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Dakota Student

The student news site of University of North Dakota

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Keaton Pehrson Quickly Adapts to UND Hockey Life

Keaton+Pehrson+Quickly+Adapts+to+UND+Hockey+Life
Max Mueller KVRR

Keaton Pehrson is already fond of his new town, Grand Forks, North Dakota. 

“It has got everything you could need, except a Chipotle,” he said.  

Pehrson, a defenseman on UND’s hockey team, transferred to the University of North Dakota from the University of Michigan where he played for four years, served as an Alternate Captain, and went to back-to-back frozen fours. It was a place he never expected to leave. 

“I was like, ‘I will go to one school and do my four years and then try to play pro after’ but then we had COVID,” he said. “I love my school and got my four years and graduated. People have options to go and play pro and I thought ‘one more year of college, I should take it.”  

Amongst the hectic flurry of offers Pehrson said he received after entering the portal, the call from UND was the one he answered, despite never stepping foot in Grand Forks or the Ralph Engelstad arena. The decision was a “no-brainer” for Pehrson.  

“Once I talked with the coaches at North Dakota and my family and just heard of all the opportunities, It was an easy decision for me,” Pehrson said. “I am super excited about it so far.” 

Pehrson was used to living away from home and changing teams; he played juniors all and then at the University of Michigan. He said this made the transition process easier for him, that, and his general demeanor.  

“The transitions just get quicker and quicker and that comes with age and maturity. So, it has actually been a pretty quick, easy, and seamless transition,” Pehrson said. 

When coming into the UND hockey program for the first time, there was learning to do, a new hockey tradition and locker-room culture, a new group of teammates and coaches. But Pehrson took lessons from his previous leadership experience at Michigan and the other leaders he had played with to help himself not only become comfortable with a new team but to take on a guiding role.  

“I am an outgoing person, so I am pretty talkative. I feel comfortable around other guys. I like talking with everyone, joking around and I think that makes me a pretty well-liked guy on the team,” he said.  

He was named as an Assistant Captain before he ever played a game for UND.  

“I have had a leadership role before,” he said. “I came here and tried to apply those things, but also listen and learn from the leaders here previously… it was a pretty humbling and honorable experience to get the A.”  

Even though he had established himself with his teammates, he was still working on getting used to the new on-ice systems.  

“The biggest shift always is just comfortability with new players and new teammates,” he said. “Because if you are not comfortable it is hard to focus on the game.”  

Pehrson says the Covid eligible fifth year has changed the way athletes approach the portal.  

“A lot of fifth years, like in my case, are just looking for a new opportunity and what is best for our fifth year,” he said.  

Now that he is more settled in and feels acquainted with the team, he cannot wait for hockey to start up again. He is looking forward to getting to play NCHC hockey, something he wanted when he transferred.  

“I did not want to stay in the Big Ten Conference, it is weird, and you feel like a traitor,” Pehrson said. “The NCHC is such a great conference … It is going to be fun to play other teams and experience different rinks.  

It is that moniker of traitor that Pehrson feels transfer athletes most often have given to them.  

“People think when athletes leave their school, they are a traitor,” Pehrson said. “There are a lot of reasons an athlete could transfer. … People shouldn’t have any misconceptions and think people do it because they can’t handle it … or were a bad player or a bad student.”  

Pehrson mentioned looking forward to playing in Denver now that he is in the NCHC, but he is most excited to face a familiar Big Ten opponent, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  

“I have heard the Hawks and Gophers rivalry is pretty big and pretty crazy,” he said. “I have got it circled in my calendar; I am looking forward to that one.”

 

Maeve Hushman is a Dakota Student Sports Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] 

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