MINNEAPOLIS- Minnesota countered the "punch to the face" St. Cloud State gave the Gophers Friday night with hats to the ice thanks to sophomore forward Justin Kloos.
Kloos scored three times in three different ways to help salvage a series split with St. Cloud State. The last was a came 1:19 into overtime as #1 Minnesota (5-1-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) defeated the Huskies 4-3 at Mariucci Arena.
"There as no question Friday we came out flat," stated Kloos, last year's leading goal scorer who leads his team this season with 5 goals. "I think that was one thing we were going to prevent. if we were going to go down we were going to go down with speed and effort. We weren't going to lose due to our effort tonight."
It is the Gopher first hat trick since Sam Warning scored three in a row against Ohio State on January 18th.
After a scoreless first period where sixth ranked St. Cloud State (3-3-0, 0-0-0) was out-shot 12-2 and struggled to match Minnesota's movement, it took the Gophers all of 12 seconds to get on the board in the second with a power play goal.
Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) won the opening face-off and skated through the defense before passing to a speeding Kloos in front of the Huskies net on a play SCSU head coach Bob Motzko wasn't sure if it was drawn up or improvised. Kloos one-timed the puck past St. Cloud State goalie Charlie Lindgren before crashing into the goal.
The Huskies, looking to be top dogs on the road against one of the top teams in college hockey for the second straight weekend, came back to take the lead with goals from defensemen Andrew Prochno and Ethan Prow.
In part thanks to Lindgren, who made 31 saves Saturday, that lead looked to hold until the end of the second period before Kloos ended up neatly bookmarking the period lighting the lamp with his skating. His second goal came with 12 seconds remaining.
"Second period for a spurt we got going and made the mistake at the end of the second period to tie it up with 18 seconds to go we turned it over on a 1x1 rush and they tie the game," said Motzko.
Connor Reilly gave the Gophers a 3-2 lead 2:09 into the third period with his third goal of the season.
"I was just happy to see (Connor) get a 5 on 5 goal," said Reilly's head coach Don Lucia. We need more guys stepping forward 5 on 5 and helping us contribute.
Minnesota, playing with five defenseman for the second half of the game due to Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) leaving with a lower body injury, appeared to be getting around by upping the physical play compared to Friday's loss and only giving up 14 shots in the game. When St. Cloud State did have opportunities it made the most of them.
The Huskies threatened Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) several times, but it was David Morley forcing a turnover in the offensive zone with 5:47 left in regulation which tied things at 3. He found a wide open Joey Benik, who beat the Gopher goalie on a breakaway.
In the first overtime of the year for both teams, however, Minnesota was the team that took advantage of St. Cloud State shortening its bench.
Taylor Camamrata (New York Islanders) stripped the puck down low, turned and found a wide open Kloos in front of Lindgren. Kloos did the rest, getting the puck past his fellow Lakeville, MN native and sending the 10,025 fans at Mariucci Arena happy.
"I kind of just turned and (Taylor) got me the puck in the slot," said Kloos about the goal which completed his first hat trick since February 2012 when he was a high school senior at Lakeville South (MN).
"Luckily I was able to sneak one in."
Kloos gave 95% of the credit to Cammarata. The linemates have played together since both were in Waterloo (USHL) and their chemistry showed Saturday. Cammarata set up his latter two goals as the two were in sync.
Lucia said after the game that Skjei was "day to day" while senior Travis Boyd, who missed Saturday's game, would be missing a month from injuries sustained in Friday's 4-1 loss.
Saturday afternoon was a reminder for the Minnesota players who finished the game, though.
"It was mainly an effort thing," Cammarata said. It was a quick turnaround so we had to get a few hours sleep and come back at the rink and play."
Minnesota next hosts Notre Dame November 7th and 9th at Mariucci Arena. St. Cloud State will open NCHC play by hosting Minnesota-Duluth at Herb Brook National Hockey Center November 7th and 8th.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate