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SCSU's Kyler Kupka returns from appendectomy, scores each night of sweep with his parents in the crowd

The senior forward from Camrose, Alberta, had two goals and an assist in SCSU's first sweep of North Dakota since 2013.

SCSU vs UND_0516 (1).jpg
North Dakota forward Dylan James (26) battles for the pouck with St. Cloud State forward Kyler Kupka (10) in the first period Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Kyler Kupka thought that maybe he had the stomach flu, so he did not go to practice for two days.

"At home against Bemidji (State), I had felt fine all week and felt fine during the game and then ... I missed practice Monday (Oct. 31) and Tuesday," Kupka said. "I was sick and had some stomach pains. I just thought it nothing out of the ordinary.

"I thought I should have it checked out Tuesday, and I was in the emergency room a few hours later."

Within hours of arriving at the hospital, Kupka had surgery to remove his appendix.

"I went to the doctor on campus and they didn't think it was anything serious, but they said, 'Better be safe than sorry,'" he said. "I took (Zach Okabe's) car over to the emergency room and expected to be back in an hour. It turns out, I was there most of the day."


Kupka ended up staying off the ice for 2 1/2 weeks before coming back last weekend to contribute two goals and an assist in an NCHC series sweep over North Dakota. The wing is expected to be in the lineup when the fourth-ranked St. Cloud State men's hockey team (6-2 NCHC, 13-3 overall) plays Miami (1-6-1, 5-9-2) at 6:05 p.m. Friday (NCHC.tv) at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio.

The week before the series against the Fighting Hawks, Kupka was finally cleared to have full contact and shoot pucks again. That good news was extra sweet because his mom (Susan), dad (Randy) and a cousin were in town for a visit from his hometown of Camrose, Alberta. It was the first time his parents had been able to see him play since his freshman season.

To score goals in both games was the icing on the cake.

"Definitely really special," said Kupka, who had Adam Ingram shoot a puck off his shin pad in Friday's 7-2 win. "The Friday (goal) — just don't even know what really happened there. I got lucky and it hit me on the back door and it was kind of later in the game and the game was kind of over.

"The Saturday one was a big goal at a big time," Kupka said of his goal at 14:13 of the third period that gave the Huskies a 5-3 lead. "It was definitely a highlight of the year so far."

Strong start

Kupka was off to the best start of his college career before the stomach pain arrived. He was playing on both the power play and penalty kill and had two goals and six assists in his first eight games playing on a line with center Grant Cruikshank and wing Micah Miller.

"Things seemed to be going right, not only for myself, but for the team as well," Kupka said. "Definitely a bummer (getting sick), especially when you start off that way. But the team and I were able to pick up where we left off and I feel great now."


Huskies head coach Brett Larson said before the season that the team was going to need its veteran players to pick up their offense to help make up for losing 45% of the team's goals last season to graduation. Kupka, a senior, had five goals and 18 points in 37 games last season.

He goes into the series against Miami with four goals and 11 points while averaging 17:14 of time on ice and winning 56% of his puck battles in 10 games.

"He doesn't take a shift off, plays the right way no matter what," Larson said of Kupka. "I would say that the thing that has improved the most with him in his game is his consistency level. He's always had that level of play in him, but up until this year, he's had a lot more ups and downs in his game.

"I would say it was one of his best offseasons in terms of strength and conditioning," Larson said. "He came back and you could tell he had put some muscle on and he looked like a different person. Something clicked with him in the summer that he wanted to come in ready for this year. His hard work is paying off."

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Doing damage down low

Kupka is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, and he typically does his best offensive work below the faceoff dots and by getting to the front of the net.

His parents, who are farmers, got to see that in person. After what Kupka had been through with the appendectomy, it made it more sweet that they were in town to see him help the team to two wins.

"My parents were calling me and my friends to see if they should come down for the weekend," he said of the weekend after the surgery. "I was back (home) that night and I didn't feel great. But I told them that there was no need for them to come because they were coming in a couple weeks."


St. Cloud State forward Kyler Kupka (10) and Minnesota State forward Sam Morton (6) battle for the puck in the third period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Minnesota State forward Cade Borchardt (28) makes a pass in front of St. Cloud State forward Kyler Kupka (10) in the first period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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