Before taking the opening faceoff at the start of Friday's home game against Penn State, Gophers captain Justin Kloos gave Taylor Cammarata a stick tap on his skates for the first time in a long time.
The two junior forwards had spent their first two seasons on the same line. This year they were kept apart, only occasionally sharing shifts until a shuffling of the Gophers' top three forward lines midweek placed the duo back together with freshman Tyler Sheehy.
The time apart didn't destroy their chemistry.
Cammarata, who entered the game with only eight points in 25 games, responded to a new role with his best performance of the season.
The Plymouth native finished with eight shots on net, scoring the go-ahead goal late in the first period and adding an assist in a 4-1 victory at Mariucci Arena. The victory put the Gophers nine points ahead of the third-place Nittany Lions.
The victory, coupled with Michigan's 3-2 overtime loss to Michigan State, also gave the Gophers sole possession of first place in the Big Ten race.
"It gave me a little more confidence coming into this game," Cammarata said, referring to the line change, "and obviously I felt more energy coming into the game."
He wasn't alone. Sophomore Leon Bristedt also had a goal, his 13th of the season, and an assist playing on his new line with Vinni Lettieri and Brent Gates Jr.
Goaltender Eric Schierhorn made 31 saves for the Gophers (14-12, 9-2 Big Ten), who rebounded well after a pair of losses at last weekend's North Star College Cup.
Beginning with Hudson Fasching scoring 74 seconds into the game, all three new lines did their job getting at least one goal.
Penn State (16-8-3, 6-5) tied the score midway through the first period.
And the Nittany Lions had the home team on its heels early. Enough so that Gophers coach Don Lucia nearly used his timeout before freshman Chase Berger scored his 12th goal of the season.
"We didn't have a good start, that's for sure," Bristedt said, alluding to that goal and a subsequent one by the Nittany Lions that was waved off.
"Schierhorn bailed us out a couple times. I think the game changed [late in the first period] when we had a couple good shifts down low in their defensive zone."
Seconds after a power play expired, Cammarata saw a Penn State forward cheating toward a potential pass and shot instead to put the Gophers ahead 2-1 with 48 seconds left in the opening period.
Cammarata then began the play that led to Sheehy's goal on the other side of intermission.
"I feel like I've been playing hard right now. I just felt like today there was a few more openings," said Cammarata, whose shot total Friday was more than he had in the previous seven games combined.
Although the impetus for breaking up established lines for Lucia was to get players such as Cammarata to kick-start their game for the Gophers' stretch run, it was not an easy decision.
"It was [difficult]," said Lucia. "Part of it was we were thinking that Connor [Reilly] was beginning to come on but, if you look at the big picture, we have to get some other guys going. That was the risk that we were willing to take this weekend."
Based on the contributions made in this game by Cammarata, who Lucia said needs to play with the puck to be effective, the risk paid off Friday.