January 16, 2014
Duluth News Tribune
Duluth's Klaas is a 5-foot-2 dynamo for Northern Stars
By Jon Nowacki
Alexia Klaas planned on playing college hockey on the East Coast when Minnesota Duluth approached her last June with an offer the Duluth Denfeld multisport star couldn’t refuse.
The Bulldogs gave Klaas the opportunity to play softball and hockey.
Klaas took two days to get back to them, but really, her mind was already made up.
“It had always been my goal to play college hockey, hopefully at the Division I level,” Klaas said. “So when UMD gave me the opportunity to play hockey and softball there, I immediately knew it was a great offer because I love both sports, and to be able to play for my hometown, it was just a given.”
With her college future already mapped out, Klaas hopes to extend her senior hockey and softball seasons as long as they can go. The fourth-seeded Duluth Northern Stars (11-13-1) open the Section 7AA girls hockey playoffs against fifth-seeded Forest Lake (9-14-2) at 7:30 p.m. today at the Heritage Center.
The Northern Stars could go as far as Klaas takes them. With a team-leading 20 goals and nine assists for 29 points, she has the ability to take over games.
“Alexia is a competitor,” said first-year Northern Stars coach Cory Stafne. “She doesn’t like to lose and will let the girls know when things need to get picked up a bit, but she goes about it in the right way. She’s not the rah-rah type.”
While UMD has had female athletes play hockey and softball before, such as Myriam Trepanier, it is even rarer for someone from Duluth as the Bulldogs have historically featured teams with a foreign flavor.
“It’s nice for the community,” Stafne said. “Emma Stauber is there, and (Northern Stars assistant) Gina Dodge played there. I think Lex will fit right in.”
Klaas signed a letter of intent in November to play softball at UMD, while she will officially be considered a walk-on to the hockey team.
Klaas is looking forward to the challenge of juggling both.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty big challenge for me, managing school while playing two sports,” Klaas said, “but at the same time, I’m really looking forward to it because I enjoy doing all those things. I’m going to try to make the best of it.”
Klaas, who played catcher for the Hunters last spring and was also a standout setter in volleyball, has been a varsity hockey regular since eighth grade.
At 5-foot-2, Klaas isn’t a big player but is strong on the puck. Of all sports, girls hockey in particular, with no checking, lends itself well to smaller players.
Whether that translates to the next level remains to be seen, but one thing Klaas’ opponents have learned the hard way over the years is not to underestimate her.
“I am the shortest player on the team. I am always the shortest, no matter what team I’ve ever been on,” Klaas said of growing up a multisport star, despite being vertically modest. “I try to make up for it with the skills that I have. I try to use my speed and my hands and other abilities to compensate for that. I don’t mind it. Sometimes being taller would be an advantage, but you can’t control that. I work with what I have and make the best of it.”