MINNEAPOLIS — The play happened so quickly, there was a moment of surprise from Minnesota junior forward Seth Ambroz.
Yet, after scoring three goals already on the weekend, Ambroz was ready and reacted quickly, peeling off toward the net. Center Travis Boyd, Ambroz’s linemate for the Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team, snared a loose puck, a turnover by Wisconsin deep in its own zone, and flipped the puck on net. Ambroz tipped it past Badgers goaltender Joel Rumpel for a 4-3 lead with 26 seconds left.
“I guess a little surprised,” Ambroz said of the puck coming toward him for the game-winner. “But at the same time, our line’s been creating turnovers all weekend, so I’m not surprised that we were able to do another one there at the end.”
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Ambroz scored twice on Saturday night and finished a four-goal weekend as top-ranked Minnesota swept No. 12 Wisconsin with a 4-3 win on Saturday. Kyle Rau and Brady Skjei also scored for the Gophers (11-2-1), who have won six of their past seven games, and Adam Wilcox made 20 saves in goal.
Ambroz leads Minnesota with seven goals this season.
“I think Seth worked hard on his game this summer,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “His skating has improved and we’re playing him a lot of minutes with the power play and penalty kill. He’s just an honest, hard-working guy and he’s going to score some goals by getting around the net in the blue paint.
“He’s not pretty coming down the rink, but he’s heavy on pucks and he scored like we expect him to score this weekend.”
Ambroz makes up one third of the veteran third line for the Gophers along with Boyd, a junior, and senior Tom Serratore. While the team’s talented freshmen receive a lot of attention, Ambroz’s line helped Minnesota come away from the first weekend of Big Ten play with four points against the conference’s preseason favorites.
The Badgers were favored because they returned a team full of upperclassmen. The Gophers’ upperclassmen led the way to the sweep this weekend.
“There’s a reason they were favored to win the league is how veteran they were and the great finish that they had last year,” Lucia said. “For our young guys, it was a growing experience. For the older guys, to see a guy like Seth Ambroz take charge, was good to see, and really that line of a senior and two juniors because there’s freshmen sprinkled along the other three lines.”
Minnesota and Wisconsin each left the WCHA this season and became part of the new Big Ten Conference, but this weekend was all about the classic rivalry.
“That’s what it is,” Lucia said. “We could be in any conference, it doesn’t matter. You’re playing for a rivalry. Now that we’ve left the WCHA, I’m sure this rivalry will heat back up maybe like it was in the 70s and 80s.”
The two teams alternated goals through the first two periods and entered the third tied 2-all. Skjei scored his second of the season to give the Gophers the lead and then Wisconsin counted with just under 10 minutes left setting up Ambroz’s line for the dramatic finish.
Wisconsin had control of the puck and started up ice before Boyd scooped up a loose puck off a missed pass and found Ambroz at the net.
“Going back to last year, Seth scored some goals against Wisconsin and he just had a terrific weekend,” Lucia said. “I thought Boyd’s line was really good all weekend long and a big reason why we were able to get two wins…It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to beat Wisconsin twice in this building, so I think the guys feel good about it and grew a little as a team this weekend.”