The image of hats raining down on Mariucci Arena’s ice was stuck in Travis Boyd’s mind Saturday night. A senior for Minnesota, he had two goals for the fourth time this season and was scheming a way to get three.

“As weird as it seems, I knew I had been at two [goals] before and I wasn’t able to get the third, so on the bench I was thinking, ‘You know what, I’m going to go after it here,'” Boyd said.

He didn’t waste this chance. After scoring his second goal of the game just nine seconds into the second period, Boyd got his first college hat trick on his next shot just 14 minutes later, in a 6-2 victory against Ohio State.

The hats that actually made it over the glass and onto the ice to form more of a sprinkle, but Boyd embraced the experience by raising his arms and taking in a moment for which he waited four years.

Boyd was right — it might have been weird for someone who had only 13 goals in three seasons, during which he has been playing catch-up physically, to take the game into his own hands. However, this is the new Boyd, a maturing leader who seems to be making the right decisions for a team in need of direction.

He has doubled his career total with 13 goals this season as the Gophers head into a crucial Big Ten weekend series against No. 12 Michigan.

The Wolverines have four elite forwards leading the nation’s top offense, and the Gophers will need someone like Boyd to help keep up with the Big Ten’s first-place team while trying to shake the funk that pushed them out of the polls for the first time since 2011.

“Last year, especially in the second half, I was starting to show people what I was capable of offensively, and this year I had a good start and really thought I was going to have a great year,” Boyd said. “Right now, I’m playing with confidence … and hopefully we can turn the season around here.”

Boyd had plans to finish what would have been his last year of high school playing junior hockey until the Gophers called. They wanted him to join a short list of 17-year-old freshmen — like Nick Bjugstad and Jordan Schroeder — who fast tracked through high school and got to college early.

Boyd arrived in 2011 but, for the next two years, he played a supporting role. He was in 34 games as a freshman, and played every game the past two seasons, however his early entry into college made it difficult for him — at a slight 5-11 — to keep up with the older and bigger bodies around him.

Boyd will graduate in May at age 21. The Gophers have two freshmen on the roster older than Boyd and seven others older in age but younger in class.

“The big thing for me was I had to learn how to compete against older guys,” Boyd said.

BIG TEN STANDINGS
School Overall Record Conference Record Points
Michigan 16-8-0 8-2-0 24
Penn State 15-7-4 7-2-1 22
Minnesota* 14-9-3 5-2-3 18
Michigan St. 10-12-2 4-4-2 16
Ohio State 7-15-2 2-8-0 6
Wisconsin 2-18-4 0-8-2 4
*Weekend series with Michigan, Penn State upcoming.
Standings updated through Feb. 7, compiled from bigten.org

Assistant coach Grant Potulny challenged Boyd to take on more minutes as his career progressed, and that meant being in better physical condition. For the past two summers, he’s worked out five days a week, used his spare time to shoot pucks, and has embraced better nutrition and is now listed at 184 pounds.

The changes have produced the team’s top goal-scorer and a key figure on the power play and penalty kill units.

“Travis really took that to heart and changed his diet and changed the way he trained,” Potulny said. “So coming back from the injury doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Boyd took a shot to his left foot in a Halloween game at St. Cloud, had surgery and missed seven games.

“Getting through that was tough, but I think I came back and picked up where I left off,” Boyd said.

He had five points in five games before the injury, and has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 14 since his return.

“How about Boyder? He’s having a heck of a year,” senior Seth Ambroz said. “Give him the rock and he’ll put it in the back of the net.”

Boyd started the season centering the third line, was moved up to the first line for one game, and now centers the second line with wingers Ambroz and Sam Warning. Wherever Boyd is skating he’s proven he can lead and score, and seems well on his way to a 20-goal season.

“Maybe it’s my time this year,” Boyd said earlier in the season. “[The fans have] waited and I’ve waited, too. I like that — this is the year I come out and put some big numbers and really play well.”

This article was written by Jason Gonzalez from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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