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Tambellini opts to leave UND to play in WHL

GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team hoped to watch Adam Tambellini grow from a tall, scrawny prospect into a dominant power forward at the college level.

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But that won’t happen.

After playing just three months of college hockey, the UND freshman forward has instead opted to play for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League.

Tambellini informed the UND coaching staff of his decision on Tuesday night, and he left to meet up with the Hitmen in Saskatoon, Sask., on Wednesday morning.

“That’s his choice,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “This isn’t an easy place to play or be successful, nor should it be. He made his own personal choice.

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. We had a great practice today with a bunch of guys that are all-in and focused. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m excited to get going this Friday against Colorado College.”

Tambellini, a third-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, had a steep learning curve as a 6-foot-3, 167-pound forward, scoring two goals and four points in his first 16 college games. But he was expected to develop into a dynamic scoring threat later into his career.

A source told the Herald that Tambellini felt the WHL was best for his development.

“It surprised us all,” UND captain Dillon Simpson said. “It’s his decision. At the end of the day, we’ve got to worry about Colorado College this weekend. In that dressing room, we’re not going to worry about (Tambellini’s decision).

“We’ve got big games this weekend. We’ve got to get focused on our season and not let that distract us.”

UND goalie Zane Gothberg added: “Hey, it’s hockey. It’s his decision where he wants to play. I hope the best for him.”

UND has the option of adding a player since the second semester hasn’t started yet, but Hakstol said that it’s unlikely.

“That would have to be a real special situation,” he said. “I like the mix in our locker room right now. I don’t think we’re going to try to go out and force something in a three- or four-day period. You’re left in a pretty tight spot. If this happened a month ago, you have an opportunity to maybe plan for something.

“In my experience, you have to be very careful if you’re going to bring someone at semester. It has to be the right player, the right personality. It’s 12 hours later (from Tambellini’s decision), but at this point in time, I would say there are no imminent plans there.”

Chyzyk returns

UND did get one player back this week.

Sophomore forward Bryn Chyzyk, who was suspended in December for bailing on a taxi fee estimated at $4, was reinstated Monday and has returned to practice.

Hakstol said that Chyzyk has fulfilled all responsibilities with the university and the hockey program.

Chyzyk, who did not practice with the team during his suspension, has two goals and two assists this season.

Healed up

UND shouldn’t be missing anyone due to injury this weekend.

Rocco Grimaldi, who left Saturday’s game against Simon Fraser with a leg injury, was a full-go at practice Wednesday and expects to be in the lineup this weekend.

Forward Brendan O’Donnell and defenseman Gage Ausmus, both of whom sat out last weekend’s exhibition games in British Columbia, also are practicing.

“All good to go,” Hakstol said. “I think they both could have played (in Burnaby, B.C.). The smarter thing was to take a little more time, though.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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