Northstar Christian Academy forward Cody Croal commits to UND hockey
The Long Branch, Minn., product will play in the USHL before coming to Grand Forks.
GRAND FORKS — The first time Rylan Galiardi watched Cody Croal was at USA Hockey's Select 16 festival.
Croal was playing at North Branch High School at the time.
"There was something about him," said Galiardi, now the head coach at Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, Minn. "He had some good offensive tools, but he was inconsistent. He just wasn't someone that popped out right away."
Now, that's changed.
Croal scored 49 goals and 101 points in 55 games for Galiardi at Northstar this season, and on Wednesday, he gave a verbal commitment to play college hockey at UND.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Croal will play a year or two of junior hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League before coming to campus.
Croal played six games with Muskegon at the end of his Northstar season and scored twice.
"He's a legit, 200-foot hockey player," Galiardi said. "He has offensive talent. He had over 100 points this year. He scored goals in his first games in the USHL, which is hard to do coming in late in the year. But he's physical, he's got unbelievable edges — one of the best edges I've ever had for a player — and pound-for-pound, he's really strong. He's still got a lot of room to grow."
Croal chose UND over Minnesota State-Mankato.
"Obviously, it's a pretty great program," Croal said. "They have probably the best stuff in college hockey. They also have good coaches. That's obviously a plus. I know a couple guys going there, too. I'm pretty pumped."
Croal is the second commit UND has landed from Northstar.
The Fighting Hawks also recruited Fargo's Ben Strinden from the program a couple years ago. Since committing, Strinden has blossomed a relatively unknown prospect into a top USHL scorer who is expected to get picked in the NHL Draft in July.
Galiardi, who played college hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato, said Croal could be on the same development path.
"He might not be the most heralded recruit right away," Galiardi said. "You might look at the recruiting list and say, 'Well, he's not an NHL pick, he's coming from U18, he's not in the USHL yet,' but I think he's going to be a really good four-year college player.
"He's a gritty, sandpaper kid with offensive tools. He's really good at tracking. He's really good on the forecheck. He has a great stick offensively. He's a really good all-around player. He's a traditional hard skill North Dakota kid who is really hard to play against."
Croal finished one point off the team lead in scoring behind Minnesota State-Mankato commit Reese Laubach.
"There were lots of teams interest in him outside of the region," Galiardi said. "He wanted to stay closer to home. Right about now, he definitely would have had other options — other very good schools in this area."
But Croal chose UND, which began showing interest this season.
"The atmosphere when I went to games was pretty crazy," Croal said. "I went there when the college students were gone and it was still pretty electric."
|Ben Strinden||2002||F||Fargo||Muskegon (USHL)|
|Dylan James||2003||F||Calgary||Sioux City (USHL)|
|Jackson Blake||2003||F||Eden Prairie, Minn.||Chicago (USHL)|
|Owen McLaughlin||2003||F||Spring City, Pa.||Sioux City (USHL)|
|Cody Croal||2003||F||North Branch, Minn.||Northstar Christian Academy|
|Jaksen Panzer||2004||F||East Grand Forks||East Grand Forks HS|
|Bowden Singleton||2004||F||Calgary||Okotoks (AJHL)|
|Jayden Perron||2005||F||Winnipeg||Chicago (USHL)|
|Grayden Slipec||2005||F||White Rock, B.C.||Surrey (BCHL)|
|David Klee||2005||F||Castle Rock, Colo.||Colorado Thunderbirds (AAA)|
|Nate Benoit||2002||D||Bow, N.H.||Tri-City (USHL)|
|Tyler Dunbar||2003||D||Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.||Muskegon (USHL)|
|Abram Wiebe||2003||D||Mission, B.C.||Chilliwack (BCHL)|
|Trey Ausmus||2004||D||East Grand Forks||Madison (USHL)|
|Jake Livanavage||2004||D||Gilbert, Ariz.||Chicago (USHL)|
|Andrew Strathmann||2005||D||Beach Park, Ill.||Tri-City (USHL)|
|Hobie Hedquist||2003||G||Heron Lake, Minn.||Alberni Valley (BCHL)|