Ty Farmer is back in North Dakota, where he resurrected his game five years ago
The UND defenseman led the Fargo Force to a Clark Cup after being traded twice in five months.
GRAND FORKS — The first time Ty Farmer came to North Dakota, he wasn't too excited about it.
It had nothing to do with the state or the team he was going to join. It was more his situation.
He had just been traded in the United States Hockey for the second time in five months. His commitment to Michigan State was slipping away after the Spartans got a new coaching staff, and his hockey career was at a crossroads.
"I was furious at first, because I was a suitcase," Farmer said of being traded to Fargo. "But when I got there, it was awesome. It was the best time. It ended up being one of the best years of my hockey career."
Farmer resurrected his game in Fargo, playing on a team filled with castoffs from around the USHL. They called themselves the "misfits."
"We had a great group of guys," Farmer said. "We had been traded around, bounced around, and it was us against the world. It was awesome."
Fargo made a run all the way to the Clark Cup, bringing home the organization's first USHL title. The Force beat Youngstown, a team that traded away Farmer, in the final. Farmer scored the clinching goal — in Youngstown.
Now, it's all coming full circle for Farmer.
After spending four years at UMass, Farmer opted this summer to play his fifth and final year of college hockey back in North Dakota.
"It felt like the right thing to do with my career," he said. "With my success in Fargo, I believed in this state. The coaching staff is great. There's rich history and tradition with the program. For me, I just felt like it was the right move."
Farmer's parents, who frequently drove their camper from their home in St. Louis to Fargo for USHL games, are ready to make that trip again.
"When they heard I was going to UND, they were ecstatic," Farmer said. "They know I loved my time in Fargo and in the state. When they heard, they were super excited. They're so pumped. They're ready to come up here already."
A rising star
Farmer was a star player from a young age, growing up alongside a special group of players in the St. Louis area.
Among his youth hockey teammates: Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Trent Frederic and Luke Kunin — all first-round NHL Draft picks who are currently in the NHL. Former NHLers Keith Tkachuk and Jeff Brown coached their teams.
"I think we lost four games in three years," Farmer said.
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Youngstown was so eager to get Farmer that it used a tender and gave up a first-round draft pick to sign him.
But things didn't click for Farmer in his first three years in the USHL.
"I didn't play as much as I thought I was going to," Farmer said. "I struggled with a couple of injuries, too. My third year, before the playoff push, I was traded to Muskegon. After that season, I went to Muskegon for camp, and right after camp, I got a phone call the next day saying I was traded once again."
Fargo's head coach at the time, Cary Eades, wanted Farmer. Eades had previously coached him at the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Germany.
When Farmer got to Fargo, things were different.
"I just felt the coaching staff really trusted me and believed in me," Farmer said. "That was a huge chunk of where my game went (in previous USHL stops). I was always used to playing a lot in AAA, then I was barely seeing the ice. But when I got to Fargo, I really felt like Cary, Pierre-Paul Lamoureux and Eli Rosendahl believed in me. They wanted what was best for the team, and they believed in me and trusted me. So, it was great."
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-hander scored nine goals and 39 points in 58 regular-season games.
"Ty is a super competitive kid and a super competitive player," Lamoureux said. "He is a high-end skater. He played on our top power play. He embraced other areas of his game and became really good and really valuable.
"If you go through his track record, he's won at every level and he's been a key player at every level."
That year, Farmer parted ways with Michigan State. He nearly ended up at Michigan Tech — a spot he really enjoyed — but committed to UMass instead.
He spent four seasons in Amherst, where he played on a loaded defensive core. His blue lines included NHLers Cale Makar, Mario Ferraro and Zac Jones. During Farmer's junior season, UMass won its first NCAA national title.
Farmer often played in defensive roles for UMass. Last season, he was paired with rookie Scott Morrow, who often freelanced in the offensive zone as Farmer covered defensively.
UMass was ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the spring. Farmer opted to go into the NCAA transfer portal and play his fifth and final year elsewhere.
"We had a body of work on him from playing juniors in Fargo," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We don't play UMass, but we know he was an impactful player there. He was an older player helping some younger guys the last couple years. When he decided to play an extra year, we saw that name in the portal and inquired about him."
An all-around defenseman
Farmer is expected to be a versatile defenseman for the Fighting Hawks — one that can be used in a number of situations.
"He's an all-around defenseman," Berry said. "Sometimes, guys are labeled as an offensive guy or a defensive guy. He's an all-around good player — with or without the puck. We've been going through the first parts of practice and he's been really consistent. He has a high compete level and he plays everything out right until the end. When he's on the ice, you're going to notice a guy who is in control all the time."
Lamoureux said Farmer's skating ability is one of his best attributes.
"His skating allows him to play against top players, because he’s quick, fast and strong on his feet," Lamoureux said. "He can skate with the better players in the league and faster players in the league. The game is so fast now that being able to skate is a big deal.”
Off the ice, Farmer is fitting in, too.
His captain at UND is Mark Senden, who also was his captain in Fargo five years ago.
"I'm pretty used to him being a leader," Farmer said. "He's a great leader and an even better person. When I thought I might be coming out here (to play at UND), I called him to get his thoughts on this place. He was a huge part of me coming here."
UND players say they're happy to add Farmer to the group.
“We all love him,” UND alternate captain Judd Caulfield said. “He’s a great kid. All summer long, he’s been showing us what he has. He has some skill to his game. He plays heavy defensively. He’s not the tallest guy, but he makes up for it with grit and tenacity.”
Senior Ethan Frisch, an alternate captain, added: “He’s someone who has our mentality. He really fits into our culture here. His time in Fargo really bred that for him. He’s got a good skill game, but his defensive side doesn’t get enough credit. We’re excited to add him to our already experienced ‘D’ core.”