UNO has scored a major hockey recruiting coup with the commitment of forward Ryan Walters.
The USHL all-star, who recorded 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) for Des Moines last season, de-committed from powerhouse Minnesota last month after the Gophers asked him to spend another season in juniors.
Walters said he visited the University of Nebraska at Omaha last week and also visited Colorado College before making his decision. He said he also spoke with Wisconsin, Bemidji State and Minnesota State-Mankato.
“The day I de-committed,” he said, “UNO called and said they were really interested in me.”
Walters committed to Minnesota after his freshman year of high school, then split his sophomore year between the USHL and his high school team. He scored 44 points in the 2008-09 season with Des Moines. Minnesota then asked him to become a 60-point scorer and make the USHL All-Star team in 2009-10 — which he did while ending up the most valuable player of the All-Star game.
Still, an overabundance of recruits led Minnesota to ask Walters to go back to juniors and change his game.
“They didn’t have any room for me coming in, and they didn’t like how I play,” he said. “I play with a chippy style, and that’s not the Gopher style. They wanted me to change that aspect, but that’s how I am as a player and it’s how I’ve played my whole life — I like to get in people’s faces and stir the pot a bit.
“They’re still a great program, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I can change my game this late in my career.”
Walters, from Rosemount, Minn., has a relationship with UNO assistant coach Mike Hastings, who spent one year as a Gophers assistant before joining the Mav program last summer.
“I played for him in a (summer) camp for a week at Minnesota, and I’ve known him for over a year,” Walters said. “He told me he called Coach (Dean) Blais when I de-committed and then got hold of me real fast and said they were interested.”
Walters said he wanted to play for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association school after following the league growing up, and UNO’s move to that league fulfills that wish. He said his family held Gophers season tickets for several years.
“I always wanted to play for the Gophers as a young kid, and nothing had changed from my freshman year through the 2010 season,” he said. “But then we had the meeting in April and the timeline had changed for me, and they didn’t really want me. So that was disappointing.”
Walters said the UNO campus and Omaha were a better fit than Colorado College and Colorado Springs. And he said the Mav hockey program is on the rise.
“My goal is to help out as much as I can to try to get them to the national championship game,” he said. “It’s an up-and-coming team, and I’m excited about it.”
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