Justin Kloos thrives in last year at Minnesota

The senior captain is currently tied for 28th in all-time program scoring.

Senior forward Justin Kloos passes the puck up the ice against Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at Mariucci Arena.

Carter Jones

Senior forward Justin Kloos passes the puck up the ice against Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at Mariucci Arena.

by Drew Cove

In his last weekend at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota’s captain has the opportunity to break out of his tie for 28th place in all-time Gophers scoring.

Senior Justin Kloos is about to play his last series on home ice this weekend against Michigan State and the emotions are up in the air.

“[I’m] not really sure what to expect,” Kloos said. “I don’t want to get too emotional, [we’ve] still got to play well and try to win two games, but it’s crazy, you don’t think about it.”

Kloos has managed to showcase leadership as one of his most prominent abilities with the Gophers over the last four seasons.

The senior is now in his second year as a captain. His leadership doesn’t go unrecognized from his teammates, coaches and even his former coaches.

“I think he is still the same Justin Kloos,” said PK O’Handley, head coach of the Waterloo Blackhawks in the United States Hockey League. “There’s not many better people than Justin Kloos … I’m not in the Gophers’ locker room, but I would guess that their coaching staff saw the same things that we all did with [Kloos] and what a great young man he is.”

O’Handley coached Kloos when he scored 87 points in 54 games with the Blackhawks.

In addition to his captaincy, Kloos won the John Mariucci Most Valuable Player award and the Doc Romnes Leadership and Sportsmanship award as a junior.

“He’s an unbelievable program guy.” said alternate captain Jake Bischoff. “Being able to play with him and watch him how he’s led this team and taken on a lot of pressure, and just performed and done a great job.”

The captain has seen a lot throughout his career with Minnesota — a trip to the national championship in his freshman season, three consecutive Big Ten regular season titles, one Big Ten tournament title, and two seasons wearing the “C” on his jersey.

Kloos has come a long way to find himself, playing the last two games at Mariucci Arena, and it all started when he was a kid.

“[My] dad and brother got me started right away,” Kloos said. “I kind of followed everything [my brother] did growing up. My dad had the same passion for hockey, and I think me and my brother both took to that right away.”

The native of Lakeville, Minnesota played his high school hockey with Lakeville South, winning the prestigious “Mr. Hockey” award his senior season for the Cougars.

Kloos has found a way to dominate the game at almost every level he has played at.

He led all high school players in Minnesota in 2011-2012 with 103 points, he was second in scoring in the USHL in 2012-2013, only behind current teammate and Waterloo teammate Taylor Cammarata.

He is now 28th in all-time scoring with the Gophers, tied with Ken Yackel Sr. and Don Micheletti.

“Justin was really the kind of kid who really blossomed as he got older,” said head coach Don Lucia. “You watch a guy like Justin and how he just improved and got to the high school level and became a real dominant player.”