The St. Cloud State men’s hockey team has received its first commitment since making its first Frozen Four appearance. Clark Kuster, an 18-year-old defenseman who played his first season of junior hockey this winter, has verbally committed to play for the Huskies.
Kuster said he made his decision on Friday and told Huskies head coach Bob Motzko on Saturday. Kuster was also receiving recruiting interest from Minnesota State-Mankato and Providence College.
“St. Cloud was the only school I visited and when I visited, I knew this was the place I wanted to go,” said Kuster, who is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. “I just like the atmosphere around campus and the campus in general.
“The coaches were definitely a big part of my decision,” said Kuster, who said he had regular conversations with St. Cloud State assistants Mike Gibbons and Garrett Raboin during the season. “Every time I talked to (the coaches), they were great to talk to. After meeting some of the players, it definitely made it easier to make my decision.”
Kuster said he was on campus April 26-27 with his parents. He said that the team coming off its first Frozen Four appearance was another factor in choosing the Huskies.
“Everyone wants to win and to find a program like St. Cloud that is on the rise, it plays into the decision,” Kuster said.
He is coming off a solid rookie season of junior hockey, playing for Cedar Rapids in the United States Hockey League. In 53 games, he had 11 goals, 14 assists, 21 penalty minutes and was even in plus/minus for the Roughriders, who missed the playoffs. The 11 goals were tied for fifth in the USHL among defensemen.
“I think one of my biggest assets is my ability to shoot the puck and get it through to the net,” he said. “As a defenseman, you don’t want to get your shots blocked.
“It’s something I’ve worked on the past couple of years. I think it’s really a big part of my game.”
Kuster also said he has “good speed” and that St. Cloud State’s style of play is similar to what Cedar Rapids uses, which includes a strong transition game.
“I think I’m strong, but I need to be using my body more in the ‘D’ zone and all over the ice, really,” he said. “That’s going to be a big part of my game this season.”
Kuster said that he plans to return to Cedar Rapids for at least one more season, and, depending on his development and what St. Cloud State needs, possibly two more seasons with the Roughriders.
He made another St. Cloud State connection during the season with Cedar Rapids. Forward Judd Peterson, who has signed to play for the Huskies, spent his first season with the Roughriders.
“It’s definitely nice when you really know someone who is going to the same school,” Kuster said. “I’m really excited about that. We became close friends and I’m excited to play with him the next few years.”
Kuster is from St. Louis and he played for the St. Louis Jr. Blues, a AAA midget major team, before joining Cedar Rapids. His sister, Brittney, is a sophomore defender for Quincy University (Ill.), an NCAA Division II school. His father, Joe, was a two-time all-conference center fielder for the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Joe is a police officer. Kuster’s mother, Deborah, played several sports in high school and is a kindergarten teacher.
He said he has been on the honor roll for three years, but does not know what he plans on majoring in in college.