The college hockey recruiting calls to Mason Salquist's phone picked up after Christmas break.

"Right when I got back from Christmas," the former Grand Forks Red River hockey player said, "stuff started coming on. That's when I really started talking to schools."

But Salquist never got around to taking official visits.

Before the hockey season finished and his scheduled allowed for it, everything was closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

St. Cloud State got creative, though.

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It did a virtual visit with Salquist.

A coach walked around the facilities and the locker room while Salquist was on FaceTime to show him what the program had to offer. He held a Zoom meeting with an academic advisor who showed him the classroom and dorm life side of things.

And for more information, Salquist spoke with former Red River and St. Cloud State hockey players Jacob Benson and Jon Lizotte.

"It was interesting," Salquist said of the nature of his visit. "But I thought it worked out. You can really see everything, pretty much, that there is to see."

On the heels of his virtual visit, Salquist gave a verbal commitment to play college hockey at St. Cloud State. He will begin college hockey in 2021-22 after playing one more season with the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League.

"I'm really excited about it," Salquist said.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward, who had 15 goals and 27 points in 46 games for Fargo this season, picked St. Cloud State over Northern Michigan and Minnesota State-Mankato.

"I just thought it was the perfect fit for me with the pipeline from Grand Forks there, the coaching staff and all that," Salquist said. "It checked a lot of my boxes. And being in the NCHC is huge for me."

Salquist helped Red River to an undefeated, state-championship as a sophomore in 2015-16. He finished tied as the team's second-leading scorer that year with 46 points. He played his junior and senior years at Red River before jumping to junior hockey.

In 2018-19, Salquist split time between the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League and the Fargo Force. This season, he was with the Force full time.

"I had a good year," Salquist said. "I found some good chemistry with my linemates and ended up having a big year and playing a lot of minutes. It's a good fit for me there."

St. Cloud State has frequently come to this area to recruit players.

In addition to having Benson and Lizotte on the roster from 2015-19, it currently has defenseman Luke Jaycox from Warroad, Minn., and defenseman Brendan Bushy from Thief River Falls. Bushy's younger brother, Evan, also is committed to St. Cloud State. Husky assistant coach Nick Oliver is from Roseau.

College hockey as a whole is about to see a large influx of players from Greater Grand Forks.

UND has commitments from Dane Montgomery (GF), Braden Costello (GF), Jackson Kunz (GF), Cole Spicer (GF), Kaleb Johnson (GF), Jaksen Panzer (EGF) and Trey Ausmus (EGF).

Northern Michigan has a commitment from Grant Johnson (GF) and Air Force has a commitment from Cole Hanson (GF).

"That's good to see," Salquist said.

Before heading to college, Salquist says he has a few goals to accomplish in Fargo.

"I want to be a leader on the team, step into a little bigger role than I had this year and hopefully win a Clark Cup," he said.

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