Incoming Gophers hockey freshmen big on talent but short on size

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2013 - 11:17 AM

Justin Kloos and Taylor Cammarata tore up the USHL this year.

hide

The Waterloo Black Hawks have had plenty to celebrate this season, much of it provided by Justin Kloos, center right, and Taylor Cammarata. Kloos, who led the league in scoring, and Cammarata, who was right behind him, are headed to the Gophers.

Photo: Mathew Putney • Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When he watches them from the bench, though, O’Handley often is reduced to one.

“Wow,” said the coach of the Waterloo Black Hawks, the United States Hockey League team where the Minnesota natives currently play. “There haven’t been many times as a coach at this level that I’ve said that. But when you watch them make plays, you just go, ‘Wow, how did they do that?’ ”

O’Handley predicted that spectators at Mariucci Arena will be saying the same thing beginning in October, when Cammarata, from Plymouth, and Kloos, from Lakeville, embark on their college careers. After being named the USHL Rookie of the Year in 2011-12, Cammarata led the league in scoring this season with an eye-popping 93 points in 59 games. Kloos, in his first full USHL season, was right behind him with 87 points in 54 games.

Along with Hastings native and Ohio State prospect Zach Stepan — third in the USHL with 78 points — they formed the most potent line in the league’s recent history. Now leading the Black Hawks in the USHL playoffs, Cammarata and Kloos will arrive on the U campus in June, when they will join a roster reduced by the early departures of five players.

Both have faced questions about their size; Cammarata is 5-7, and Kloos is 5-9. O’Handley said both have the speed, skill and hockey intellect to offset their stature, a claim supported by gaudy statistics. While he expects their wow factor to translate well to the college game, they said their time in the junior ranks has made them more prepared — and more eager — for the next step in their development.

“I’m ecstatic about getting down there and putting on that Gophers jersey,” said the 19-year-old Kloos, named Mr. Hockey in 2012 to cap his career at Lakeville South. “I feel a lot better than I felt last year, and I thought I was ready [for college] then. I’m coming in as an older, stronger and more experienced player.”

Cammarata, who will turn 18 next month, said he is equally prepared. “My work in the defensive zone and my quickness and speed have all gotten a lot better [in the USHL],” he said. “I’ve been watching the Gophers my whole life, and I know it’s going to be a great experience.”

Big skates to fill

Two other forwards — Gabe Guertler (Fargo/USHL) and Hudson Fasching of Apple Valley (U.S. national team development program) — also will join the Gophers next season.

Coach Don Lucia said Monday he is adding three defensemen as well: Jake Bischoff of Grand Rapids (Omaha/USHL), Michael Brodzinski of Blaine (Muskegon/USHL) and a still-unsigned player Lucia declined to name. Forwards Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Zach Budish and defensemen Nate Schmidt and Mark Alt announced after the Gophers’ first-round loss in the NCAA tournament that they would skip their final season and turn pro.

If Bjugstad had left the team last summer, as he considered doing, Kloos would have become a Gopher. He had just finished his prep days at Lakeville South — where he chose to stay for his senior year rather than play in the USHL — with a 103-point season and a state tournament berth. He said he was a little disappointed at first that his Gophers career would be delayed, but he is grateful for a USHL tenure that taught him how to handle a long, grinding season.

O’Handley called Kloos an “off-the-charts kid” who quickly shrugged off that disappointment and got to work. With his offensive creativity and quick hands, the coach said, Kloos can turn a dead-end play into a scoring chance. He also devoted himself to shoring up his defensive play.

Cammarata excelled at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault for two seasons before going to Waterloo. Always a prolific scorer, he finished his sophomore season at Shattuck with 71 goals and 68 assists in 54 games. Though he was one of Waterloo’s youngest players in 2011-12, he led the team with 69 points in 60 games and was named USHL Rookie of the Year.

Skill vs. size

Throughout his life, Cammarata said, he has heard comments about his lack of size. He said he has come to appreciate his small stature and exploits the advantages he has — including speed, instinct and vision. “I’ve always been a smaller guy, so I’m used to it,” he said. “You’ve got to know where everyone is at, because you don’t want to get drilled out there, but it helps me with my style of play.”

