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Just in time, Jack Ramsey heating up offensively for Gophers

Gophers senior forward Jack Ramsey (center) scored his second goal of the season during a 4-1 win over Penn State on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Minneapolis. (University of Minnesota Athletics)1 / 2
As a defenseman, Mike Ramsey scored six goals and was a member of the 1979 NCAA Championship squad in his lone season of college hockey. (University of Minnesota Athletics)2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- The instructions given to players by college coaches can sometimes be endlessly detailed and confusing. Other times, the direction given by the person who holds the whistle is relatively simple and easy to follow.

Last week in practice, the Minnesota Gophers hockey coach jokingly claims he gave senior forward Jack Ramsey some simple instructions. The results were immediate, and positive.

“He scores in practice a lot. We told him he’s got a green light to do it in a game, so he finally listened to us,” Bob Motzko said this week, with a sly smile, after Ramsey broke through and scored his first two goals of the season in a weekend split with Penn State.

In terms of family bragging rights, Jack has seven career goals, which is one more than the six scored by his father, Mike, who was a Gophers defenseman. In fairness, Mike played one season of college hockey (winning the 1979 NCAA title) before skating for Team USA as the youngest player on the 1980 Miracle on Ice team and then played more than 1,000 NHL games over parts of 18-season career.

In terms of pure numbers, both Ramsey men look up to Jack’s sister Rachel, who scored 34 times in four seasons for the Gophers women’s team and won three NCAA titles. Born in Detroit and Buffalo, respectively, when their father was playing in the NHL, Jack and Rachel grew up in the Twin Cities while Mike was spending a decade as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild.

That led to some unique on-ice instructional opportunities.

“We were fortunate enough to get to grow up skating at Xcel Energy Center. Jack and I both learned from players and coaches there, and like any kids, we didn’t want to listen to our dad,” Rachel said. “We should’ve known he knew exactly what he was talking about, but he’d be trying to teach one of us a wrist shot or a slap shot. We weren’t listening so he would send over someone like Jacques (Lemaire) or Mario (Tremblay) to talk to us. Of course we listened to them and the players.”

Mike played defense all his life and jokes that, as a forward, Jack has been cursed by his bloodlines.

“I kind of feel bad for Jack because he’s a product of growing up listening to his dad talk defensive hockey, so he thinks defense before he thinks offense. I see that in his game a lot,” Mike said.

Coach's eyes

The elder Ramsey admitted that his years of coaching force him to view the game through that lens. In a conversation this week, he broke down Jack’s Saturday night goal in minute detail.

Jack cut across the top of the Penn State crease with the puck, resisting the temptation to shoot too soon and instead holding onto the puck until he got to the far post. With the Nittany Lions’ goalie unable to slide from post to post quick enough, there was open space to be had on the far side of the net, which is where Jack slipped the puck. It gave the Gophers a two-goal lead late in the second period.

Mike walked away from hockey eight years ago and has spent the time since then traveling to the U of M or to a road destination, following Rachel, and then Jack, nearly every weekend. The siblings have followed one another’s on-ice exploits as well, in a typically brother-sister fashion.

“We have a life rivalry. We’re really close, but we butt heads a lot because we’re so competitive with each other,” Jack said. “After games sometimes I’ll get a text from her that says, ‘do this, do that.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t need to listen to you, All-American.’

"I shrug her off a lot, but overall we have that competitive relationship. We love each other, but we’re always battling to be on top.”

Rachel said that one sign Jack is getting older and more mature is that now, from time to time, he actually heeds her advice.

As for listening to the coaches and taking advantage of their “permission” to score more in games, Jack deadpanned that, like a certain Pittsburgh Penguins star, he might be heating up and the right time and prepping for a big finish to his college hockey career.

“I was joking around with the guys earlier in the season that a few times in his career Sidney Crosby has been slow before the All-Star break and then after that he tears it up,” he recalled. “I told them I’m doing it the Crosby way this year, taking it slow before Christmas and after Christmas, I’m going to torch it up.”

No matter how the end of his college career plays out, Jack is assured of having his father watching, and his sister offering friendly advice.