When Gophers coach Bob Motzko announced his starting lineup, altering the first line so all seniors could start on senior night, Jack Ramsey thought how cool it would be if those starters could combine for a goal.
He didn’t imagine it would be him, slotting in with usual first-liners Tyler Sheehy and Brent Gates Jr. But his goal 42 seconds into the game made his premonition come to fruition.
“I literally turned around to Bob, and I said, ‘I’m staying on that line tonight, right?’ ” Ramsey joked after the normal fourth-liner scored his third goal of the season. “And he said, ‘Yes, you are.’ So I don’t know what happened the rest of the game.”
Even if his time on the top line was short-lived, it was still a “picture-perfect” start for the Gophers, according to Ramsey. They completed a sweep of No. 12 Arizona State with a 5-2 victory Saturday before an announced 9,141 at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The typically quiet crowd actually gave the team a standing ovation and chants of “sweep” as the Gophers finished the regular season with a 16-15-4 record.
Motzko said Ramsey’s goal was just how he scripted it, adding Ramsey had already let him know his feigned confusion about not staying on the first line.
Besides Ramsey’s goal, senior center Darian Romanko also scored his first goal of the season in the first period. Romanko said the moment did feel a bit like “icing on the cake,” but the season isn’t over yet. Needing a Big Ten tournament championship to qualify for the NCAA tournament, the third-seeded Gophers play sixth-seeded Michigan in the conference tournament quarterfinals next weekend at home.
“I think we’re going to do something special in the playoffs,” Romanko said. “We’ve kind of been that underdog team, that sort of overlooked team. And we’re roaring right now.”
The Gophers have won five of six, all against ranked opponents. But Motzko said his team is a little banged up with three key injuries from illegal hits after a very physical series with the Sun Devils (21-12-1).
Sampo Ranta was one of those. The freshman scored in the first period but took a huge hit early in the second period right before Brannon McManus’ goal. Arizona State defenseman Jacob Wilson took a five-minute major and game disqualification for contact to the head, and Ranta headed for stitches under his chin before eventually returning.
That collision seemed to spur the Sun Devils, who scored a shorthanded goal four minutes later from Dominic Garcia and doubled up from Brett Gruber later on in the period.
But the Gophers held from there, with Rem Pitlick adding a fifth goal shorthanded with 2:45 to play to secure the sweep.
“We haven’t had one since last year,” Romanko said of a home sweep. “Getting it on senior weekend and the last weekend is big for us because we have that little edge going into the playoffs.”