Former Spuds teammates Carter Randklev and Ethan Frisch set to go head-to-head in Niagara-UND series
Randklev and Frisch helped Moorhead reach the state championship game in 2017.
Niagara sophomore Carter Randklev first saw his team's schedule this summer.
The opening weekend jumped out: at North Dakota.
"I was excited, to be honest with you," he said.
The former Moorhead High standout hockey player has several reasons to be excited about this weekend's season-opening two-game series between his Purple Eagles and UND (7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena).
First, it presents an opportunity for his family and friends to watch him play just an hour from home. Fans were not allowed at any Niagara games last season, so Friday night will be the first time any of them have a chance to watch Randklev play college hockey in person.
Among those planning to attend are his grandmother, Nora, his father, Jerome, and half sisters, Briana and Britni.
It also will be a chance to go against a team he once committed to. Randklev gave a verbal commitment to UND in December 2017, but didn't receive a National Letter of Intent from the school two years later when his signing period arrived. He ended up at Niagara, an Atlantic Hockey school located in Western New York.
"A little part of me has thought about this game since I knew it was on the schedule," Randklev said. "I try not to consume myself too much. People always ask me that question. It's more about my team than what was once part of my future. The main focus is the great team I'm on now, regardless of our opponent. Granted, North Dakota is in the back of my head, but I'm focused on what we're doing."
Last, it's a chance to play against longtime teammate Ethan Frisch, who is now a top-pair junior defenseman at UND.
Randklev and Frisch played two years of bantams and two years at the high school level together. In 2017, they led the Spuds to the Minnesota state Class AA championship game. They lost to Grand Rapids, led by UND senior Gavin Hain, in the final.
"We've grown up together," Randklev said. "We went to high school and played minor years together and all of that. It's fun. It's obviously good to see a face that you've always played with and played against. When he was with Green Bay (in the USHL), I played a little against him, too. But I don't consume myself with that either. Many times I've played against someone I've played with in the past, so I don't see that as a huge factor.
"It's a fun part, because we'll have family members coming to see the game and we've played together. That part is fun and cool, but I don't think it plays a huge role."
Frisch, an alternate captain at UND, said he's looking forward to the weekend.
"It will be fun getting on the ice with him," Frisch said. "Obviously, we won't be on the same team, but he's a competitor. I'm excited to see him play. I haven't seen him in a while."
Even so, Frisch doesn't need a scouting report to know Randklev's style of game.
"He's a good, hard, skilled player," Frisch said. "Watching him grow up, he's always been ultra skilled. He's not afraid to get in the corner and go grab a puck. He's a fast player with good hands and he's a competitor. He's ready to compete. It will be fun to see him play."
Key players at Moorhead
In the last decade, Moorhead has reached the state championship game once.
Frisch and Randklev were key players on that 2016-17 team.
"Ethan was a sophomore that played a more mature game than a sophomore would," Moorhead coach Jon Ammerman said. "Even now, he's a guy who plays a mature game. He was dependable, you could play him in all situations. Offensively, he was still learning ways to jump in the play, but defensively, he was mature beyond his years. He was thrust into a top-four role right away as a sophomore and he wasn't over his head at all. He was definitely ready for that."
Frisch had six goals and 16 points that season, while Randklev led the Spuds in goals (26) and points (46).
"For Carter, that year was a coming out party for him and his linemates," Ammerman said. "They really were our go-to scoring line. He was a guy that was extremely dynamic and started off the year very well. He didn't look back. That was a year where he proved, at our level, that he could be an undersized guy and go through our schedule and contribute every night."
Randklev had three goals and five points in 13 games as a rookie for the Purple Eagles, who reached Atlantic Hockey's title game before falling to American International.
Now, he'll get to start his sophomore campaign just outside of his hometown.
"It's exciting for my family to be able to see me play," Randklev said. "Being in New York, it's difficult for them to come out and see me play in person. I've been looking forward to it. It's definitely been marked on the calendar."
Niagara at UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports (GF 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).