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.

Northstar Christian Academy forward Cody Croal, a UND commit, looks to shoot a puck during a 2021-22 game.
Submitted photo

GRAND FORKS โ€” 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 โ€” one of the best edges I've ever had for a player โ€” 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 โ€” 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."

UND men's hockey committed recruits As of April 28, 2022
Name Birth year Position Hometown Team
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)
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald

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
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