The Islanders draft picks both completed their freshman seasons at the University of Minnesota, coming within one win of a national championship.
They are learning the college game and developing at one of the nation’s top hockey programs. And for a couple of native Minnesotans, playing for the State of Hockey’s top amateur team is thrill and a privilege in itself.
“I’ve been going to games my entire life, so now that I am playing there it’s pretty cool,” Cammarata said this week at Islanders Mini Camp. “A lot of guys dream about this stuff and it has kind of come true.”
Cammarata’s limited stature, 5’7, 156 lbs., didn’t disrupt his offensive production, as he scored 27 points (10G, 17A) in 39 games. The Minneapolis native also showcased himself on the biggest stage, potting a goal in the National Championship game against Union College.
“He is able to create offense even when it looks like the play is dead,” Bischoff said of Cammarata. “He’s a special player like that. He’s really fun to watch.”
Although the Gophers had a solid year, the transition to college hockey didn’t come without its challenges for either player.
The college competition is bigger, stronger and faster and the talent pool is a lot deeper, according to Bischoff. He noted that in high school, there are usually one or two standout players per team, but in college, “everyone knows how to play.”
“You go from being one of the top guns on your team to fighting to play every night,” Bischoff said. “It was a change for me, but I really enjoyed it.”
Bischoff scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in 28 games on the blue line. He played a different role in college than he was accustomed to, but knows that he can earn ice time and more offensive opportunities with experience, hard work and steady development.
“We have a really good defensive coach – Mike Guentzel – and I think he taught me a lot,” Bischoff said. “Things like how to use my stick, how to play the body, how to do things in my own end. That really helped me a lot.”
Unlike international and junior prospects, college athletes don’t attend NHL training camp in September. Both players have relished mini camp for the chance to work under the watchful eyes of the Islanders coaches, while also measuring themselves against the prospect pool.
“The camp has been a blast,” Bischoff said. “They set us up really well here with the hotel and meals.
As mini camp closed this weekend, the duo packed up their maroon and gold Gophers bags, confident in what they showed Islanders management and coaches and eager to attack their sophomore seasons.
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