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Daily Skate: Portal recruiting battles heat up

Apr. 3—GRAND FORKS — Some players enter

the NCAA transfer portal

and already know where they're going.

The Herald detailed how that works

in a story earlier this season.

Sometimes, players enter the portal knowing what schools they're considering, then begin the recruiting process with a narrowed-down list. That's what's happening right now with a bunch of the top players in the transfer portal.

One big recruiting battle is for Bemidji State freshman defenseman Eric Pohlkamp of Brainerd, Minn.

Pohlkamp, a former United States Hockey League defenseman of the year winner, was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the fifth round last summer.

He had an excellent freshman season with Bemidji State, tallying 11 goals and 24 points in 32 games, helping the Beavers win the MacNaughton Cup as Central Collegiate Hockey Association champions.

Pohlkamp won a gold medal with the U.S. World Junior Championship team and came back strong, finishing the season with 13 points in the last 12 games. He scored an overtime winner against Ferris State in the CCHA quarterfinals.

According to a half dozen college hockey sources, it is shaping up to be a battle between UND and Denver for Pohlkamp.

For UND, Pohlkamp would solidify an excellent top three on the right side of the defensive corps alongside incoming freshman E.J. Emery and junior shutdown defender Bennett Zmolek.

UND's other incoming rookie defensemen — Andrew Strathmann and Jayden Jubenvill — are left-handed shots.

UND also is believed to be a finalist for RIT junior center Carter Wilkie, who is the highest-scoring player in the transfer portal (41 points). The fact that Wilkie took more faceoffs than any player in the country in 2023-24 also will be attractive to a UND team whose faceoff numbers declined late in the season.

Wilkie is expected to take multiple recruiting visits before deciding.

According to a

story by Kevin Oklobzija,

Wilkie initially fielded interest from about 30 teams.

UND is guaranteed to bring in at least three rookie forwards — center Sacha Boisvert, winger Mac Swanson and center-winger Cody Croal. All three are NHL Draft-eligible this summer. Forwards Cade Littler and David Klee also are possibilities.

But a transfer is likely to fill the void left by Michael Emerson, who returned to junior hockey after the first semester and will transfer to a new school.

Some other players in the transfer portal who are subject of big recruiting battles right now are UConn forward Matthew Wood, Arizona State defenseman Tim Lovell and Alaska forwards Brady Risk and Harrison Israels. Don't be surprised if some of them end up in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Wisconsin defenseman Brady Cleveland, a second-round Detroit Red Wings pick, also could be NCHC-bound. Colorado College hasn't been very active in the transfer portal the last couple of years, but it would not be a surprise to see the Tigers go after Cleveland to replace shutdown defender Nicklas Andrews, who is headed for Michigan State.

UND landed its first transfer of the offseason,

picking up goaltender T.J. Semptimphelter

from Arizona State on Tuesday night.

He will fill the spot of Ludvig Persson, who is expected to turn pro.

Sometimes, there's an adjustment period to playing goalie at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Whether it's a freshman or a transfer, few of them have played in front of 12,000 fans a night.

But being on a big stage won't be new for Semptimphelter.

He's played three games in NHL arenas and he thrived in all three.

As a freshman at Northeastern, Semptimphelter filled in for starter Devon Levi while he was at the Olympic Games. Semptimphelter played two games in the Beanpot in T.D. Garden, home of the Boston Bruins.

In the first one, he stopped 41 of 42 in beating Boston College 3-1 in front of 15,535. In the Beanpot final, he stopped 28 of 29 against Boston University and lost 1-0 in front of 17,850.

At Arizona State, Semptimphelter beat UND in T-Mobile Arena, home of the Vegas Golden Knights, in the 2022 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. He stopped 13 of 15 in front of 15,503.

Add that up and Semptimphelter has a .953 save percentage in three games at NHL arenas.

Semptimphelter hopes to play in an NHL arena while at UND, because that would mean qualifying for the 2025 NCAA Frozen Four in St. Louis.

Another interesting stat about Semptimphelter: He's never been scored upon in a shootout during his college career. Semptimphelter is 13-for-13 in stopping opponent attempts.

All four shootouts came this season. He blanked Colorado College (3-for-3), Dartmouth (3-for-3), Cornell (3-for-3) and Lindenwood (4-for-4).

UND got into just two shootouts this year. The first was a meaningless nonconference one against Minnesota State-Mankato. The other came at St. Cloud State. The Fighting Hawks lost them both.

Shootout victories can be important for positioning in the league standings, and it's possible they could factor into the Pairwise Rankings in the future as well.

There will be discussions in Florida later this month about giving minimal weight to the shootout in the Pairwise.

Right now, a three-on-three overtime win is considered 67 percent of a regulation win. An overtime loss is 33 percent value. A shootout would be closer to 50-50 if it's given any value at all.

* Chris Murphy of College Hockey News

wrote a piece on Semptimphelter this season

and how he's inspired by his father, Joe, who was born with one hand.

* According to ESPN's John Buccigross, former UND defenseman Cooper Moore plans to use his COVID year and play a fifth collegiate season at Quinnipiac. Moore, a defenseman, tallied three goals and 22 points in 39 games for the Bobcats.

* UND senior Griffin Ness is close to signing a pro deal in the ECHL. It could happen as early as Wednesday. It will be done by the end of the week.

* UND fifth-year senior forward Hunter Johannes also is believed to be close to a deal.

* Arizona State announced the return of four key players for fifth years, including leading scorer Lukas Sillinger (48 points), brothers Ty and Dylan Jackson and Benji Eckerle. The Sun Devils will join the NCHC next season.

* New Miami coach Anthony Noreen already received his first commitment. . . and it's one of his players at Tri-City. Defenseman Shaun McEwen committed to Miami on Tuesday. He was previously committed to UMass.

* In a story by the Duluth News Tribune, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin indicated he believes first-line center Dominic James

will be back for next season

instead of signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. James suffered a season-ending injury in October.

* Minnesota forward Jimmy Snuggerud, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, announced he plans to return to the Gophers for his junior season. His initial announcement came from Minnesota's NIL collective, which means Snuggerud is likely getting a significant amount of money to stay. Snuggerud scored 21 goals and 34 points last season.

* The Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick is expected to be announced at 11 a.m. Thursday. UND forward Jackson Blake is one of the top-10 finalists. He's looking to become UND's third Hat Trick finalist since 2020. The others are Jordan Kawaguchi (2020) and Shane Pinto (2021).