In 2006, when the bantam hockey club Anchorage's Tanner Sorenson played on made it to the national tournament in East Lansing, Mich., his team practiced on the Michigan State University campus and toured the school.
Sorenson was smitten -- big campus, college town, good school, strong athletic programs.
"Ever since then, I wanted to go there,'' Sorenson said by phone from Minnesota on Tuesday. "It's kind of a dream come true.''
That's because Sorenson, 17, on Monday gave his oral commitment to play college hockey at Michigan State -- he phoned Spartans associate head coach Brian Renfrew, who grew up in Fairbanks, to deliver the news.
Sorenson, who is completing his junior year at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a storied prep school in Faribault, Minn., said making an early commitment will give him peace of mind for his senior season at Shattuck.
"I wanted to get it done before Christmas of my senior year, so I don't have to worry about it,'' Sorenson said. "But this was what I wanted, so I made my decision. It takes a whole load off your back.''
Sorenson's commitment is for 2011 at the earliest.
Sorenson is a 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward. In 59 games this past season, he scored 32 goals and 33 assists for 65 points. Sorenson has attended Shattuck and played there for three seasons.
Shattuck is renowned for its elite hockey alumni -- past players include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. At Shattuck, Tanner Sorenson is coached by Tom Ward, the director of hockey who was an assistant coach on Team USA when it won gold at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
"You can't beat what he's gotten out of that place,'' said Dennis Sorenson, Tanner's father, the Dimond High coach and a long-time youth coach in Anchorage.
Tanner Sorenson shoots right, like his old man, UAA's No. 2 all-time leading scorer, and plays the point on the Sabres' power-play unit.
Dennis Sorenson said UAA recruited his son well, but to no avail.
"I feel bad,'' Dennis Sorenson said. "I like (head coach Dave) Shyiak and his staff -- they recruited him hard. UAA has a good business school, which is what Tanner is interested in. And there's the WCHA.
"But UAA just doesn't have the (on-campus) facility to attract the Anchorage kids back. And Tanner has really wanted Michigan State.''
UAA did snag a recent recruit in forward Andrew Pickering from the British Columbia Junior League.
Ivy League schools and Notre Dame were among the colleges that expressed interest in Tanner Sorenson.
As a youth player in Anchorage, Sorenson played for several seasons for the Alaska All Stars, where his coaches were his father and former Colorado College defenseman Brian Bethard of Anchorage. Several of the kids on those teams have made college commitments -- Tanner to Michigan State, forward Ryan Cole to Yale, forward Scott Wamsganz to Colorado College and defenseman Zack Rall to UAA.
At Michigan State of the CCHA, Sorenson will play for head coach Rick Comley, who guided the Spartans to the national championship in 2007. Comley also led Northern Michigan, a team that included Shyiak, who later served a decade on Comley's staff at Northern Michigan, to the 1991 national title.
While at Northern Michigan, Comley was a member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee and proved influential in supporting UAA's bid to leave the netherworld of Division I independents and gain admission into the WCHA.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY