Nightmares of expectations crashing to a bitter end recently crept into the home of six veteran Gophers hockey players.
The seniors, accustomed to success, had fallen into a dark January hole.
Finally, they decided "enough is enough."
"It just got to the point where this was not the way we wanted our season to start off and we wanted to do what we can to salvage the rest of the year," Seth Ambroz said.
"It was just to the point for everyone, enough is enough. We finally got that weekend where we were able to put two wins together and, from there, we understood what it really takes to win games and be successful, and we've been able to carry that attitude and momentum from there."
The six seniors have fueled the Gophers' turnaround over the past month that includes a 6-1-1 record and the rise back into the college hockey polls and playoff picture.
Seniors have scored 20 of the team's 30 goals during this stretch, making them the best-scoring class in college hockey since Jan. 30.
Four of those goals came at Penn State last weekend; seniors are responsible for 43 of the Gophers' 95 points over the past eight games, with each one contributing at least two points. They'll attempt to continue this surge in a rare Thursday-Friday series at Mariucci Arena against Michigan State.
"It was talked about a lot when we were going through those hard times. … The big thing for us was realizing this was our last shot," Travis Boyd said. "When things weren't going our way, we said, 'This isn't how we want to go out, and being the older guys and leaders on the team, we got to make the change happen.' I think all of us have been playing well lately."
The midseason doldrums — a 4-8-2 stretch that dropped the team out of the polls for the first time since April 2011 — have almost been forgotten at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers climbed from the bottom of the Big Ten standings into a first-place tie with Michigan, they're ranked No. 15 in the most recent USCHO poll, and are tied for 10th in the PairWise rankings, which mimic the NCAA selection process.
With three regular-season series left, the Gophers are in position to defend their Big Ten regular-season title and win at least a share of what would be the seniors' program-best fourth consecutive conference championship.
They have also played in three NCAA tournaments and two Frozen Fours.
"It's their time of the year. Time is running out on their careers," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "They're the ones that have to step up and step forward. They've been through it. They're the most experienced players. … They're all playing an integral role [in the game plan], and that group more than anybody else on our team will determine how our season ends up."
Boyd leads the revival with six goals and seven assists over the past eight games. He also anchors an all-senior line with Sam Warning and Ambroz.
Captain Kyle Rau has five goals and four assists; Ambroz has six goals and three assists. Warning has seven points and his goal forced overtime last Saturday in an eventual 4-3 loss to Penn State that broke the Gophers' seven-game unbeaten streak.
Forward Christian Isackson has given life to the fourth line with three points (two goals, one assist) in the last eight games, and Ben Marshall has two assists while leading a much-improved defensive corps.
As a team, the group attributes the turnaround to "selling out for one another" and "buying in," meaning each player is willing to do little things on the ice that add up.
"We feed off [the seniors]," junior defenseman Mike Reilly said. "We want them producing and playing at their highest level, and they've all been doing well as of late.
"… They know we're coming into a tough stretch where we need to get some wins and have some successful weekends, so they're going to be leading us, and we just need to follow along and everyone else needs to elevate their game."