Dylan Duke doubled dipped yet again.
After a two goal night on Friday, sophomore forward Dylan Duke’s impact was already present, yet Duke doubled down for a short-staffed Michigan hockey team, netting another two scores and often carrying the depleted Wolverine offense on his back.
Despite the loss to No. 2 Minnesota, Duke’s gritty presence was integral to Michigan’s offense. Often struggling to capitalize on the more poised style of play that the Wolverines boast, Duke’s work in front of the net and in the dirty areas helped keep their offense afloat.
“The fact that he’s willing to go (to the front of the net) and take a beating to earn those dirty goals,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “There’s a ton of little skills that go into it, but the biggest thing is his mentality.”
In his second season with the Wolverines, Duke’s role is well established. A patented front-of-the-net battler, his knack for staying low, screening goaltenders and cleaning up the rebounds that bounce his way is nothing new.
His bread and butter, Duke thrives in front of the net. And although Michigan’s first line missed the presence of offensive juggernaut freshman forward Adam Fantilli, Duke’s dedication to his style of play continued to pay dividends.
“He wants to be in that spot,” Naurato continued. “It’s a hard area and he gets rewarded for it.”
Those rewards could not have come at a better time, either.
Down three scores midway through the second period, Michigan’s prospects looked grim. Nevertheless, after a successful breakout in transition, the Wolverines began to set up their umbrella scheme. In the middle of it all, Duke planted himself in the space he knows best.
Not simply waiting for an opportunity, Duke visibly battled with a scrum of Golden Gophers, before freshman defenseman Seamus Casey sent a pass towards the front of the net. Boxing out, Duke barely collected the puck, shoving it in for Michigan’s opening score.
The Wolverines may have not surmounted Minnesota in that very moment, yet Duke’s presence and offensive prowess drew praise from his teammates.
“He’s awesome,” freshman forward Gavin Brindley said. “He works so hard and he’s finally getting rewarded, so we’re all jacked up for him.”
Duke’s penchant for galvanizing the offense continually reared its head throughout the night. Faced with an inability to capitalize on offense, Michigan looked to Duke to pick up the pace.
As laced passes fell just short and the characteristically emphatic shots went wide, Duke’s rock-steady presence guided a unit that was not firing on all cylinders. While the final box score logged 38 shots in favor of the Wolverines, few hit the net and those that did, were often swiped easily away by goaltender Owen Bartoszkiewicz. Michigan’s offense continuously ran into lapses of falling flat.
Midway through the third period and once again in the midst of a dry spell, Duke’s impact became paramount.
After a slapshot by sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes missed just wide, the puck ricocheted off the right boards, landing right on the embattled Duke’s stick. Switching to his backhand, the forward planted his feet in front of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Chesley and tapped in his second goal of the night and fourth of the series.
Thanks to Duke, the Wolverines were once again back in striking distance despite their short-staff.
“It’s just the next man up mentality,” Graduate forward Nolan Moyle said. “Fantilli goes down and Duker’s been good all year and his specialty is around the net and he had a hell of a weekend.”
The series may have not have conformed to Michigan’s expectations, but Duke’s gritty presence served as a microcosm of the Wolverines’ identity in the face of a harrowing weekend.