When Kory Kaunsito decided this summer to play for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL this season, Traverse City North Stars coach-GM Anthony Palumbo left the door open a crack.
On Monday, Kaunisto came back through that door, and into the Stars’ dressing room.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native - who played for Traverse City last season - will be in a TC sweater again on Wednesday when the Alpena IceDiggers visit Centre ICE arena for the clubs’ traditional Thanksgiving Eve clash.
“We’re thrilled to get Kory back,” Palumbo said. “He instantly adds another dimension to our club, especially offensively. He will step in and help this team right away, no question about it.
“He’s also a guy with tremendous character, which is among the chief reasons we were so eager to have him back.”
Kaunisto, who had a goal and a pair of assists in seven games this season in Waterloo, played 61 contests for the North Stars in 2006-07 and recorded six goals and 16 assists. A tremendous student, Kaunisto was tabbed as the league’s top scholar, winning the NAHL Academic Achievement Awards following the season.
“I like the town and I have a lot of friends here,” said Kaunisto, who is likely to head to Northern Michigan University (CCHA) to play for the Wildcats on scholarship in 2008-09. “I’m excited to be back. There are a lot of veteran guys here, and a lot of younger talents, too. I think this is a group that can contend for a title, and I just want to be a part of it.”
Kaunisto said a lack of ice time in Waterloo prompted his decision to return.
“Waterloo wouldn’t give me my outright release, and their price was too high for other teams to trade for me,” he explained. “Basically, I just want to play hockey, and I’m looking forward to just getting out there again and try to contribute to team success.”
Palumbo says that ice time won’t be a problem in Traverse City, where Kaunisto will start off on a line with leading goal-scorer Matt Hughes and Joe Greener.
“He’ll see time on the power play, on the penalty kill – we’ll make sure we get some minutes out of him. I know Joe and Matt will be excited.”