The rink at Mariucci Arena isn’t the only place Gophers hockey players have to show their toughness. For the six players in the team’s junior class, that grit is carried over to their home life.
Though they may not be threatened with hard hits into the boards like on the ice, the six men have to watch their backs for pranks or jokes when they’re at home.
“You’ve got to have thick skin in our house,” said forward Seth Ambroz, one of the six juniors.
Ambroz and fellow forwards Kyle Rau, Sam Warning, Travis Boyd and Christian Isackson, as well as defenseman Ben Marshall, all share a house near campus.
“We joke about it, but it’s so true — to live in our house, you have got to be able to take a joke, and you’ve got to be able to give it back because we don’t go very easy on each other,” Boyd said.
In fact, the six men can’t go more than an hour or two before someone in their house becomes the victim of a practical joke.
Five of them lived together last year and are used to the treatment, but Rau is still getting acclimated. Rau moved in this year after his roommates finished school.
“Rau is definitely the quietest,” Boyd said, “and just kind of goes off by himself the most.”
Isackson said he also tries to keep a low profile, but for an entirely different reason. He, along with Ambroz, has been accused of being the messiest by the other roommates.
“I try to fly under the radar a little bit and try to just do my part,” Isackson said, “but I don’t think that’s enough for them sometimes.”
Isackson does have one leg up on Ambroz, though. Warning said Ambroz is the least likely to do the dishes but is getting better — mostly thanks to some learning experiences.
“We actually had to teach him how to do the dishwasher and the laundry,” Warning said.
Still, Warning has earned the status as the destructive one of the bunch.
“If something breaks in the house, you’re going to look to 11 first,” Boyd said.
A few weeks ago, Boyd said, the roommates were riled up with energy after practice, and Warning lived up to his reputation.
“He ended up going through our TV,” Boyd said. “We had a big 52-inch flat screen, and he ended up just falling right through that. So we had to get a new TV a few weeks ago.”
And Warning’s teammates made him pay for the expensive landing spot — literally.
“We left that one up to Warns,” Boyd said. “We said, ‘Warns, you broke it. You got to figure out a way to get us a new one.’”
Though conflicts are inevitable in the house, Marshall said much of the tension is diffused on the ice. An extra check or a slightly-harder-than-necessary hit in practice is enough to resolve any problems.
For the roommates, cleanliness is one of the major points of contention.
“Marshall’s a neat freak, apparently,” Ambroz said. “Every once in a while, he kind of has to clean the whole house and then tries to make us feel guilty for it, but that’s his decision.”
Warning said Marshall definitely believes he’s the cleanest.
“He likes to think he does the most chores in the house,” Warning said. “So I’ll have to give him credit there. He does a lot.”
Marshall said he isn’t ashamed to admit he’s the most responsible when it comes to the house. He said it’s just part of being the “alpha male” of the group.
“Marsh has this really weird idea in his head that he is like the alpha male of our house. … I have no idea where he got that from,” Boyd said. “So he likes to think he can boss people around for not taking the trash out or something. I think it’s part of my job to set him straight a little bit — to bring him down to earth.”
Boyd said he is definitely the “real alpha male” of the house.
Then again, Ambroz contested he was the actual leader.
Rau isn’t convinced either way.
“The guys who are saying that clearly don’t know,” Rau said. “They just think they are.”
While debates still rage over who is the alpha male, the messiest and the cleanest, all the juniors can agree on at least one part of playing house with teammates.
“It’s a lot of fun living with the other guys,” Warning said, “and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”