ELITE GOALIE TO ELITE PROGRAM.
A young boy raised with a pigskin in hand dreams of running out of the tunnel and playing for programs like Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Notre Dame, or Alabama. Hoopsters have the “bluechips” like Kentucky, Duke. North Carolina, and Kansas to spur their hopes. For young men who choose the Junior A hockey route with an NCAA Division 1 dream there are North Dakota, Denver, Boston College, Michigan, and Minnesota that occupy the pinnacle of programs which inspire aw in their followings and foes alike.
The Kindersley Klippers organization, along with Justen Close and his family are ecstatic to announce the commitment of 1998 born goaltender Justen Close to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. The homegrown Close has been spectacular this season with a 2.14 GAA and a .929 save percentage, both of which are better than the numbers he put up last season en-route to the SJHL Goalie of the Year Award. Justen has been the backbone of the Klippers re-emergence as a league powerhouse, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to the humble, and soft-spoken leader. Never one to seek attention, Justen deflects to his teammates when asked to comment on his strong play and accolades, listing them as consistent contributors to his success.
Justen has been a workhorse for the Klippers, leading the SJHL last season in minutes played at 2,595 and sitting second at 2,132 minutes so far for the 2018-19 campaign with 6 regular season games remaining. Close leads the league in wins with 22, and sits second in shut-outs. To say he has been fantastic is a gross understatement. Off the ice Justen has been stalwart in the community giving of his time and talents volunteering to help younger minor hockey goalies, running a booth at Zest of the West fundraising for the pool, working the Drag Races for Klippers sponsor Good to Go Racing, flipping pancakes at the Westberry School Breakfast, and jingling the Salvation Army kettle bells to name but a few of his contributions this season alone. Many an early morning Justen can be found helping older brother Braden chase his dreams of playing for Team Canada’s para Olympic Sledge Hockey team; feeding him passes and working on shooting drills. A goal a step closer to fruition with Braden skating with the National Team in Calgary this week while Justen came within a hair of shutting out Humboldt in a huge win Monday afternoon.
In signing with Minnesota, Justen has committed to a historic, elite NCAA Division 1 hockey program with facilities and amenities second to none. Justen joins a program with 13 NHL Draft picks on the current roster and 26 alumni skating in the NHL; Wheeler, Vanek, Kessel, Schmidt, and Middlestadt to name a few. Minnesota has 22 appearances in the Frozen Four and 5 National Championships in its storied history; both 4th all-time. Minnesota is coached by a legend within the game. With a World Junior Gold, World Junior Bronze, NCAA Championship, WCHA Coach of the Year (2), and NCHC Herb Brooks Coach of the Year (2) listed amongst his hardware Bob Motzko needs no introduction.
An interesting Kindersley-Minnesota connection is current Golden Gopher leading scorer and Captain Tyler Sheehy was a member of Team USA competing in the 2014-15 World Junior A Challenge hosted right here at the West Central Events Center and no doubt attended by Justen.
Klippers Head Coach/GM Clayton Jardine added, “an opportunity to commit to the top school in Division 1 Hockey doesn’t come around often. I couldn’t be more excited and prouder of Justen. The work he has put in on and off the ice makes him very deserving of this opportunity.”
Indeed, we all add our support and congratulations to Justen and his supportive family.
Make sure to catch the Klippers last Regular Season home games on Friday March 1st vs the Humboldt Broncos and Saturday March, 2nd vs the Notre Dame Hounds as they make a strong push for the Canalta Cup. The Klippers currently sit 2nd overall in the SJHL with 6 games left to play.