Travis Boyd refused to brag.
When asked about his breakthrough year last Wednesday, the senior forward barely mentioned himself before praising his teammates for minutes.
It was simply his weekend, Boyd said.
But it’s been “his weekend” for the last few.
This year alone, Boyd has scored 13 goals -- the same number he racked up during his first three years with Minnesota. The skater, who arrived on campus four years ago at age 17, is finally hitting his stride.
And he said it's because his experience is finally paying off.
“You get a little older, you get more confident,” Boyd said. “I came in as a 17-year-old, so my first year playing against guys who were 22, 23 was really hard … because they were just that much more mature and older.”
Boyd first strapped on skates before the age of three, and he started playing organized hockey the next year. And even then, Brian Boyd said his son wanted to skate for the Gophers.
It didn’t take long for Boyd to get connected with Minnesota. He met his future head coach when he was five.
Don Lucia was at the Hopkins Pavilion to watch his oldest son, Tony, play in peewee A’s for Wayzata. During the game, a player on the opposing team broke his leg, and Lucia left the stands to talk to Boyd’s mother, Jody, a physical therapist, about the player’s condition.
“Trav comes running out of the concession stand and I said, ‘Hey Trav, you might want to stop here. I want to introduce you to somebody,’ ” Brian Boyd said. “And he looked up, and I’ve never seen him grab my leg and be so shy in his entire life. He was in awe of [Lucia] because that’s where he wanted to go.”
And even at five years old, Travis Boyd was practicing his backhand in a makeshift rink in his backyard. Before school, he would step onto the rink for a skate. And in the afternoon, he would take what he worked on in the backyard to the rink.
“He was always motivated [to learn] how to do things and get better,” Brian Boyd said.
Boyd left home at the age of 15 to join the U.S. National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He took extra classes during the course of two summers and earned his high school diploma early. But he still expected to spend a year with the Green Bay Gamblers in the U.S. Hockey League before joining the Gophers.
After forward Max Gardiner transferred, a spot opened on the Gophers opened, and Travis Boyd -- the youngest player in the 2011 NHL draft -- headed back to Minnesota.
Boyd struggled to make an impact during his first few years on campus. His shot wasn’t great. And it wasn’t easy for him facing college competition so young.
“He’s a senior, and he’s just turned 21 years old,” Lucia said. “There’s plenty of college programs where you’re 21 and a freshman.”
After his sophomore year, Boyd was disappointed in his play. He lost 10 pounds of what he deemed “bad weight,” and he made sure he shot pucks daily.
And after a 32-point junior season, he kept at it.
“This past summer, he put in a lot of work,” said senior forward Sam Warning, one of Boyd’s roommates. “He’s gotten in really good shape. He rides the bike every day after practice.”
Senior year cut short
Boyd’s offseason work seemed to be paying dividends when he started his senior season. In the team’s first four games, he scored five points.
His shot turned into a weapon, and his one-timer became dangerous -- especially on the power play.
And then in St. Cloud St., his momentum stopped. Boyd suffered a lower-body injury against the Huskies in October.
And the time away did not sit well with the senior, who had to trade the bench for the stands or a couch.
“I sat with him,” Brian Boyd said. “He was edgy.”
Travis Boyd thought he might have a chance to return to the lineup during a road trip in late November, but his pain kept him out.
He texted home, frustrated to be kept off the ice.
“Knowing this was my last shot and knowing this is the last year, you really want to play every game that you can,” Boyd said. “Obviously having that injury was tough to begin with. It made it a little tougher being a senior.”
Welcome back, Boyd
But Travis Boyd suited up on Dec. 5 against Michigan State after his seven-game absence.
He celebrated his return with a goal and an assist. And since taking the ice again, Boyd is playing like he is relishing every last moment.
In the 16 games, he’s scored points in 13. His 13 goals during the season tie him for the team lead, despite missing more than a month of action.
And his .289 shooting percentage leads the nation.
“He’s developed a lot,” teammate and roommate Seth Ambroz said. “His confidence is sky-high right now. The puck is going in for him, he’s making all the plays, [and] he’s getting some solid contact on the pucks for those one-timers. It’s great to see.”
Boyd’s confidence was high last Saturday against Ohio State. He put his mind to doing something new -- something he had never done in his career with the Gophers.
While sitting on the bench with two goals, Boyd wanted the hat trick.
“I knew I’d been at two 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 after last Saturday’s game. “And we had a power play, and right as I was going on I was like, ‘If I get a chance to hit a one-timer, I’m going to hit it.’”
Boyd got his goal, and hats subsequently descended onto Mariucci Arena’s ice.
On his left wrist, Boyd wears a purple wristband with white letters that read “prove people wrong.”
It’s a symbol of his maturity and how he didn’t let his early struggles define his college career.
Boyd has finally found his stride.
“This year, things are falling into place, and maybe it’s a good thing,” Brian Boyd said. “[It] makes you work harder [when] it’s not all just given to you from the start.”
And even when things fell into place, Travis Boyd would not brag about himself.
So his teammate did.
“How about Boyder? He’s having a hell of a year,” Ambroz said.
This article was written by Ben Gotz from University of Minnesota / Minnesota Daily and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.