elite league last year. "Both of them do that well. Both like to jump in the play and be offensive. Both are good at both ends of the rink. I think both are going to grow and develop in Ann Arbor and have an opportunity to pick up their games prior to going to college."

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Ausmus will be a junior and is scheduled to go to Denver in 2013. Thompson just completed his freshman year at Devils Lake High School, but is working to accelerate his education so he could come to UND in 2013. If he's not ready, he will come in 2014.

Thompson, 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, was the second-leading scorer for the Firebirds last season with 38 points in 24 games. He also had offers from Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota. He ultimately chose UND over the Gophers.

"I felt more comfortable with everything there," said Thompson, who also played 13 games for the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League last year. "You can't really go wrong with it at UND."

Born in Eden Prairie, Minn., Thompson moved to Devils Lake as a kindergartener. He will be the first Devils Lake player to suit up for the Sioux since Daniel Storsteen, the alternate captain in 1962-63.

Ausmus, 6-0, 200, visited Denver, Duluth, Minnesota and UND.

"Denver came out on top," Ausmus said. "I'm very excited. I love the town and I've always kind of wanted to get away from East Grand Forks and try something new, and that's what I'm doing."

Ausmus described himself as more of a shutdown defenseman.

"I'm not looking to get a lot of points," he said. "I'm going to be a shutdown defenseman and I want to help my team win a couple of gold medals (with the Ann Arbor program)."

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Neither player will suit up in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, as both UND and Denver will move to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in 2013. Both say it's an exciting development.

"I think it's just awesome," Ausmus said. "It's going to be tough to be the best in that conference. All the teams are great."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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