Old junior hockey linemates reunited

Justin Kloos and Taylor Cammarata were on the team’s first line last week.

Gophers forward Justin Kloos scores a goal against Penn State at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 6.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Justin Kloos scores a goal against Penn State at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 6.

Mike Hendrickson

Head coach Don Lucia switched up the Gophers lines last weekend and got one player clicking on offense.
 
 
Junior forward Taylor Cammarata entered the team’s series against Penn State with just eight points over 25 games. In the two games he scored two assists and a goal.
 
 
“We need his offense,” Lucia said. “He’s always been an offensive player, and that’s the reason we shuffled the deck is to try to get him going.”
 
 
Cammarata has spent most of this season paired with junior forward Vinni Lettieri and freshman forward Brent Gates Jr. on the Gophers third line, but last weekend he was reunited with his old linemate Justin Kloos.
 
 
“If we’re going to do anything, we got to get some other guys going,” Lucia said after Friday’s game. “[Breaking up the lines] was a risk we were willing to take this weekend.”
 
 
Cammarata and Kloos were on a line together most of their first two seasons at Minnesota and even before college. The two played junior hockey together in the USHL for the Waterloo Blackhawks.
 
 
PK O’Handley, the Blackhawks head coach and general manager, said both were gifted players in juniors who had chemistry together on the ice.
 
 
“Justin is obviously a high-tempo [player], can make plays, can score, and he did that for us,” O’Handley said. “Taylor prides himself on being a playmaker. Very cerebral guy, very smart guy. … I thought he was terrific on our power play simply because of his smarts.” 
 
 
When the two played together during the 2012-13 USHL season they combined for 67 goals and 180 points. Cammarata was first in the league in points and was named the USHL Player of the Year, while Kloos’ point total came in second.
 
 
“We won a lot of games with those two guys,” O’Handley said. “I felt they fed off each other pretty well.”
 
 
Now the two are reunited on a line again during their junior seasons in college, which Cammarata said helped clear his head.
 
 
“A lot of the parts of the season, I feel like I haven’t produced the points I could’ve,” Cammarata said. “I think it’s more just me being confident and managing [the puck].”
 
 
Kloos said he was excited to see Cammarata, who finished fourth on the team in points last year, score again last weekend.
 
 
“[He’s] an extremely talented kid, so when he’s scoring, we do better,” Kloos said.
 
 
The two have played well more than 100 games together between juniors and college, and Cammarata said they’re very comfortable with each other. Kloos uses his speed to push defenses back, which gives Cammarata more time to handle the puck and make plays.
 
 
“We’ve had some success, and then they put us back together last weekend and we did OK,” Kloos said. “Hopefully, if we’re able to stay together, we’ll continue to create offense.”
 
 
Emily Nicole Polglaze contributed to this report.