Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dom Toninato Commits as UMD Makes Recruiting Noise

Within a couple days of UMD winning the NCAA title last April, I had already grown tired of people -- both in and out of the Twin Ports area -- asking if the championship would make a difference in UMD's recruiting.

After all, the Bulldogs had already secured the services of players like forwards Tony Camaranesi and Kyle Osterberg, defenseman Andy Welinski, and goalie Matt McNeely, and while I don't spend oodles of time covering recruiting, I hadn't heard a bad word about any of those guys.

The reality was that UMD was already doing quite well in recruiting, and any help the program was going to get would only make things better than they already were going to be.

Well, since winning the title, the Bulldogs have added more potential stars to the stable. I guess there's some pull in a national championship and a beautiful new arena.

Per Chris Heisenberg's very fine recruiting site, UMD has added five prospects since hoisting the trophy, including three in the last couple weeks.

Fargo Force forward Austin Farley is going to follow former coach Jason Herter to UMD in -- from the sounds of it -- 2013 (the dates on most recruits are flexible, depending on early departures and other factors). If you don't know anything about Farley, just enjoy this bit.

“He says a lot of things, a lot of things I can’t say right now,” said (defenseman Willie) Corrin, who along with Farley, is committed to play college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth.

“A player from another team will call him cocky, and he’ll tell them to suck on his 44 points or point at the scoreboard.”

The linked piece from Ryan Clark makes Farley out to be the perfect example of a player who irritates the hell out of you until he's on your team.

A couple weeks ago, Saskatchewan forward Brett Boehm committed to UMD. He's being courted by the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, but would make a very nice addition to UMD in, most likely, 2014. I don't know a lot about Boehm, but what I've heard sounds quite impressive. He may be a flight risk because of the WHL interest, and kids are allowed to change their minds, but when he arrives at UMD, he'll make an impact.

In the last few days, UMD has added a couple more local players. On Friday, Hermantown senior forward Jared Thomas committed to UMD. Thomas leads the unbeaten Hawks in scoring. At last check, he was averaging close to three points per game. He's expected to play at least one year of juniors and join UMD in 2013 or 2014.

Earlier Tuesday, I reported that Duluth East senior Dom Toninato will also join the Bulldogs, likely after a year with the USHL's Fargo Force. Toninato's father, Jim, played four years at UMD from 1982-1986, logging 155 games. Dom Toninato is the second-leading scorer on the top-ranked Greyhounds, who started the season 17-0 before losing Saturday to Minnetonka. The younger Toninato has 47 points in 18 games this season.

East's leading scorer, Jake Randolph, committed to Nebraska Omaha Monday. He will play a year for the USHL's Omaha Lancers before joining the red Mavericks. Randolph has 49 points this season. His father, Mike, is the longtime coach at East.

That UMD is doing well in getting local players is huge. It doesn't hurt that guys like Kyle Schmidt and Chad Huttel have moved through the program and made an impact. This year's roster features Hobey Baker candidate (favorite?) Jack Connolly, Keegan Flaherty, Tim Smith, Scott Kishel, Max Tardy, Adam Krause, and Aaron Jamnick, a transfer eligible next season.

Add in Thomas and Toninato, and the potential for more, and you have a situation where UMD is getting as close as it ever will to building the proverbial fence around the Northland.

You're not going to ever get them all, for a variety of reasons, but as long as UMD is getting the majority of local players who have serious Division I potential, it's a good start. You don't want a ton of kids who live within an hour or so drive going to rival schools, because it makes your job even more difficult as a recruiter. There are enough challenges and there is enough competition without a bunch of local kids bolting the area.

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