ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It does not sound like August Falloon and Max Rud had a string of phone calls from college recruiters at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1.
But the pair of sophomores from the St. Cloud co-op boys hockey team have received some contact from NCAA Division I men's hockey programs in recent weeks. In a new rule adopted by the NCAA this school year, telephone calls, text messages and other similar contact as well as unofficial visits begin Jan. 1 of a player's sophomore year in high school. Official visits, verbal offers and other off-campus contacts can begin on Aug. 1 before a player's junior year in high school.
Both Falloon, a 15-year-old center, and Rud, a 16-year-old defenseman, are excited to receive the recruiting attention. Both said that they did not have contact with college coaches last season before the rule change, but sound like they are happy with the new rule.
"It kind of sucks a little bit at first because you get a little antsy to have someone talk to you, but once you grow up, you realize that maybe it's not worth it, committing as an eighth-grader," Falloon said. "Going to see a university when you're a little older will probably pay dividends."
Rud has seen this process played out before in his family. His sister, Gabbie, a forward who plays for the St. Cloud Icebreakers, verbally committed to Cornell as a sophomore in the fall of 2017. And Rud's father, Eric, is an associate head coach for the Miami University men's hockey team and been a college hockey coach for 15 years.
"I've always dreamed of playing college hockey because my dad played college hockey and I've always dreamed of being like him if I have the opportunity," Rud said of Eric, who played defense for Colorado College from 1993-97. "(Recruiters tell you), 'We're interested and we want to see you keep developing and we're watching.'"
Pete Matanich is in his 11th season as a high school head coach and spent nine seasons as a high school assistant coach before that. Matanich, who has coached in the CCM Minnesota Hockey High Performance 15-and-under summer camps for several summers, said that he was excited when the NCAA moved up the age that recruiting begins.
"Super excited because I don't think that eighth- and ninth-graders need to have that kind of pressure on them to develop," Matanich said. "Maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of them never end up making it (onto Division I rosters) that commit early. To know for 4-5 years that you've got that label on you is pretty tough for a kid to wrap their head around. They need to understand that they need to continue to get better.
"I think it's a good change. I think it allows kids to focus on their skills."
To get Division I recruiting interest, players have to have some skills in place. Here are some of the traits that Falloon and Rud have brought to the St. Cloud team.
Falloon is listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds and is the center of St. Cloud's high-powered first line with senior wings Blake Keller (18 assists, 32 points in 18 games) and Luke Johnson (24 assists, 40 points in 19 games). Falloon leads St. Cloud in goals (18) and has 35 points in 19 games.
In 44 career high school games, he has 38 goals and 64 points.
"He's one of the better players I've coached below the (faceoff) dots on either the offensive or defensive end," Matanich said. "When he gets the puck low, he's tough to get off the puck and he's trying to get to the net. When he gets the puck in the slot, it's usually going in the net.
"He still needs to get better in the neutral zone."
Falloon said that he thinks he has been playing well, but also pointed out some areas he can improve.
"When I'm playing well, I'm helping in all of the zones and help going into corners and we've got to score and play good 'D,'" he said. "The biggest thing I wanted to work on was blocking shots and finishing my hits. I've been told by a lot of people who have gone on to play juniors that I need to get a little tougher. I'm trying to work on that."
Falloon said that he is hoping to get selected in the United States Hockey League draft this spring. The USHL is a Tier I junior hockey league that a high percentage of future college players play in before playing at the Division I level.
Rud, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede in last year's USHL Draft. He played for St. Cloud Youth Hockey Association's bantam "AA" team last season as a freshman. He has 12 assists and 14 points in his first 19 high school games.
"Last year, I could skate it end-to-end a little more and this year, I've got to move the puck more," he said. "This year, I've been more of a pass-first guy. You've always got someone on you at this level."
While that may be the case, Rud does not typically panic when the puck is on his stick.
"He's super poised with the puck, almost too poised at times," Matanich said with a smile. "But that's something you can't teach, either. You always want to have kids who have patience with the puck.
"He finds passes (to make) that other guys don't even think are there. He'll stretch the ice for ice. He'll throw a 100-footer (pass) and hit a guy at full speed. You can tell when he comes up ice that he's thinking and doesn't tell the forward what to do, but he's just waiting for that forward to make that one cut and he can throw the puck out in front of him. It's fun to watch his natural instincts."
St. Cloud (12-6-1) leads the Central Lakes Conference by one point over Alexandria and is coming off a big Section 8-2A win (4-2) at Roseau. Besides Falloon and Rud, Matanich said that Johnson, Keller and senior defenseman Sean Davidson are getting looks from junior hockey teams. Johnson is receiving some recruiting looks from USHL teams and teams from the Tier II North American Hockey League. Keller and Davidson are also receiving recruiting looks from NAHL teams.