MINNEAPOLIS- Travis Boyd needed 9 seconds from puck drop in the second period to give Minnesota a two-goal lead after a goal by Ohio State defenseman Sam Jardine from half-ice late in the opening period.
It took the University of Minnesota senior a few hundred seconds more to get his third shot on goal and send a half-dozen hats tumbling to the Mariucci Arena ice for a special moment of his own. It's fitting for a player who took almost an entire season to score as a freshman and is having a career year.
The senior forward notched his first career hat trick Saturday on his first three shots and a career-high 4 points. Minnesota got a total team effort from its lineup to complete the team's first series sweep in nearly three months with a 6-2 victory over the Buckeyes.
"It was a lot of fun," said Boyd, who now leads the team with 13 goals in 19 games. "This morning in our team meeting our coach said it had been 89 days since we had last swept. Way too long to get back around the circle (and celebrate a sweep). Hopefully that gives us a little bit of momentum carrying into a big weekend next weekend."
The Gopher power play went 3 for 4 Saturday. Boyd and senior captain Kyle Rau each needed less than 25 seconds to score with Minnesota's nation-leading power play (29.1%) finding lanes and getting bodies in front of OSU goaltender Matt Tomkins, who made 22 saves. Michael Brodzinski also scored on the man-advantage.
Boyd and his Gophers (14-9-3, 5-2-3-0 Big Ten) teammates had spoke throughout the week and throughout a stretch where Minnesota struggled to a about what needed to be done. The Gophers entered this weekend fourth in the Big Ten standings, trailing first-place Michigan by ten points. Playing on an all-senior line this weekend with Seth Ambroz and Sam Warning, the trio practiced what they preached.
Both were rewarded. Ambroz and Warning each had three points.
"Sam, I thought had a really good game tonight. You noticed his speed tonight and Boyd had a couple," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, who was happy with all three of his top forward lines. "It was nice to see him get a couple five-on-five, but that line was all over tonight."
Boyd got the Gophers on the board in the first period when he one-timed a Warning pass 6:31 into the game.
Hudson Fasching made it 2-0 30 seconds later. The sophomore forward scored his eighth goal of the season to get a paid crowd of 10,143 at Mariucci cheering loudly before Jardine's shot from near the red line cut the lead in half for Ohio State (7-15-2, 2-8-0-0 Big Ten).
Fluke would be nice. The goal was a contender for being the strangest of the season. Jardine's shot went off the boards behind Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, between Wilcox and the goal post and into the net.
The play, however, did not deter the Gophers. Wilcox stood tall Saturday, making 16 saves and helping hand the Buckeyes its seventh straight loss. His teammates blocked 16 additional shot attempts, continuing to play good defense and execute on the ice those little things pressed off of it.
"The whole weekend we were really doing those little things. I think going back to the second shift of the game last night, Hudson Fasching blocked a shot," Boyd said. "And at that moment the whole bench got up and was excited and was kind of like, ‘alright we know we're going to do the little things this weekend.'
"And you know we did and we had a good weekend."
That includes Boyd, who killed penalties in addition to the hat trick. He rushed down the ice in the second period after taking the opening face-off and wasted no time getting on the board.
Eight minutes later Boyd did it again. Once again he one-timed a pass, this time from Mike Reilly, into the net for his team-leading 13th goal of the year and Minnesota's second hat trick of 2014-15 and finish with four goals on the weekend. (Justin Kloos scored one at Mariucci against St. Cloud State on November 1st.)
"His confidence is sky-high right now," said Ambroz, who is roommates with both of his new linemates, about Boyd.
Sandwiched by Rau and Brodzinski's power play goals Victor Bjorkund scored his second of the season on the power play for the Buckeyes in the third period.
With the old memories of a two game sweep and some new ones, the Gophers would like this weekend to be a turning point for the final 10 Big Ten conference games.
"Hopefully," Ambroz said. "That's what we want. I mean this is a big step because we've been struggling to put two games together and consistently play hard and do the right things. That's the team we have to be most nights and we'll be successful."
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate