Fifty-three seconds into the third period Saturday night, Cooper Marody paused, just momentarily, after receiving a beautiful setup from junior defenseman Joseph Cecconi. Within seconds, he knocked a one-timer into the bottom right corner of the net, beyond the outstretched reach of the Western Ontario goaltender.
The junior forward’s textbook goal — which came during the Michigan hockey team’s season-opening exhibition — is simply a microcosm of his style of play. His patience and ability to drown out surrounding noise while on the rink is a special characteristic of his game that many players find difficult to master.
And his new head coach, Mel Pearson, was quick to note that Marody’s style of play stands out.
“He’s so patient,” Pearson said. “He’s so smart with the puck, and he sees things that maybe even a person sitting in the stands wouldn’t see, let alone a person on the ice with all the commotion going on. He has a way of just slowing the game down, even when everything’s going crazy.”
Marody’s offensive prowess in the game extended beyond his goal, as well. He registered an assist in each period, characteristic of a seasoned forward who knows how to crisply set the puck up for his teammates in a way that is almost second nature.
As a veteran Wolverine, entering his third year on the team, it makes sense that Marody has the innate capacity to create these opportunities on the ice. There is something glaring, however, that sets Marody apart from his upperclassmen counterparts: he has yet to play a full collegiate season. And last year was the most extreme case of that, as his sophomore season was slashed in half.
It’s safe to say Marody didn’t expect his career at Michigan to take the course it did.
In the midst of his elite freshman campaign — when he netted 24 points and played in 32 games — Marody fell ill with mononucleosis in mid-January, taking him off the ice for an entire month.
Though he was able to finish out his first season once healthy again, the illness resulted in a serious ramification for his sophomore year: he was academically ineligible to play for the Wolverines during the fall semester.
While Marody still practiced every day with the team, the time away from the sport he loved was painful.
“Any time a sport you love gets taken away from you and you can’t play, if you’re a competitor you feel it,” Pearson said. “And I think (Cooper) felt it. I think it was tough on him last year. Now, he’s reenergized and he knows if he continues to do the things that he needs to do that he’s going to play and play all year, and be a big part of our team.”
Added Cecconi: “I’ve known Coop since before I got to school, and it definitely hurt him a bit not being able to play the first half of the season,” he said. “The first couple games of the season are times to adjust and get back into hockey. And for him not to have that was kind of a blow to our team and himself, but he came back strong.”
And come back he did. Starting with the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29-30, Marody played out the final 18 games of his sophomore season. He notched 15 points through the end of the year, en route to being one of the standouts in an otherwise relatively lifeless Michigan offense.
Marody’s hat trick in the Wolverines’ 5-4 victory over Ohio State on Feb. 3 epitomized his resurgence. It was the most goals anyone on the team scored in a game last season.
Reflecting back on last year’s adversities, Marody couldn’t be more ready to move on and begin what he hopes to be his first complete season on the Wolverine roster. And a goal paired with three assists in the exhibition game is certainly not a lousy way to start.
“It was an unfortunate situation, but it’s over now,” Marody said. “I’ve learned a lot of valuable things from it, and I’m just looking to move forward from that. It’s obviously tough, but you learn from it, and move forward. You’re a better person because of it.
“Hopefully, I’ll stay healthy the whole season. It will be my first full season here at Michigan, so I’m very excited about that. It will be good to continue to develop that chemistry with my linemates, and I’m just very, very excited to play a whole season.”
Marody had no way of foreseeing the path his collegiate hockey career was going to take, and without a doubt would have preferred for his sophomore year to take on a different narrative.
That being said, Marody’s rare circumstance allowed him to gain perspective — not just on this season, but for the rest of his life as well.
“(I now know) that it could always be worse,” Marody said. “Like if you have a bad day at practice, you’re just lucky that you’re healthy and able to play. So if you don’t have a good day, if you don’t have a good shift, if you don’t have a good game, you can just be thankful that you’re playing and healthy. And then nothing else that’s wrong is that big of a deal. So to just keep that positive mindset, every day coming to the rink, no matter what happens.”