Adjusting to Division I hockey on the No. 1 team in the nation can be daunting for any freshman, but Gophers forwards Justin Kloos and Taylor Cammarata said the transition has been easier together.
The two played in the United States Hockey League with the Waterloo Black Hawks before taking the ice with Minnesota.
“We built a pretty good relationship on the ice and off the ice last year,” Kloos said. “So I think we were able to come here and get through some of the tough periods together.”
Though the pair spent a lot of time together on the junior hockey team and roomed together on the road, they still needed about a month of the season to figure each other out on the ice.
“It took us a little bit last year to get used to each other, but we started clicking about 10 games in,” Cammarata said. “And we’ve been clicking ever since.”
With Waterloo, Cammarata topped the league with 38 goals and 93 points. Kloos was right behind him with 87 points.
And as linemates on the Gophers, the two have continued their scoring prowess early in the season. Kloos and Cammarata each have three goals, while Kloos has one more assist. They are third and fourth on the team in points, respectively.
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said the chemistry Kloos and Cammarata built at Waterloo helps them on the Gophers.
Still, the coaching staff questioned if it should keep the pair on the same line heading into the season.
Initially, Cammarata paired with junior forward Kyle Rau when junior forward Sam Warning was out with a shoulder injury.
While Cammarata and Rau played well together, the pairing didn’t last long, and Lucia opted to reunite Cammarata and Kloos with senior forward and captain Nate Condon.
And with the early success of the line, breaking it up would be difficult, Lucia said.
Kloos said he would understand switching up the lines, but he wouldn’t mind sticking with Cammarata for the rest of the season.
“He’s kind of a special, different type of player,” Kloos said. “He’s different than any player I’ve ever played with. He’s definitely one of the most creative, offensively gifted players.”
And Cammarata said he was similarly impressed with Kloos.
“He’s very fast,” Cammarata said. “[He’s got] unbelievable speed in the neutral zone that I haven’t seen very often.”
Kloos and Cammarata have made an impressive scoring impact in their first few games with the Gophers, but the best may be yet to come.
“I think so far we’ve done some good things,” Kloos said, “but we’ve got a ways to go.”