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Mike Koster of Chaska is the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 03/04/19, 3:15PM CST


The senior, whose rise with the Hawks coincides with their ascension as a Class 2A force to be reckoned with, is the first defenseman tapped for the award in a decade.

Koster recorded 20 goals and 41 assists as a senior this season, leading Chaska to its first conference championship in program history. Photo: Jerry Holt * jerry.holt@startribune.com

Chaska defenseman Mike Koster replays the sequences in his mind, the many times his offensively gifted team attacked with unstoppable precision and pace.

“With our speed, we turned over pucks on our backcheck and boom — we were going the other way,” Koster said.

He would rush the puck and use his keen rink vision to spot Rhett Pitlick cutting to the middle, Blaine Warnert streaking down the left or Shane LaValle, working free on the right. Together, Chaska’s quartet of Division I college-committed players left opposing defensemen twisting and turning in vain.

The Hawks’ transition game shined. Koster facilitated. He recorded 20 goals and 41 assists as a senior this season, leading Chaska to its first conference championship in program history. As a four-year varsity player, Koster helped transform the Hawks’ from afterthought to a top-10 caliber program.

He becomes the first defenseman to earn Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year honors in a decade.

“Mike and his classmates came to Chaska when we were struggling to field a JV team and played a largely Class 1A schedule,” Hawks co-head coach Sean Bloomfield said. “Their successes on the ice has done wonders for the interest in our team from the community.”

Koster playing in the Hockey For Life Classic in December. Photo: Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine

Koster’s hockey journey began in Marshall. He played youth hockey with forward Mason Plante, who ranked among the state’s leading scorers this season with 85 points.

As a fourth-grader, Koster began playing with the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Blades AAA Hockey Club and would leave school early to drive 2½ hours one way to practice. His family moved to Chaska after the school year.

As a seventh-grader, Koster enrolled in Breakaway Academy, a Chaska-based private school with an emphasis on hockey development. Koster, LaValle, Pitlick, Warnert and other future Hawks received two hours of on-ice coaching in the afternoons and dryland training twice a week. Then they would play community association hockey in the evenings.

“It could be a lot sometimes,” Koster said. “But with how much I loved the game, nothing was ever enough. My game really took off.”

Koster’s varsity journey began as a freshman, on long bus rides to Kasson-Mantorville, Mankato, Moose Lake and Two Harbors. The Hawks finished just above .500 as a Class 2A program facing a 1A-heavy slate of opponents, and dreamed of better days.

“We wanted to play the best games we could but the program wasn’t really known at the time,” Koster said. “As we kept having success, we’d get better opponents with the hope of getting Edina or Eden Prairie.”

Chaska players got their wish and more. In November, the Hawks were ranked No. 9 in Let’s Play Hockey Magazine’s preseason poll.

“We were like, ‘This program has literally never seen this before,’ ” Koster said. “There was pressure on us to have a good season and that’s a good life lesson.”

Expectations stayed high after late-December victories against Eden Prairie and Edina. The 5-10, 180-pound Koster netted a hat trick against the Eagles and posted a goal and three assists against the Hornets.

A deep playoff push fell short, however, with a loss against Eden Prairie in the Section 2 semifinals.

Still, Koster and his teammates left a legacy of transitioning Chaska into a hockey contender.

“They’ve helped raise a generation of kids whose dream is to lace up their skates for the Hawks,” Bloomfield said.

Click to view the players named to the 2019 All-Metro teams.

Past Star Tribune Metro Players of the Year

2018: Sammy Walker, Edina
2017: Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie
2016: Riley Tufte, Blaine
2015: Dylan Malmquist, Edina
2014: Brock Boeser, Burnsville
2013: Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
2012: Justin Kloos, Lakeville South
2011: Kyle Rau, Eden Prairie
2010: Nick Bjugstad, Blaine
2009: Nick Leddy, Eden Prairie
2008: Jake Gardiner, Minnetonka
2007: Michael Dorr, Roseville
2006: Jay Barriball, Holy Angels
2005: R.J. Anderson, Centennial
2004: Tom Gorowsky, Centennial
2003: Mike Lundin, Apple Valley
2002: Travis Morin, Osseo
2001: Marty Sertich, Roseville
2000: Paul Martin, Elk River
1999: Jeff Taffe, Hastings; Dan Welch, Hastings
1998: Johnny Pohl, Red Wing
1997: Dan Carlson, Edina
1996: Shawn Pogreba, St. Paul Johnson
1995: Richie Anderson, Elk River
1994: Mike Crowley, Bloomington Jefferson
1993: Nick Checco, Bloomington Jefferson
1992: Brian Bonin, White Bear Lake
1991: Darby Hendrickson, Richfield
1990: Craig Johnson, Hill-Murray
1989: Trent Klatt, Osseo
1988: Tom Pederson, Bloomington Jefferson
1987: Jon Manthey, Anoka
1986: Scott Bloom, Burnsville; Jim Carroll, Edina
1985: Tom Chorske, Minneapolis Southwest

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