Northstar's Cody Croal commits to University of North Dakota
Cody Croal helped the Northstar U18 team win back-to-back Dixon Cup titles.
Northstar Christian Academy forward Cody Croal is headed to play hockey at one of the top college programs in the country at the University of North Dakota.
North Dakota is coming off a 24-13-1 season where it made it to the NCAA Tournament as a two-seed in the East Regional and fell to three-seeded Notre Dame in the first round of the tournament. The Fighting Hawks have made the last 22 out of 25 NCAA Division I Tournaments and won championships in 1997, 2000 and 2016.
The environment around the program is something that stood out to Croal when it came time to make a college decision.
“The atmosphere when I went there was pretty electric,” Croal said in an interview with the Echo Press on May 2. “It was crazy. And obviously, their facility is pretty outstanding.”
Croal’s commitment to North Dakota was announced in a press release by Northstar on April 28. Croal said he fell in love with the school on the first visit that he had.
“They work hard and they work hard for each other,” Croal said. “Which is something that I saw which was pretty cool too.”
The head coach of North Dakota is Brad Berry, who is the father of Northstar 16U defenseman Bauer Berry. Brad Berry’s connection to the Northstar program is how the recruiting process got rolling for Croal a year ago.
“His son’s in the program and he came to watch games in Fargo and that’s when I first started to talk to him,” Croal said. “I'm pretty excited. It's going to be fun. I’m from Minnesota, obviously, so it's not that different. I'm used to the cold, so that should be fun.”
Croal, a North Branch, Minnesota, native led the 18U Knights in the 2021-22 season in goals per game with 1.84. He finished with 101 points which was second-highest on the team. He tied for second in assists on the team with 59 (along with Dylan Cook) and he scored 42 goals. In his two seasons at the 18U AAA level, Croal scored 164 points in 97 games.
“We’re very proud of this commitment that acknowledges Cody’s development as a hockey player during his time at Northstar”, Northstar 18U head coach Rylan Galiardi said in a press release. “Cody has grown from an offensively talented player, to a full 200-foot warrior that is strong in all areas of the ice. However, we’re most proud of Cody’s maturity into a Godly young man. He returned to Northstar this year with a goal of growing academically, athletically and spiritually and we believe Cody is ready to leave here and be a great leader.”
Croal played a vital role in helping the Knights win back-to-back North American Prep Hockey League Dixon Cup titles, and he is excited to keep taking his game to another level as he prepares himself to try to make an impact at the college level in the coming years.
“I want to develop my skating,” Croal said. “I want to go faster and I want to hit my shots a little harder.”
Croal is thankful for the people who helped him get to this point.
“Obviously, it's a dream come true,” Croal said. “This is what I was traveling for; this was my goal. So I’m pretty pumped for the opportunity. I'm just excited for the next step. It's going to be fun. It's going to take some time to get used to, but it's the next step in my hockey career. So that's going to be pretty exciting. My parents have supported me through everything. And obviously, the coaches here at Northstar have made a big impact on me in my life.”
Before he makes his way to Grand Forks, Croal will continue playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). Croal has played in six games for the Lumberjacks and has scored two goals, both of which came on April 1 against the Youngstown Phantoms.
Croal says he expects to play there for two seasons before making his way to North Dakota to play collegiately.
Former Northstar players Jacob Napier (who plays at Western Michigan) and Ben Strinden (who committed to play at North Dakota) are also members of the Lumberjacks, who are currently entrenched in the Clark Cup Playoffs and will play either the Madison Capitols or the Chicago Steel in the Eastern Conference Finals.