Athlete of the week: Michelle Klimstra, Rogers, hockey: Saving grace

by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor

One constant plus for Rogers girls hockey for several years has been the reliable goaltending of Michelle Klimstra, currently in her fifth and final season in the Royal nets.

Klimstra shared duties with Becca Leshovsky, two years older, in grades 8, 9 and 10. She became the full-time goalie last year and made all-conference, an honor she’ll likely repeat this year.

Michelle Klimstra's save percentage has been right around 91 to 92 percent for her five varsity seasons. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Michelle Klimstra’s save percentage has been right around 91 to 92 percent for her five varsity seasons. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

The 5-foot-6 goalie’s save percentage has been between .915 and .929 all five years. Her goals-against was 1.56 and 1.96 her first two years, when she got softer assignments as the backup, then 2.25 as a sophomore, 2.81 as a junior and currently 2.22. During her career, the Royals have a 60-59-12 record overall including 12-8-2 this year.

Dale Sager, the Royals first-year head coach, appreciated not having to worry about the goalie position when he took over the team.

Asked what makes her tough to get a puck past, Sager said: “Her focus is the main thing. She has a pre-game routine with some hand-eye exercises and stretching. She works on it year-round. She goes to camps. She has good quickness and great hand-eye coordination. Another thing is she always stays square to the puck, which helps her get a lot of saves on rebounds.”

Klimstra started playing hockey in third grade and got into the nets one day in fourth grade when the regular goalie was absent for a birthday party.

“I thought it was fun, so, that kind of stuck,” she said.

Asked what it takes to be a good goalie, she cited the old fashioned virtues of “hard work and dedication.” Asked about toughest parts of the job, she singled out “the backdoor shots, and the tips (off rebounds).”

Klimstra often finds herself very busy in the net. A career highlight was stopping 50 shots in a 3-1 upset of No. 4 ranked Orono her junior year. This year she had 47 saves in a 5-1 win over Chisago Lakes, 50 in a 5-1 loss to Elk River (that one was 2-1 until the last few minutes), 46 in a 6-2 loss to Spring Lake Park and 40 in a 3-3 tie with St. Francis. In her shutouts she had 27 in a 2-0 win over Sartell-St. Stephen and 30 in a 2-0 win over River Lakes.

Overall, she has a 2.22 goals-against and .929 save percentage with two shutouts.

Klimstra has also played lacrosse since ninth grade and helped the Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman team qualify for state last year, playing defensive mid and some goalie.

Also a member of the Minnesota Nordiques summer hockey team, Klimstra plans to continue next year at Bethel College.

“That’s a Division III team that’s getting a Division I goalie, in my opinion,” Sager said.


Michelle Klimstra
Michelle Klimstra

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Mark and Nicole; brother Travis … Sports: hockey, lacrosse … Other activities: National Honor Society … Academics: 3.65 GPA …. College plans: Bethel, hockey, physical therapy
Favorite stuff — Classes: government, history … TV show: “Duck Dynasty” … Movies: “Miracle,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Grownups” … Food: cheese pizza … Drink: Dr Pepper …. Music: country …. Teams: Wild, Black Hawks … Athlete: Josh Harding …. Wants to visit: Hawaii