AMES, Iowa – As a fourth-year junior hockey player, North Iowa forward Ryan Hempel has seen a lot and done a lot. Hempel has been a valuable addition to the Bulls’ lineup this time around, and will take his wide range of experiences to central Iowa as a member of the Iowa State University hockey program. Hempel announced his commitment to the Cyclones on Thursday, setting him up to play for one of the premier programs in all of club hockey.
The Katy, Texas native has totaled up 22 points this season, including nine goals, matching his career best. His time in the NA3HL began with the St. Louis Jr. Blues during the 2016-17 season, but the diagnosis of a rare bone cancer in his back knocked him out of the lineup after just four games. Hempel was out of the lineup for a year and returned to the ice in November of 2017, tallying two assists for the Jr. Blues in a game against the Evansville Jr. Thunderbolts.
He played five more games for St. Louis before landing in Wausau thanks to a trade with the first-year RiverWolves. There, Hempel racked up 22 points in just 20 games to send the RiverWolves to the 2018 Fraser Cup playoffs, where North Iowa eliminated them in a first-round sweep.
After a year of playing junior hockey in Ontario and Massachusetts, Hempel returned to the NA3HL this year, with the last team that he faced. His numbers this season have been far from gaudy, but he has become a quiet standout for the newly-minted West Division regular-season champions.
“We’re excited with Ryan’s commitment to Iowa State,” said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden. “He’s been an awesome depth forward for us, and he’s in our first penalty-killing unit. He’s been a really good penalty-killer for us, and he creates some more depth and leadership for us. He’s over a half-point-per-game guy for us, so he’s been fairly productive.”
The Cyclones are one of club hockey’s most storied programs, celebrating their 52nd season this winter. ISU stands at 20-16 heading into their final weekend of regular-season play against Robert Morris University of Illinois. Three former Bulls already don the cardinal-and-gold each night – former North Iowa defenseman Jake Joyaux joined the team ahead of last season, while Justin Callahan added his name to the Iowa State roster at the semester break. ISU goalie Drew Scites played for the Bulls as well, committing to the Cyclones after being traded to the Great Falls Americans.
More than 140 Bulls players have landed on college rosters in the team’s nine seasons in the NA3HL, including more than 70 who have made their college commitments while in a North Iowa uniform. The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Ryan Hempel on his commitment to Iowa State University, and wish him well as he prepares to continue his academic and athletic careers.