MASON CITY | The first goal came from Isaac Baron in the corner, a horizontal line-drive to Tucker Kruse’s stick. All he had to do was tap it straight into the net while the puck was in full acceleration.
It was the third of 13 goals scored by the North Iowa Bulls Saturday, Jan. 20, against Wausau, but the first of two for Kruse, and it was a big deal.
The 5-foot-4 Woodbury, Minnesota native raised his fist in the air as his teammates engulfed him on the ice. It’s a classic hockey celebration, but for him, it was a well-deserved moment.
“He’s the very hardest working player we have every single day,” head coach Todd Sanden said. “There’s no middle ground for him so everything it is what it is, he gives every bit of effort he has.”
Kruse has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, but there’s no limitations. Not even his height plays a factor as he speeds past others on the ice.
People with Asperger's tend to find special passions in one topic or activity, something they can become experts in. That could be the case for Kruse, who looks at the game with logical humility.
“First goal my line-mate did all the work, so I just had to put it in the net,” Kruse said.
Sanden notes that line which includes Baron, Kruse, Jett Larson, Mitch Dolter and Jake Joyaux has made improvements. In addition to Kruse’s two goals, the rest had lit the scoreboard.
They had been working hard on getting in the right spots and not crowding the puck, which allowed more room around the goal.
That’s what worked on the second goal for Kruse, a slap-shot from a deep corner with a clear path. He was taking his chances.
“I try to model my game after Zach Parise, for sure, of the Minnesota Wild,” Kruse said. “He’s a hard-working player and I try to model my game after him, he never quits on anything.”
The dedication Kruse has on the ice translates outside the ice, his teammates love to be around him. They love to see his hard work paying off.
“Tuck, he’s a great kid, I love him ... he’s pretty funny, he likes to mess around with me and I like to mess around with him back,” Connor Clemons said. “And it was good to see him find the scoresheet tonight. Coach just kept preaching to shoot the puck and on the second goal that’s what he did, he got a good bounce and it’s just great to see.”