The tradition of city hockey players going on to skate for the Badgers added a new chapter on Friday.
A Columbia blue and black one, at that.
Eau Claire North senior Sam Stange, the Leader-Telegram’s 2018 player of the year, announced he will play college hockey for coach Tony Granato and Wisconsin.
Stange will be the fifth city product in the last 15 years to play for the Badgers. Jake Dowell, Jefferson Dahl, Jake McCabe and incoming UW freshman Ty Emberson are the other Eau Claire players. All four played at Memorial. Stange is the first North product to join the fraternity.
“It’s really cool to be a part of that group now,” Stange said. “It’s pretty cool to be able to be a Husky in that group. I think that’s good for all of North and shows the path the program is on.”
Altoona native and 16-year-old Daniel Laatsch is also committed to Wisconsin.
Stange will be the first North product to play Division I hockey since Derrick LaPoint.
Stange got on the Badgers’ radar early in his junior year and first came into contact with them when he played a weekend series with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers in early December.
The Husky had a monster junior year and set North’s all-time single-season goals record with 39. He also registered 25 assists to help lead North to the sectional finals.
Stange had strong freshman and sophomore campaigns as well, but this past winter was his best yet. And before his senior year starts, he’s got a future destination at one of the most storied programs in the country.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s something I never would have expected a couple of years ago.”
Stange plays with Team Wisconsin in the offseason, and he’ll join some of his teammates there at UW. Granato has secured a lot of in-state talent since he took over prior to the 2016-17 season.
Everything felt right for Stange, who announced his commitment on Twitter on Friday afternoon.
“When I’m in Madison, it feels like a place I want to be for four years,” he said. “And they brought in one of the best, if not the best, coaching staffs in the nation. The combination of that and being in my home state, I mean, it was a dream ever since I was a kid.”
He’ll play his senior year at North and figures to probably play a year of juniors with Sioux City after that, although that’s not completely set in stone.
Regardless of when he gets to Madison, there’s another Eau Claire kid who will play college hockey for Wisconsin. The tradition continues.