A native of Rochester, Minn., Kautz closed out a five-year NAHL career by helping the Minnesota Wilderness capture the organization’s first Robertson Cup in 2015. The netminder was named Robertson Cup Finals MVP after allowing just one goal in the two-game series including the longest game in NAHL history (a four-overtime, 2-1 win for the Wilderness). Kautz led all NAHL goalies with a 10-1 record, , a 1.43 GAA and a .944 save percentage in this year’s playoffs. The incoming freshman, who played for Gophers All-American Corey Millen with the Wilderness, previously skated with the Owatonna Express, the Janesville Jets and Rochester Century High School.
Why did the Gopher Hockey program seem like the right fit for you?
Personally for me…they have a great hockey history, but their academics are great too. That was one of the biggest things. Staying close to home is another thing that I was excited to be able to do. I never moved too far way playing juniors, so being able to be close to friends and family and playing for the University of Minnesota is exciting for me.
You closed out your junior career with a Robertson Cup as a member of the Minnesota Wilderness. What was that experience like?
That was incredible for me. I played juniors for five years and to win the Robertson Cup in my last year was unbelievable. And to do it in Minnesota, 45 minutes from my house, and to be the first Minnesota team to win the Robertson Cup just made the experience even better. The way that we did it was something special – winning 10 games in a row and digging ourselves out of a hole is something I’ll never forget.
Talk about playing in Game One of the Robertson Cup finals and being in goal for over an hour and a half of action. How exhausting was that for you?
It was long, that’s for sure. But it was a lot of fun. We knew what was at stake, and we knew whoever won Game One was going to have a lot of momentum going into the next night. Like you said, it was the longest game in history, and I don’t think I got to bed until like 3 or 3:30 that night. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it though, and we were just happy to come out on top.
You are one of two Wilderness alums coming in this year along with Darian Romanko. What kind of player is he?
I’m very excited to keep playing with him. He came to the Wilderness a year before I got there. He obviously was one of the big reasons why we won the championship there. He did very well for us, scoring goals, blocking shots; he did it all. For me, he helped out the back end. He took care of his job in the defensive zone, which is nice to see from the goalie perspective. He’s a good teammate to have and someone you want on your team.
And you also had a chance to play under Corey Millen, who was an All-American here at Minnesota. How did he help your development?
That was nice. Obviously with his history playing on the Olympic teams, playing in the NHL, playing here at Minnesota, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s a great coach. He didn’t work a ton with goalies because he didn’t want to get in our heads, and he thinks we’re weird. But he’s a great guy and a great coach, and it was an honor to play for him.
How did you learn to skate/play hockey? And were you always a goalie?
I probably started skating when I was around four. I had an older brother who was two years older than me, and I have a twin brother, and we all played growing up. So that was helpful that all three of us could do it in our childhood whether it was out on the pond or even just playing street hockey. We were all able to gain knowledge of the game through playing with each other. It was pretty fun to grow up playing together.
I think I decided to be a goalie in super mites. You get to be goalie for a week and for some reason I just liked it the week I did it. Then I just stuck to it. That was probably when I was around seven or eight years old when I officially strapped up the pads.
Other than hockey, what kind of things are you interested in?
Growing up,I played football. I also golf a little bit, but I’m not very good. It’s nice to get outside and whack the ball around, though. I played baseball, too. I just love being around sports, no matter what it is.