Friday, August 04, 2006

North Stars' tender off to NMU in '07

On the other side of Kory Kaunisto’s run as a Traverse City North Stars forward lies a spot in the classrooms of Northern Michigan University.

The Traverse City tender verbally committed to NMU, making him the first North Stars player to land a full-ride NCAA Div. I scholarship – even before the opening puck drops on his rookie campaign in the North American Hockey League.

“It’s great, because that’s why you play junior hockey – for the college scholarship,” said Kaunisto. “You’re out there looking for that opportunity, and to get a shot at it right away – I feel very fortunate.”

Kaunisto, who will take part in the North Stars invitation-only camp this weekend, says that even with a spot on the Wildcats roster seemingly assured, he can’t coast through his year or two in Traverse City.

“I won’t take it (the scholarship) for granted,” explained the 6-foot, 173-pound winger. “I know I still have to work hard if I want to develop as a player and be as successful as I can be at Northern. I’m excited to be going to play in Traverse City, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Kaunisto played right wing for the Soo Indians of the midget major Midwest Elite Hockey League last season, catching the eye of NMU head coach Walt Kyle with 21 goals and 24 assists in 60 games. He also captured the attention of North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner, who inked Kaunisto to a tender early in the signing period.

“Kory was one of our first tenders, and we were delighted to get him,” Gardiner said. “He’s a player that does all the little things right, and all the big things, too. I think we saw the exact same thing that Northern saw – here is a complete hockey player that we gotta have.”

Photo courtesy of the Traverse City North Stars

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