Above: Kyle Looft and brother Nate, after the Bruins' 5-2 win on November 4th, 2016. Source: @HeichelSam (Twitter)
They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Kyle Looft certainly didn’t miss his chance. The Mankato West standout suited up for his Bruins debut on November 4th in a game against Bismarck, just three days after signing a tender agreement. The Bruins won the game 5-2 with Looft scoring his first career goal in the third period.
“It came down to some puck luck and it happened to be my first game,” said the ’98 defenseman. “It was cool. I didn’t really know what to do after I scored. I was just excited that we got the two points.”
The modest Looft scored a highlight reel goal that turned out to the be the game winner. He carried the puck through the center zone, chipped it around a Bobcat defender, spun off him, and then ripped a perfect shot over the goaltender’s glove to give the Bruins a 3-2 third period lead and the momentum to cruise to a 5-2 win.
Looft faced a tough decision coming out of Bruins main camp – head back to high school, or start his Junior career. The Mankato West captain made the Bruins roster, but ultimately decided he would regret not finishing his high school career. The Bruins told him they’d offer him a tender on November 1st.
“I think [the decision to go back to high school] comes down to the guys I’ve grown up with, I’ve enjoyed high school hockey,” said Looft. “The relationships you’ve built over time and you’ve only got so much time for it. I just don’t want to miss out on that stuff.”
Kyle had an interesting connection to the Bruins through a former Bruins family. Doug Zmolek, father of Riese Zmolek, Rochester native and Bruin from 2014-2015 helped facilitate the conversation. From there Looft came to skate with the team and become a part of the big picture in a hurry.
“I skated with [the Bruins] after the high school season last year and they told me they liked me and I enjoyed the practices, the guys were good, I liked the coaches. I thought it was a good fit for me,” said Looft. He played 19 games for Team Southeast in the Elite League this fall, and then suited up for the Bruins series against Bismarck in early November, before heading back to Mankato.
“It’s a faster, more physical game, so you definitely gotta be thinking at all times and know what you’re going to do before the play happens,” he said about the Junior hockey experience. “It’s definitely a different game.”
The 6’3, 185 pound Looft is an offensive-minded defenseman. He’s averaged over a point per game in his last two years at Mankato West, scoring 14 goals last season. Despite his offensive touch, Looft understands his role as a defenseman.
“I think just adapting to the play, deciding when it’s a good time to jump up and when it’s not and making sure that playing defense is your #1 priority,” he said. “I think you just gotta pick the right spots to jump and when to play offense.”
Looft hopes to win a State Title in his Senior year at Mankato West, all the while working on his game so that he’s ready to help the Bruins as soon as possible.
“It starts now, in high school,” said Looft, when asked about preparing for Juniors. “I work a lot after practice with the coaches with my backwards skating and my agility. I think it comes down to quicker feet and I gotta get bigger and stronger.”