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Cloquet’s Bender will play for UMD

Bender chose to play his senior year in high school for the Minnesota Wilderness, but he announced Monday that he will play for the University of Minnesota Duluth in college. File Photo

Cloquet’s Koby Bender will be the second recent Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjack boys’ hockey player to play for Scott Sandelin at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Bender announced a verbal commitment to play for the Bulldogs via Twitter Monday. He will join Esko’s Karson Kuhlman as a member of the Bulldogs.  Kuhlman is a sophomore on this year’s team.

“I grew up around UMD hockey,” Bender said Monday. “It’s a dream come true for me to be able to play for the Bulldogs.”

This season, Bender has 23 points on nine goals and 14 assists to rank second in scoring for the Minnesota Wilderness, the team for whom he left the CEC program to play in what would have been his senior season.  Neither Bender nor Kuhlman played a senior season in the high school program.

Bender is in the top 30 in league scoring, a fine accomplishment for a player still in his high school years. He is teammates with fellow UMD commit Kobe Roth, from Warroad.

“Having Kobe (Roth) there helped,” Bender said. “The UMD people got to see Koby play a few games this winter and that got me some extra exposure.”

Most incoming freshmen do not play as true freshmen at the Division I level, so it’s very possible Bender will get at least another season of junior hockey under his belt before making the jump to the Bulldogs.

That season may well be with the Wilderness, but Bender says he just wants to make the move that best helps him in the future.

“I need to think about what’s best for me and what gets me ready for the next level,” Bender said. “I like the Wilderness, the pace of play is great and I like playing in Cloquet.”