On the defensive side of the game, forward Jack Ramsey has been a solid contributor.
Ramsey has tallied two points and has blocked shots in key times for the Gophers as the team heads into their face-off against Clarkson at 3M Arena at Mariucci this weekend, Minnesota’s fifth opponent, and fifth ranked opponent of the season.
“[Ramsey's role] has expanded," said head coach Don Lucia. "He didn't have a great September, he got a little dinged up with some injuries, but once the games had begun, I think he's played extremely well. Certainly better than I believe he's ever played."
The forward finds himself on a different line for most of this season, breaking up the line that included fellow junior forward Darian Romanko.
Minnesota’s offensively-focused freshman class, with forwards Casey Mittelstadt, Scott Reedy and Brannon McManus, lacks some of the defensive responsibility that was present when some of the seniors for Minnesota departed last season.
Forwards Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri were both two-way threats for the Gophers, defensively responsible, yet able to come up and score points.
“It's [a] pretty big [spot]," Ramsey said. "They ate up a lot of minutes that's for sure ... but we have veteran guys, [Romanko and I] have been on the kill since freshman year, so there's no excuses for us."
Ramsey has seen his role elevate, shown by his impact from the play he made in the waning seconds of the first game against North Dakota last weekend.
The forward was on the ice in a 6-on-5 situation with a 2-1 lead against the Fighting Hawks, and with less than 4.7 seconds left in the game, he blocked a shot that had the potential to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Blocking that shot out of the zone culminated in his defensive effort throughout the night and possibly saved the win for Minnesota.
“They had the pulled goalie... so I knew I had to get out there," Ramsey said. "I knew it was probably going to go from [defenseman to defenseman] for that one-timer, [I] tried to get big, and get my feet in the way, luckily I did.”
Ramsey is one of the few legacyplayers on this Gophers squad. Jack’s father, Mike Ramsey, is a former Gophers defenseman who won a national championship with the team in 1979, won the Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in 1980, and went on to play over 1,000 games in the NHL.
“Growing up, [in] youth hockey, I was never only a forward," Ramsey said. "Every single game in youth hockey after our coaches talked to us after the game, I'd get off the ice and get in the car with my dad, and he'd be harping defensive responsibilities.”
He has increased his blocked shots so far in his career, with 14 his first season, 22 in his sophomore year, and seven already this season, including the four blocks he had in the first game against North Dakota.
Ramsey and Romanko, in addition to being roommates of three years, played together on a line both for even strength and on the penalty kill, and became one of the most effective shorthanded units Minnesota had during the season, helping the team’s penalty kill rate to be more than 81 percent effective.
“He likes to make jokes," Romanko said. "Some of which are super funny, and some that are just not funny at all. He's a good guy to have around.”
Ramsey and Romanko haven’t been on the same penalty kill unit this season, spreading their defensive capability, and now Ramsey has an added offensive role.
“Coach [Lucia] expects more offensive productivity from me," Ramsey said. "One goal in freshman [and] sophomore year is unacceptable.”