Looking to strengthen its depth up the middle, and ensure captain Noah Cates can return to his natural position of wing in the fall of 2021, Minnesota Duluth will bring in former Miami RedHawks center Casey Gilling as a fifth-year senior next season.
A 23-year-old native of Gaylord, Michigan, Gilling is no stranger to Northeastern Minnesota, having spent the 2015-16 season in Cloquet with the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Wilderness.
He’s also played 15 career games in college against the Bulldogs, including five during the 2020-21 season. In four seasons with the RedHawks, Gilling posted 26 goals and 51 assists in 131 total games, including nine goals and 22 assists as a junior. Of the four goals and 11 assists he had in 2020-21 as a senior, two goals and two assists came against UMD.
The News Tribune met up with Gilling recently over Zoom for a Bulldog Insider Q&A to discuss what it’s like to transfer schools in this day and age, why he chose UMD and who he is looking forward to not having to go up against UMD anymore.
The transfer process for a student athlete used to be much quieter than it is today and not as big of a deal because there wasn’t a giant database everyone seems to have access to, a.k.a. the transfer portal. You also had to sit out a year before playing. Not anymore. What is it like for a student athlete in 2021 to go through this process?
Obviously it starts with a pretty tough decision. I spent four years at Miami. It’s a place that I really love and cherish so that was something that was really tough for me, but ultimately I made the choice that was the right decision to look up elsewhere. So from there we went into the portal, heard from some teams. I waited a couple weeks, it wasn't a process that I necessarily wanted to rush, just because it's a pretty important decision, with this year being very important for me. Ultimately I made the decision to come to Duluth, which seems to be the best spot for sure.
Once your name landed in the portal, how long did it take for that first school to reach out to you and how many schools did you hear from?
It was within a couple hours. I think I went in at, maybe like 4 in the afternoon and I heard from a team later that night. In the end, I don't know how many teams I exactly talked to. I had my top five picks basically, and that was kind all I really had any interest in.
Was the process in any way similar to what you went through when you were being recruited out of juniors or was this entirely different?
There are some similarities, for sure. It's a little different and less recruiting facility-wise. I was looking to stay in conference, so I've been in all the facilities for four years. They didn't necessarily have to do any advertising that way. It was more just about playing, about schooling. That is what I would say is the only big difference.
When did you decide you wanted to come back for a fifth year of college and why?
It was a really weird year. I mean the whole season was kind of up in the air if we were even going to play or not. It was always kind of something that was in the back of my mind. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to be set, or that certain on anything just because of how uncertain everything was. It was kind of just rolling with the punches and just seeing where I ended up at the end of the year.
Every school is handling fifth-year seniors differently with recruits coming in and budgets and all. Was staying at Miami and playing a fifth season there an option for you?
Yeah, it was an option for me.
Why did you pick the Bulldogs? What about the program stood out?
The biggest thing for me in the whole recruiting process was winning. I want to be on a team that was competing for a championship, which Duluth has done year after year. That was probably the biggest attraction for me. Also, I'm pretty comfortable up there. I spent a year in Cloquet (playing for the Minnesota Wilderness), so I'm familiar with the area. That was another reason, especially where in this situation I only get a year there, so getting accustomed to a new area is something that I would like to avoid if I can. Also I know a handful the players, too, which will make the transition easier for me.
You mentioned you specifically targeted NCHC schools. Was that because of the comfort level you had with those institutions?
Yeah, that was definitely part of it. The other thing is the competition level of the NCHC. You can’t really find that anywhere else in college, so I just felt like, “Why leave the best league in the country if you don’t have to?”
Academically what do you plan to study at UMD?
The grad school thing is definitely new for me. I'm going to apply for my Masters in Education. It’s just a one-year program there. I will be able to get a degree by the time I’m done.
What is the degree you’re finishing in the spring at Miami?
Sports Leadership and Management.
You mentioned playing the 2015-16 season in Cloquet with the Minnesota Wilderness. What was it about the area you enjoyed that year?
Just the atmosphere there. Minnesota is a big hockey state. You hear about it all the time. It just had a different feeling to it playing up there, knowing when you go on the ice, the fans in the stands know what hockey is about. They're not just there for fights or whatever. They are aware of the game. I just thought that was something that was really cool.
Which Bulldog are you the most looking forward to being a teammate instead of a foe next season?
I’d have to say Noah Cates. He was my matchup every single time we played this year. It’ll be good to not have to go against him for sure.