O’Handley noted that Cammarata has become skilled at avoiding situations where his size might get him into trouble. Most of the time, he is using it to trouble others with his crafty playmaking skills. “His brain is two steps ahead of everybody else,” the coach said. “He’s so smart and so deceptive, he just gets himself into the right spot. If there’s a game with a lot of physicality and they key on him, it could be hard. But knowing Taylor, he’ll find a way to get around it.”

Kloos and Cammarata will attend school this summer and work out with returning Gophers players. Though O’Handley’s job is to ready players for their next stop on the hockey trail, he grew a bit melancholy when he thought about their departure.

“I sometimes pinch myself and say, ‘When are we ever going to get guys like this, who can play the game at this level and still be the kind of young men, the really good guys, that they are?’ ” he said. “They’re special. They’re going to be hard to replace, that’s for sure.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 6:00 PM
Orlando
Charlotte 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Brooklyn 6:30 PM
Cleveland
Washington 6:30 PM
Miami
Minnesota 6:30 PM
Boston
Toronto 6:30 PM
Detroit
Chicago 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:00 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Denver
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Anaheim 6:30 PM
Ottawa
NY Islanders 6:30 PM
Detroit
Boston 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Dallas 8:00 PM
Calgary
Wilberforce 12:30 PM
Youngstown St
Jackson State 1:00 PM
Tulane
Siena 5:00 PM
Radford
Stillman 6:00 PM
Alabama
Case Western Reserve 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Niagara 6:00 PM
Buffalo
SD Christian 6:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Concordia (MI) 6:00 PM
Central Mich
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Hiwassee 6:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
Tennessee St 6:00 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Kent State
Central Penn College 6:00 PM
Liberty
Bethune-Cookman 6:00 PM
Mercer
Eastern Ky 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Morehead State
Northern Ariz 6:00 PM
Norfolk State
MD-Eastern Shore 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
St Marys-CA 6:00 PM
St Johns
Clemson 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Tenn Tech 6:00 PM
Tennessee
Washington-MD 6:00 PM
William & Mary
Furman 6:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
South Dakota St 6:30 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Milligan 7:00 PM
Lamar
LSU-Alexandria 7:00 PM
ULM
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Chattanooga 7:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Seattle 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Lipscomb 7:00 PM
Princeton
Winthrop 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Dickinson State 7:00 PM
North Dakota
New Orleans 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
Creighton
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Denver
Alabama A&M 8:00 PM
Marquette
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Texas Tech
Eastern Wash 9:00 PM
California
Idaho State 9:05 PM
Utah State
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Ohio Valley 10:00 AM
Youngstown St
East Tenn St 10:30 AM
UNC-Wilmington
Louisiana 11:00 AM
Alcorn State
Cal-Irvine 11:00 AM
Purdue
Campbell 12:00 PM
Stetson
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Charleston Southern
Denver 1:30 PM
Wright State
Texas State 2:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Blue Mountain 2:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Albany 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
TX-San Antonio 3:00 PM
Houston
Yale 3:30 PM
Bucknell
Northern Colorado 3:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Belmont 4:00 PM
Mercer
Massachusetts 4:00 PM
Georgia State
George Mason 4:05 PM
Winthrop
Portland State 4:30 PM
Princeton
UCLA 5:00 PM
Samford
Mobile 5:00 PM
Alabama State
Nicholls 5:30 PM
Texas Tech
Toledo 5:30 PM
Nevada
UMass Lowell 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
St Marys-CA 6:00 PM
Virginia
McNeese State 6:00 PM
Rice
McMurry 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
NJIT 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
(6) North Carolina 6:00 PM
Maine
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Siena 6:00 PM
Binghamton
Longwood 6:00 PM
Clemson
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Florida State
(19) Syracuse 6:00 PM
(9) Baylor
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Manhattan
Ohio U 6:00 PM
La Salle
Canisius 6:00 PM
Michigan
Davidson 6:00 PM
NC State
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Delaware
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Austin Peay
(25) DePaul 6:30 PM
(2) Connecticut
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Tulane
Miss Valley St 7:00 PM
Memphis
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
UAB
Bowling Green 7:05 PM
Illinois State
Arkansas State 7:05 PM
Missouri State
ULM 7:05 PM
Wichita State
(16) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Southern Ill
Utah Valley U 8:30 PM
Montana
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
No Dakota State 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Utah State 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Bethesda (CA) 9:00 PM
Fresno State
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close