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 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
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
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 76 4th Qtr 8:56
Portland 75
Houston 55 3rd Qtr
Denver 60
Indiana 51 3rd Qtr 11:50
LA Clippers 52
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 1 3rd Prd
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 40 2nd Half 3:53
Pepperdine 42
Portland 41 2nd Half 10:52
UNLV 37
CS-Northridge 26 1st Half 2:47
Oregon 32
Grambling St 13 2nd Half
Washington 45
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
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close