Fresh-faced team led by Justin Kloos

The junior finished fourth on the team in points last year with 32 in 39 games.

Minnesota forward Justin Kloos races to the puck in the first period against Michigan State at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26.

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Justin Kloos races to the puck in the first period against Michigan State at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 26.

Mike Hendrickson

After spending the last two seasons playing behind Kyle Rau, junior captain Justin Kloos will get his own time as the Gophers top line center this season.
 
In practice, Kloos has anchored a line that includes junior assistant captain Hudson Fasching and freshman Brent Gates Jr.
 
“We’ve been doing pretty well,” Kloos said.  “We’ve definitely had some good chemistry this month together, and I think we’re just looking forward to see how we can do on Friday and Saturday nights.”
 
The Gophers will count on their top line, as Kloos is the Gophers’ leading returner in points after scoring 32 last year. Kloos also had 32 his freshman year when he led Minnesota in goals.
 
Besides his line, Kloos will be leading a group of 10 new freshmen, and head coach Don Lucia said in-game communication will be key with this group.
 
“You’ve got to have great communication on the ice,” Lucia said. “It’s such a big factor, and it’s often overlooked. Especially the young guys, they come in, and their lips are frozen when they’re on the ice.”
 
Kloos said when he was a freshman, he had trouble communicating, and it would almost be uncomfortable on the ice.
 
Kloos and the Gophers are trying to make sure things are different with this year’s group of freshmen.
 
“That’s really been the emphasis of the team,” Kloos said. “One thing that I’ve really tried to help preach with other captains and leaders of this team to the younger guys is that, ‘You’ve got to talk; it’s uncomfortable right now, [but] you’ll get used to it.’ It’ll ultimately be really effective on game nights.”
 
The Gophers still face a lot of questions this season on how their lineup will look, but the team will count on Kloos to steer the team forward as its captain.
 
On the ice, Lucia said he would like to see more consistency from Kloos and that he needs to produce every night this season.
 
“He’s not hiding behind two seniors, like Travis Boyd and Kyle Rau, like he was last year,” Lucia said. “Now, he’s the front line guy. He’s going to get those front line minutes playing against top players. He’s going to have to be able to handle that responsibility on both ends of the rink.”
 
Kloos said he thinks he also needs to close out games better than he did last year.
 
“If we need a goal or if we need to tie up the game, I got to be putting pressure on the other team,” Kloos said. “I think that’s definitely one of my jobs this year, and I’m looking forward to hopefully doing it well.”
 
Despite Kloos’ junior status, senior forward A.J. Michaelson said Kloos has been doing a good job leading the team.
 
“He’s a great leader on and off the ice,” Michaelson said. “I think the whole team looks up to him. We go to him for advice, and he’s great on the ice as well.”