Karen’s Print Rite presents an update on former Black Hawks forward Justin Kloos.
There were signs Kloos had the chance to become a special player for Waterloo before he won Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award as a senior at Lakeville South High School. Bolstering the Hawks’ roster near the end of the 2010/11 season, he notched a goal (the game-winner) and an assist during his third appearance, helping Waterloo to a vital 4-2 win over Green Bay. It was a key victory as the Hawks came from behind to make the playoffs. Eventually in the Waterloo lineup fulltime for 2012/13, Kloos gave Hawks fans exactly what they had been anticipating, notching 29 goals and a league-high 58 assists for 87 points in just 54 appearances.
Last season, Kloos was in the forefront as a freshman when the University of Minnesota reached the Frozen Four. His 16 goals were the most on the team in 2013/14. Kloos also scored the game-winner which moved the Gophers into the final weekend of the NCAA season and notched a goal and assist during the National Championship Game loss to Union. He shows no signs of slowing down as a sophomore, currently tied for the Minnesota lead in goals (seven) and ranked third in points (16). We asked Kloos about coming to Waterloo.
Black Hawks: For some time, you were pulled in at least two different directions as far as staying in Lakeville or coming to Waterloo. Looking back now, how do you assess the way things played out?
Justin Kloos: The whole plan for me was to play in Waterloo for a year either way, so I made the decision to play my senior year in Lakeville. Overall, the hockey was definitely better in the USHL, but I wanted to stay and finish out my senior year playing with my best friends. I’m really glad the way I did it, playing three years in Lakeville and one in Waterloo and get ready for college.
BH: How did the experience of going to Russia help prepare you to play for the Black Hawks in 2012/13? How does that trip – both on and off the ice – compare with the places hockey has taken you throughout your career?
JK: That trip was definitely one of the most fun experiences of my life. That was the first time crossing the ocean for me, so it was fun playing in Russia. It was a month before any other team started their season, so it was good for team chemistry and getting the year going. We were over there in a different country, so we were forced to bond with one another. That helped to get us off to a great start in 2012, so that overall experience was one of my favorites all time.
JK: I think our games mesh really well. Stepan was more of the grind-it-out type. He would go get to the net and clean up the play. Cammy and I would get to the net, he would clean up some of the garbage. I think we all thought about the game really similar. We all play pretty well on the rush, we also have really good relationships off of the ice. Some days we would have a good game, but we would never get down, we’d never point fingers. Our relationship on and off the ice allowed us to have success.
BH: The 2012/13 season ended with the Hawks matching the franchise record for wins, then losing a five-game playoff series in overtime of the fifth game. Looking back, do you remember that year with more of a “glass half full” or “glass half empty”-feeling?
JK: It’s tough. I think my entire experience in Waterloo is glass-half-full because I learned so much and made so many good friends. I still have relationships that I continue from that year. Hockey-wise it is glass-half-empty, because we were all pretty convinced we had the best team in the league and we shot ourselves in the foot there at the end. You know it is tough looking back and a lot of us have regrets but that’s a part of the game. Most of us only had one shot, and we did not capitalize, you have to live with it.
BH: Was there a lot of hype among Gopher fans last year when you and Taylor joined the team as freshman? Was there anything which surprised you internally or externally about the opening weeks of last season?
JK: I think there was a little bit of hype just due to our prior success that we had in Waterloo. We played together and a lot of people expected us to play together here which we ended up starting the season off doing and played most of the season together. As far as surprise going into college hockey, not a ton, I expected everyone to be bigger and stronger. The game is faster and it took me some time to adjust to that. Now in my sophomore year I think I am getting more used to it, even still day by day. Overall, there wasn’t too much that I didn’t expect, the hockey is just better and faster, so I had to get used to that.
BH: The run to the Frozen Four was tremendously successful on an individual and team basis. Could you tell us about the things that stand out in your memory from the Regional and Frozen Four weekends?
JK: From the regional I remember a few things. One, our team was playing at such a high level. I’ll never forget how we communicated. On Sunday when we beat SCSU; that was the most complete game we played all year. One of the prettiest plays our team had all year was when Nate Condon hit Cammy on a three-on-two, and then Cammy hit me wide open on a back door, and I put it through a wide open net and the place went crazy. That was one of my favorite experiences. That whole road to Philadelphia and the national championship will be something that I never forget and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity here and in the coming years for a similar experience.
BH: The Big Ten has a reputation for tradition, but the conference is new to hockey. Are there some traditions which are already established? Are there things happening in these first seasons of Big Ten hockey which you see turning into traditions which will be carried far into the future?
JK: Obviously after leaving the WCHA, we left so much history and tradition behind, but you know these first couple of years are going to be building blocks into the future. I think Penn State this year and in years to come will be fun for us. They have a great atmosphere in the rink and with their students. They have fans that fill up the rink, they filled it up when we went out there last year and played us tight in both games. They get into it really well and there will be a lot of tradition building. Obviously, Michigan was kind of a little bit of a smaller rivalry in the past just because we were in different conferences, but now that is something that is really going to heat up. They tend to get highly-touted recruits. That rivalry will blossom once both teams are good, are playing at a high level, and there will be some fun games.
BH: With Minnesota ranked as the #1 team earlier this year, what are the most significant challenges the Gophers face? What goals has the team set for 2014/15?
JK: I think the biggest challenge for us this year so far has been to put our success last year behind us. We haven’t earned anything yet. We have to understand that this year will be a whole different year. To get to where we were last year has been the biggest challenge so far. Obviously the end goal is to be the last one standing at the end of the year. We are going to keep focusing on that and hopefully we’ll have a better second half.
Where Are They Now is presented by Karen’s Print Rite. Special thanks to Brian Deutsch and the Minnesota Athletic Communications Department.