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

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

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