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Daily Skate: Transfer portal entry deadline looming

Outside of a few exceptions, Saturday is the final day for college hockey players to enter.

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UND's Brendan Budy celebrates his third period goal with teammates Tyler Kleven (25) and Connor Ford (21) during a home hockey matchup against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday, November 20, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — The number of college hockey players entering the NCAA transfer portal is about to turn into a slow trickle.

Outside of a few exceptions, Saturday is the final day for winter sport athletes to enter the portal.

Come Sunday, the only players who can enter for next season are those who have had their financial aid reduced or cut, or if their team had a change at head coach.

Schools have until July 1 to notify student-athletes of aid cuts or reductions.

Considering there are still a few head coaching slots to left to be filled — Boston College, Boston University, Michigan State — it's possible there will be more portal entrants after Sunday, but it will be minimal.

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Teams are still free to pick up recruits out of the portal after this weekend, so commitments will continue to flow in. But new entrants to the portal will be few and far between.

A few National Collegiate Hockey Conference players have entered this week ahead of the deadline — UND goalie Harrison Feeney, UND forward Brendan Budy, Colorado College forward Jordan Biro and Western Michigan defenseman Jared Kucharek.

James to UND?

UND is still working to put together next year's roster, but Budy's entrance to the portal likely means Sioux City Musketeers forward Dylan James will have an opportunity to come to campus next season.

The Fighting Hawks are working to try to fit in four rookie forwards (James, Jackson Blake, Owen McLaughlin and Ben Strinden), while only losing three (Connor Ford, Ashton Calder, Budy).

Blake is a 2021 Carolina Hurricanes draft pick. McLaughlin is a 2021 Philadelphia Flyers pick. James and Strinden are expected to go in this summer's draft. James is a first-year draft eligible. Strinden is in his third and final year of draft eligibility.

When the 2021-22 season started, UND probably anticipated James would be back in the USHL next season, but he's having a breakthrough year with Sioux City.

After only playing seven games in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season because of COVID-19 shutdowns, James emerged to lead all rookies in scoring in the United States Hockey League this season.

The Calgary product scored 28 goals and 61 points in 62 games for Sioux City, anchoring the left wing on Sioux City's top line. He became the first USHL rookie to hit 60 points in six years.

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The 6-foot, 181-pound forward could go as high as the second round in July's draft.

Sioux City will begin the USHL playoffs this weekend, so it's possible the final plan for James won't be known until the Musketeers are done.

USA cruising in U18 tournament

The United States has been crushing its opponents so far in the IIHF World Under-18 tournament in Germany.

During its three preliminary-round games, the Americans went 3-0 and averaged eight goals per game.

Grand Forks native and USA forward Cole Spicer, who re-opened his recruitment before the start of the tournament, has three goals for Team USA.

Minnesota Duluth commit Isaac Howard leads the Americans in both goals (five) and points (six).

The Americans play Latvia in the quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The semifinals are set for Saturday and the medal games Sunday.

Last year, the Americans failed to medal for the first time since 2003.

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Between 2005-17, the Americans won gold nine times in 13 tournaments. But they haven't won the last three, finishing second in 2018, third in 2019 and out of medal contention in 2021. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But USA looks like heavy favorites this year.

NCHC goalie tandems nearly set

Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona announced last week that he will return to school next season rather than sign with the San Jose Sharks, who own his rights.

That means there are only a few goalie spots left to shake out in the NCHC.

Omaha and Western Michigan both still need to add one goalie.

The Mavericks will bring in Simon Latkoczy from Madison (USHL) but need another scholarship guy to compete with him for the starting job. Omaha has been looking in the transfer portal, where it appears there are two main options — American International goalie Jake Kucharski (Carolina Hurricanes draft pick) and Quinnipiac goalie Dylan St. Cyr, who previously played at Notre Dame.

Western Michigan already landed its starter out of the portal in Wisconsin's Cameron Rowe and it picked up a commitment from Steinbach (MJHL) goalie Will Hambley, who went 28-2 with a .929 this season. But the Broncos lost all three of their netminders from last season and still need one more.

Denver (Chrona) and Miami (Ludvig Persson) are the only NCHC teams who will return their main starters from last season. Colorado College's Matt Vernon also played extensively, though Dominic Basse started more often. Basse transferred to St. Cloud State.

Idalski leads Vanke Rays to title

Former UND women's hockey coach Brian Idalski led the Kunlun Red Star Vanke Rays to a second WHL title in the last three seasons.

The Vanke Rays swept SKIF in a best-of-five series in the finals.

Idalski had a number of his former UND players on the roster this season. Four played in the playoffs — forward Michelle Karvinen (11 points), forward Susanna Tapani (10), forward Ryleigh Houston (five) and defender Anna Kilponen (four).

Rebekah Kolstad and Abby Thiessen also played for the Vanke Rays earlier this season. Idalski's assistant coach was Max Markowitz, who worked as a video coach with the UND women's team.

Idalski and Markowitz have been with the Vanke Rays for three years and have led them to the finals each time, winning in 2020 and 2022.

Quick hits

  • USA Hockey NTDP coach Mike Leone was named head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Gamblers on Tuesday. Leone played college hockey at Western Michigan.
  • Other coaching changes are coming within the USHL, which will complete the first round of the playoffs Wednesday night. One name to watch in USHL head coaching searches is St. Cloud State assistant coach Nick Oliver of Roseau. Oliver is very familiar with the league having played for the Fargo Force and served as an assistant coach with Sioux Falls. He will likely be a target in the USHL.
  • Former UND forward Shane Pinto returned to the ice for practice this week for the Ottawa Senators, but coach D.J. Smith said Pinto won't play again this season.
  • Former UND defenseman Jake Sanderson still hasn't practiced for the Senators, which makes it clear that he would not have been able to play in the NCAA Frozen Four had UND made it.
  • UND's 2023 goalie commit Hobie Hedquist had a run in the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs where he stopped 109 of 113 shots for Alberni Valley. The Bulldogs are now done for the season.
Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
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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