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College men's hockey: Grand Rapids' Hain adjusting to life at North Dakota

Like everyone else, Grand Rapids native Gavin Hain had heard all about the jump to college hockey. The players and the game are bigger, faster and stronger.

“Which is true,” the North Dakota freshman forward said.

Little did Hain know that oh-so-true cliche also applied to books and classes at the college level.

Gavin HainOn the ice, the former Thunderhawks standout said he is as comfortable as ever, even after battling an illness during his first month as a Fighting Hawk. The toughest part of the transition for the 18-year-old has been everything off the ice from living on your own to time management to academics, he said.

“It’s a big, hard transition and I know I haven’t made the complete transition yet,” Hain said. “I have a ways to go, but (hockey) is the easiest to make.”

Hain said the transition to college hockey was helped by him spending his senior year of high school in Plymouth, Mich., playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program. A year ago the U-18s went up against 12 NCAA Division I teams, including NCHC members Miami and North Dakota, and Frozen Four participants Notre Dame and Michigan.

“It’s a tough league to play in, a tough league to score in, but I think having a little bit under your belt gets you mentally prepared,” Hain said. “You just have to adjust to the game and the speed.”

Hain posted 15 goals and 20 assists in 61 games last season with the development team after totaling 31 goals and 27 assists as a junior on the Thunderhawks’ 2016-17 state championship team.

Heading into this weekend’s series at Amsoil Arena against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth — puck drop at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday — Hain has one assist, but he’s only appeared in seven games.

Hain missed six games in late October and early November — though he did play against Minnesota in Las Vegas — after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. He’s played in the Fighting Hawks’ last four games and coach Brad Berry said Hain made a big impact a week ago in the home sweep of Alaska-Anchorage.

“He’s a worker. He’s a guy with impeccable character and great work ethic. He’s a big part of our future,” Berry said. “He’s a very good two-way player. He has very good offensive instincts. He’s got a hardness to him and his skating ability is top end. I think he can bring a good baseline game and supply some offensive ability.”

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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