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 have done wonders for the interest in our team from the community."
Koster's hockey journey began in Marshall. He played youth hockey with forward Mason Plante, who ranked among the leading scorers in the state this season with 85 points for the Tigers.
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 over 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.