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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published July 04 2013

Canadian standout commits to UND men's hockey team

GRAND FORKS – Ryan Gropp isn’t American but he still found a way to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The 1996-born forward from British Columbia gave a verbal commitment to the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team on Thursday night, ending his heavy recruitment.

Gropp, a former first-round pick in the Western Hockey League, had several offers, but decided to make Grand Forks his future home after visiting the campus earlier this week. He will likely join the team in the fall of 2014.

“It’s a pretty exciting time,” said Gropp, whose father played college hockey at Colorado College. “I had been talking to a bunch of schools but this was only my second visit. I fell in love with the place. I was impressed by everything – the building, the coaching staff – and that was it for me.

“I had heard about the rink, but it blew me away. And the coaching staff made me feel right at home.”

Gropp is believed to be the top available recruit for his age group out of the British Columbia Hockey League. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound forward tallied 12 goals and 31 points in 50 games last season for the Penticton Vees, who finished runner-up in the BCHL playoffs.

Gropp said he considered going to play for Seattle in the WHL, but he felt that UND was the best fit.

On his visit, Gropp said he hung out with incoming freshmen Troy Stecher and Wade Murphy – both Penticton teammates of Gropp’s last season.

“Those are two of my really good friends,” Gropp said.

Gropp’s commitment further bolsters UND’s class of 1996-born players, which already includes Nick Schmaltz, Austin Poganski, Chris Wilkie, Shane Gersich, Rhett Gardner and Ryan Mantha.

Schmaltz, Poganski and Mantha will play for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament next month in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. On Thursday, Gropp was invited to participate in Canada’s selection camp, which will be used to pick its roster for the tournament.

“I’ve played against them at the Under-17s,” Gropp said of his future teammates. “It’s exciting that we’re all going to end up at UND together.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald