Dane Montgomery planned to pack up next week and head from Grand Forks to British Columbia, where he was set to spend the year playing junior hockey for the Penticton Vees.
That changed in a hurry.
The Grand Forks native, who verbally committed to UND in August of 2018, will instead be a last-minute addition to the Fighting Hawks roster after a spot opened earlier this week when senior forward Jasper Weatherby unexpectedly signed a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks.
At UND, Montgomery will wear the No. 5, the same number he wore as a sophomore at Grand Forks Red River in 2017-18.
"I'm super excited," Montgomery said. "Obviously, it's been a dream of mine as long as I can remember. I was always going to the games and wanting to put on the Sioux jersey. Now, obviously that's changed and it's the Fighting Hawks, but it's the same culture as it was before. It's pretty surreal and pretty awesome I get the opportunity to play and put on the jersey."
It has been a rush to get Montgomery squared away this week.
Weatherby signed with the Sharks on Monday, the first day of the fall semester at UND, leaving the Fighting Hawks with a big hole up the middle in the lineup and almost no time to fill it. Weatherby had been penciled in as the team's first-line center for this season.
UND's options to fill that roster spot were limited.
With few, if any, uncommitted, college-ready players available, the Fighting Hawks coaching staff looked at their own commitment list. They had four committed forwards who had high school diplomas — Montgomery, Ethan Bowen, Ben Strinden and Dylan James.
Montgomery stood out from the group.
He's the oldest (he will turn 20 in January). He played the most games of anyone in the group last season (28). He had the most success, too, averaging .82 points per game for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League. He finished second on Waterloo in points per game behind Western Michigan incoming freshman Max Sasson and ahead of Denver incoming freshman Owen Ozar.
"I had to have another surgery and that set me back until about January," said Montgomery, who served as Waterloo's captain. "I felt the most comfortable after that. I was ready to play. Obviously, it was my best year (in the USHL). I think that also came with having that experience in the two years prior. I felt like I had my best year overall. I was more confident and more free to play and do my thing. Obviously, being a leader and a captain was awesome."
Montgomery also played center last season, which is a position of need after the pro signings of Weatherby and Shane Pinto (Ottawa Senators). He doesn't have the size of the 6-foot-4 Weatherby or 6-foot-2 Pinto, though. Montgomery is 5-foot-9.
"We are excited to have Dane join our North Dakota family," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He possesses all the aspects of what we look for in student-athletes. We look forward in Dane adding to the North Dakota tradition."
Montgomery also has plenty of familiarity with the team. He grew up playing with junior Judd Caulfield and fellow incoming freshmen Jackson Kunz and Kaleb Johnson in Grand Forks. In fact, in the 2018 North Dakota state semifinals, he played on a line with Kunz and against Johnson.
"Knowing most of the guys and being able to come into the room and know familiar faces and not be stranded, where you don't know anyone coming in last minute, that's pretty awesome," Montgomery said.
Montgomery is now registered and will begin attending class Tuesday.
"Honestly, it's been pretty crazy trying to get signed up for school and figuring out classes and doing everything we've got to do to get eligible and be able to participate with the team," Montgomery said. "It's been a pretty crazy four days for me since Monday."
With the addition of Montgomery to the roster, UND will have 14 newcomers this season — nine freshmen and five transfers. It is the largest class of newcomers in more than 20 years, surpassing the group of 13 that arrived in the fall of 2005.
Montgomery said his goal is to fit in and help the Fighting Hawks as they go for a third-straight Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season champions.
"(My goal is) just to get in the lineup and sustain a role, whatever that role is, and do my best to stay there and help the team win every night," Montgomery said.