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More ‘local flavor’: former GF Central standout commits to UND

GRAND FORKS — John Simonson likes what he sees in the future for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team.

“A lot of local kids,” he said. “I like that.”

Simonson, a former Grand Forks Central standout, became the latest one to commit, giving a verbal pledge Friday afternoon to attend UND beginning next season.

Simonson chose UND over Merrimack, Alaska, Alaska Fairbanks and Bemidji State.

“Obviously, growing up in this town, the No. 1 school has always been North Dakota,” Simonson said. “How can you argue with the facilities and the fan base? That makes it really easy. The big thing for me was making sure that I was wanted to come in and the coaches wanted me to be a part of it. As soon as I felt comfortable that they were bringing me in for the right reasons, that made my decision easy.”

Simonson is the captain and leading scorer of the Lincoln Stars in the United States Hockey League. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward has 10 goals and 18 points in 24 games for the Stars. His recruitment picked up this season as he moved from the North American Hockey League to the USHL.

“My last couple years in the NAHL, I had a couple phone calls here and there, but as soon as I came to Lincoln and started scoring goals in this league, that’s when a lot more schools took notice and the phone started ringing more,” Simonson said.

UND has been in contact with Simonson since last season, but the team’s interest picked up this season. After ending the first half of the season on a five-game point streak, Simonson visited UND on Tuesday and took a couple of days to think about things before calling UND to commit.

“One thing that stuck in my mind is that they told me when it comes to a local kid, the coaches really think about it and make sure they think highly of him,” Simonson said. “If they bring one in and they aren’t too sure if the opportunity is going to be great, it could be really hard on the player as well as the coaching staff. That made me feel comfortable.”

Simonson is the fourth member of the 2010 Central state championship team to go Division I and the third to choose UND. Paul LaDue and Luke Johnson are currently rookies on the team. Casey Purpur is a freshman at Northern Michigan.

UND has several other locals on the team including East Grand Forks’ Gage Ausmus, Devils Lake’s Keaton Thompson and Thief River Falls’ Zane Gothberg. East Grand Forks’ Tucker Poolman also is committed to UND and will come in next season with Simonson.

“It’s good,” Simonson said. “Kids from around here come from good upbringings and they know how to compete.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He 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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