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Chris Murphy, Published April 18 2013

Force-Waterloo series offers glimpse into Big Ten's future

FARGO – Fargo forward Gabe Guertler couldn’t remember if he said hello to his future University of Minnesota teammates before Wednesday’s United States Hockey League playoff game started. Dave Gust was positive what he said to his future Ohio State teammate in Game 1 of the first-round best-of-5 series against Waterloo.

“Nothing,” Gust said. “You’re not teammates with him yet, so you play your hardest and you don’t treat him lightly.”

The Big Ten Conference will sponsor men’s ice hockey beginning in 2013-14, and it is well represented in the first-round Clark Cup playoff series between Waterloo and Fargo.

Guertler and Waterloo’s Taylor Cammarata and Justin Kloos are University of Minnesota commits. Gust and Waterloo’s Zach Stepan are Ohio State commits. Waterloo’s Eamon McAdam is a Penn State commit as well.

Wednesday at Scheels Arena, Stepan and Cammarata each scored goals, Guertler notched three points on a goal and two assists, Gust had two points on a goal and an assist, and Kloos added an assist. The future Big Ten players had eight of the 15 points in the 3-2 Fargo win.

As for the regular season, Cammarata (93 points), Kloos (87) and Stepan (78) were one, two and three, respectively, in the league in points, with Guertler notching 51 points and Gust adding 49 for the Force.

“Big Ten hockey is obviously a new thing,” Guertler said. “The WCHA was obviously one of the best leagues in college hockey, but the Big Ten has the top teams going there. I think it’ll be one of the best leagues with Minnesota and a bunch of other good teams.”

Gophers pride runs in the family, as Guertler’s father attended the U of M, but didn’t play hockey.

“They have a big tradition there,” Guertler said. “It’s been one of the best hockey schools in the nation forever, so it’s a big deal. I had a few other options, but obviously with him going to school there, he wanted me to go there. He didn’t really say too much, but he was happy it was the school I picked.”

Gust feels the same way about Ohio State hockey.

“They are going to have a bright future, and it should be exciting,” Gust said.

As for the present, Fargo has won 11 straight first-round games in its five trips to the Clark Cup playoffs. Tonight at Scheels Arena, the Force can make it 12 straight, as long as they stay out of the penalty box.

Fargo goalie Brendan Jensen has seen 239 Waterloo shots come his way in the six games he’s been in net versus the Black Hawks this season. He’s stopped 225 of them. Of the 14 he did not stop, six have come on the power play.

“They are a good club,” Fargo coach John Marks said. “You can’t give them an inch. If you give them an inch, they take it. The power play of theirs is awesome.”

Although it’s hard not to daydream about a promising future, there are still things to be done in the present.

“(Cammarata and Kloos) are two of the best players in the league,” Guertler said. “It’s obviously going to be a pretty special year next year in Minnesota. The incoming class is going to be pretty good. I’m pretty excited for next year, but we still have business to take care of here in winning the Clark Cup.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548