St. Cloud State received a verbal commitment Tuesday from Grand Forks Red River High School (N.D.) junior wing Jacob Benson. Benson said he was also being recruited by North Dakota and MSU-Mankato.
“The coaching staff is just great and they know a lot about hockey,” Benson said of St. Cloud State. “I’m excited about the (renovated) facility and the school is the right fit for me.
“I just felt like it was a good time and I didn’t want to wait any longer. It felt like the right school. There’s nothing to wait for.”
Benson, 17, is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. He is tied for second in the state of North Dakota in goals (22) and fifth in scoring (44 points in 19 games). As a sophomore, he had 17 goals and 19 assists in 27 games.
In the fall, Benson played in the Elite League for the Great Plains team under head coach Scott Oliver, the former Roseau High School boys head coach and the father of Huskies sophomore forward Nick Oliver. Benson had 8 goals and 7 assists in 20 games for Great Plains.
“The Elite League helped me a lot,” Benson said. “Last year, I was not one of the top dogs (on my high school team). This year, I needed to step into that role.”
Benson’s mother is a North Dakota graduate and his father also attended North Dakota. Despite their ties to North Dakota, Benson said his parents were fine with his choice.
“They were completely fine with it,” Benson said. “When we all agree, it’s a pretty easy decision.”
Benson said he made two unofficial visits to St. Cloud State, including attending the Jan. 19 game against Denver. He said that he is looking forward to playing on the Olympic-sized ice at the National Hockey and Event Center.
“That was definitely one of the positives and I’m looking forward to it,” Benson said of playing on the big ice. “I’m a power forward, but I’m kind of a combination of a forward.”
Benson’s team was 26-1 and reached the state semifinals last season. This season, Red River is ranked No. 1 in the East Region.
Next season, he plans on playing junior hockey for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League. Dubuque selected Benson in the 2012 Futures Draft.
Benson said he is on the ‘A’ honor roll in school and said he is considering majoring in business.