RPI canceled its 2020-21 men's hockey season due to the coronavirus pandemic, so defenseman Brady Ferner didn't have a place to play.
Ferner decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal and return to Sioux City, Iowa -- just outside of his hometown of Dakota Dunes, S.D. -- and volunteer with his old junior hockey program.
"I think he's a guy who leads by example, first and foremost," Sioux City Musketeers general manager Andy Johnson said. "Between his work ethic and experience, he's a really good leader for our guys. He's been there and done that and has seen what it takes to play at the next level. He's spent a lot of time with our guys, mentoring them. On and off the ice, he's a first-class individual."
UND, in search of a defenseman to add depth, experience and leadership, recruited Ferner, who will transfer to play his final two years of college eligibility with the Fighting Hawks.
"I grew up a UND fan just being so close," said Ferner, who will be the first South Dakotan to play at UND since Buzz and Prince Johnson of Webster, S.D., from 1947-50. "I used to watch all the games, especially when North Dakota and Minnesota played on FSN. I actually used to attend youth camps at The Ralph. I have a lot of family from Saskatchewan and Grand Forks is a halfway point, a meeting destination for us. So, I've always been around the area, followed the team and been a big fan.
"When a school like North Dakota calls -- it's the best place to play in college hockey -- it's a no-brainer."
Ferner suited up in every RPI game -- 70 of them to be exact -- during his two seasons in Troy, N.Y. He had four points as a rookie and eight as a sophomore.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder shoots right handed, which helps a UND team that is losing three right-handers on defense in Jacob Bernard-Docker, Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger.
The Fighting Hawks will bring back four defensemen in Jake Sanderson, Ethan Frisch, Tyler Kleven and Cooper Moore. They'll bring in at least three -- freshman Luke Bast and transfers Chris Jandric (Alaska Fairbanks) and Ferner.
Ferner said UND's coaching staff told him what they're looking for out of him.
"They were looking for a guy to come in, compete, earn what he gets, add depth, be a character guy and bring maturity and character," said Ferner, who will turn 24 years old in August.
Johnson said Ferner will bring that to the Fighting Hawks, who will be turning over nearly half of their roster this offseason.
"He's a great kid," Johnson said. "I've spent a lot of time with him. He'll be a really good asset."
Although Ferner hasn't played a game in more than a year, he said he's learned a lot by volunteering with Sioux City's coaching staff.
"You have time to dissect the game and learn the game from a different perspective and lens," Ferner said. "I've been able to be on the ice with these guys every day to keep skills sharp. I've continued to work out and train like a normal hockey year, even though I'm not able to play."
Prior to RPI, Ferner played two years for Sioux City, helping the Musketeers to an Anderson Cup as regular-season champions in 2016-17. UND incoming transfer Connor Ford, who spent four years at Bowling Green, and outgoing senior Jackson Keane also were on that Anderson Cup-winning Sioux City team.
Ferner said he talked to seven or eight college teams before UND called.
"It was a fit right away," he said. "I'm really excited for the opportunity."