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Bulldogs land USA Hockey NTDP center Cole Spicer for 2022-23 season

The Grand Forks native was originally committed to North Dakota, having already signed an NLI. He re-opened his recruitment this spring and settled on the Bulldogs following two seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Grand Forks native Cole Spicer skates in a game for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
Rena Laverty / USA Hockey's NTDP

DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth received a late commitment for the 2022-23 season on Wednesday from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Cole Spicer, a 17-year-old center and potential 2022 NHL Draft prospect.

The Grand Forks native decommitted from his hometown North Dakota Fighting Hawks earlier this month because a reported “logjam” of forwards for 2022-23. According to the Grand Forks Herald , Spicer was asked to play junior hockey in 2022-23 and defer his enrollment another season. He declined and asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent.

Now Spicer, who doesn’t turn 18 until June, is heading to one of the Hawks’ biggest rivals over the past decade in UMD, an NCHC foe that is coached by a North Dakota alum, Scott Sandelin.

Spicer said the Bulldogs, with all their history, were originally among his top two choices when he originally committed to North Dakota as a freshman at Grand Forks Central High School.

Cole Spicer (7) played for Grand Forks Central High School before joining the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
Nick Nelson / File / Grand Forks Herald

“It’s never easy leaving your home team, the team you grew up watching, but I just had to do what was best for my hockey development,” Spicer said. “I still have a ton of respect for Brad Berry and their coaching staff. They’re great people, nothing but respect for them. I just had to do what’s best for me and I think Duluth is what’s best.”


Spicer just completed his second season with the NTDP playing alongside another incoming UMD freshman forward, Isaac Howard. Spicer finished with 20 goals and 19 assists in 58 games, including three goals and two assists playing with Howard on the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team at the 2022 IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship in Germany.

Spicer and Howard, who helped the Americans win silver this spring at the World Championship, are both considered prospects for this summer’s NHL draft, as is incoming Bulldogs freshman defenseman Aiden Dubinsky. While Howard is projected to go in the first or second round, Spicer and Dubinsky are projected to go in the later rounds.

Spicer called Howard “one of my best friends” having played with him prior to joining the NTDP. He’s excited to continue playing with Howard in Duluth this fall.

“Him and I have gotten very close over the last couple years, he’s always joking around and egging me on,” Spicer said. “We’ve been such good friends the last couple years. Going to college with him, playing with him is a dream come true.”

Adding Spicer to an ever-growing list, Sandelin is now set to bring in 10 freshmen in 2022-23, matching the amount he added to the roster in 2017-18. UMD also has two transfers committed in Maine junior goaltender Matthew Thiessen and Miami senior defenseman Derek Daschke.

Among the 10 freshmen UMD is adding are six forwards. Three of those forwards are centers, with veteran USHL centers Kyle Bettens of the Youngstown Phantoms and Jack Smith of the Sioux Falls Stampede being the others.

Sandelin said Smith may need some time next season after missing almost all of 2021-22 due to an injury. The addition of Spicer gives UMD plenty of depth up the middle with freshmen Dominic James and Carter Loney, as well as senior Jesse Jacques, also coming back for 2022-23. UMD returns nine forwards total after losing six, including the top line of Noah Cates, Casey Gilling and Kobe Roth.

A database of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey recruits for the 2022-23 season and beyond


Incoming for 2022-23


Kyle Bettens, F, Youngstown (USHL)

Jack Smith, F, Sioux Falls (USHL)

Ben Steeves, F, Sioux City (USHL)

Isaac Howard, F, USA Hockey National Team Development Program

Luke Johnson, F, Lincoln (USHL)

Cole Spicer, F, USA Hockey National Team Development Program

Aiden Dubinsky, D, Tri-City (USHL)


Riley Bodnarchuk, D, Okotoks (AJHL)

Joey Pierce, D, Lincoln (USHL)

Zach Sandy, G, Minot (NAHL)


Matthew Thiessen, G, Maine (Hockey East)

Derek Daschke, D, Miami (NCHC)

Outgoing from 2021-22

Kobe Roth, 5thSr, F (Grad)

Casey Gilling, 5thSr, F (Grad)


Noah Cates, Sr, F (Grad/NHL)

Koby Bender, 5thSr, F (Grad)

Ben Almquist, Jr, F (Transfer to Alaska-Anchorage)

Jarrett Lee, Sr, F (Grad/Transfer)

Matt Anderson, 5thSr, D (Grad)

Louie Roehl, 5thSr, D (Grad)

Connor Kelley, So, D (Transfer to Providence)

Hunter Lellig, Sr, D (Grad/Transfer)


Jake Rosenbaum, Sr, D (Grad/Transfer)

Ryan Fanti, Jr, G (NHL)

Ben Patt, RSr, G (Grad)

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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