GRAND FORKS-In March, Gavin Hain lined up against two of his future University of North Dakota hockey teammates when his Grand Rapids High School team played against Ethan Frisch, Carter Randklev and the Moorhead Spuds for the Minnesota Class 2A state boys championship.
Hain had a hat trick in that game and Grand Rapids won the title.
The stakes won't be nearly as high on Saturday, Dec. 30, but Hain hopes to leave another positive impression on a whole lot more of his future teammates when the U.S. Under-18 team plays UND in an exhibition game at 7:07 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"It's going to be cool," Hain said. "I've never played in The Ralph before. It's going to be pretty fun knowing this is where you're going to be for the next four years. I'm excited for it already. Just being there, being in town and playing in The Ralph against my future team is going to be fun. It's probably something you'll be able to joke around about next year with them."
This is Hain's first year with the Under-18 team. He received an invite in the spring after leading Grand Rapids to the state championship. He tallied 58 points in 30 games as a junior, including his three-goal, four-point performance in the finals.
"I knew I was ready to leave high school," Hain said. "I kind of told himself that if I got the opportunity to go to the NTDP, I would go, and I did. I just thought about the developmental side of it-on and off the ice-is what I went there for. I wanted to be as ready as possible for when I come into North Dakota next year."
How have things been with the U.S. Under-18 team, which is stationed in Michigan?
"It's been a big change," Hain said. "Every day is pretty hard. From getting up early for school to the compete level and the intensity level of practices has been the biggest change-the grind of it all. But it's been good."
Hain is expected to come to campus next season for UND. He has played mostly left wing with the U.S. Under-18 team, but also has had some stints at center, where he played at Grand Rapids.
He has three goals and 12 points in 25 games this season, while playing a schedule that includes several D-I college opponents.
The U.S. Under-18 team has already played against Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Miami, Bowling Green, Harvard, Dartmouth and Lake Superior State.
The U.S. team left for Christmas break last Friday and will gather Thursday, Dec. 28, in Grand Forks. Hain will be able to make the roughly three-hour drive down U.S. Highway 2 from Grand Rapids to Grand Forks-one that will be frequented by family members in the future.
"I'm definitely looking forward to this weekend-it will be fun," Hain said. "I want to keep getting better, so I can be an impact player next year. I want to keep improving and my goals are to get drafted in the summer and win gold at the World Championship at the end of the year."