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UND men's hockey: 'A steadying influence'

DULUTH -- Ryan Hill has a message for those hockey players who weren't highly recruited out of high school. "Keep working hard and never give up, always chase your dream," the 2006 Hermantown (Minn.) High School graduate said. "You don't want to ...

Ryan Hill
Photo courtesy of Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH -- Ryan Hill has a message for those hockey players who weren't highly recruited out of high school.

"Keep working hard and never give up, always chase your dream," the 2006 Hermantown (Minn.) High School graduate said. "You don't want to say 'What if? What if I played an extra year?' Do everything you can and if it doesn't work for you, then you know that you laid it all out there. If it does work, then there's a big reward."

For Hill, who spent three years playing junior hockey, the big reward came late last week when he made an oral commitment to play at UND this fall.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman played for three teams in the United States Hockey League and the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League before landing a spot with the Sioux.

Hill, who helped Hermantown to a third-place finish at the 2006 Minnesota Class A state tournament, played with the Ohio Bluejackets of the USHL out of high school and then spent a season in Trail, British Columbia.

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Without a college scholarship offer, the 21-year-old Hill had few options.

"I figured I would stick it out instead of giving up after last year," he said. "I was just playing for an opportunity and trying to get myself noticed, working hard every night and hoping a scout was watching."

He started the 2008-09 season -- his last year of eligibility in the USHL -- with the Waterloo Black Hawks before being traded to the Sioux Falls Stampede at midseason. He helped turn around a Sioux Falls team that was seven games below the .500 mark at the halfway point to a team that finished seven games above .500 and qualified for the playoffs.

"He was a steadying influence," Sioux Falls coach Kevin Hartzell said of Hill's maturity level on a young defensive corps. "That may not sound super sexy, but it was really valuable for us. In the age of so many young kids going into college, my hope is he can do the same thing at North Dakota. There will be times when they are bringing in young kids who are talented, but they don't have the same things that Ryan has. He can be a positive for North Dakota."

Hill, who had zero goals and six assists in 51 games last season, is more of a stay-at-home defenseman. But he says that's what the Sioux were looking for when the sides began talking in February.

He also considered eastern schools Army, Merrimack, Northeastern and Quinnipiac.

Hill possesses one other positive: He knows how to ride a bus.

Hill's father, Randy, estimates his son rode 53,000 miles -- the equivalent of more than two times around the globe -- during his three years in juniors.

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"That's a lot of time watching movies, playing cards and taking naps on the bus," Ryan Hill said.

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