Coming into the 2016-17 season, the Michigan hockey team expected sophomore forward Cooper Marody to be a main contributor on a team losing much of its scoring from the previous year.
But after having academic issues last season, Marody was deemed ineligible for the first semester of this year, which meant that he would be unable to play in the Wolverines’ first 16 games.
Marody finally returned to the ice Thursday in the Great Lakes Invitational. But while he had been practicing with the team all season, in his first game — against Michigan Tech in the semifinal of the tournament — the sophomore showed some signs of rust.
Marody wasn’t alone. Michigan’s entire offense was stymied by the Huskies, producing just 23 shots on goal with zero goals. Marody led the Wolverines with five shots on goal, but that effort wasn’t nearly good enough, as Michigan Tech won, 2-0.
“It’s hard to show up and play his first game in probably nine months and make an impact,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson after Thursday’s game. “He’s worked hard all semester in practice. I think he’ll help our team, but it wasn’t to be tonight. He had a lot of chances, a lot of guys had chances — what if — but it never happened.”
Friday against Michigan State, Marody and Michigan’s offense flipped the script. The Wolverines mustered five goals in all, with Marody earning three assists.
One of the beneficiaries of Marody’s playmaking was senior forward Alex Kile, who was on the same line as Marody in both games. Kile scored two goals against the Spartans, both off assists from Marody. And though the GLI served as the first time the two have played together this season, their improvement from one game to the next was noticeable.
“The first game back, it’s going to be a lot different than just practicing,” Marody said. “It’s been a while since I played a game and really got up to that speed. And I think after a day of playing together, me and Alex have gained great chemistry. And I think as a team we just played better, which helped us play better.”
Added Kile: “I think time will tell with our chemistry. But we’re two players that want to play with each other, and any time you have that, I think chemistry will form right off the bat. So, I mean, we’ve still got 20-plus games left, and I think as the season goes on we’re just going to get better.”
Michigan can only hope that the two will be able to develop that relationship, and that Marody will continue to improve as the season goes on. Not only did Marody provide another scoring threat on offense, but he also provides experience on defense. The sophomore wasn’t on the ice for any of the six goals scored against the Wolverines this weekend, and though plus-minus can be a flawed statistic, Marody’s presence was surely felt.
And on a team looking for answers after the first half of its season, Michigan will hope to ride some momentum from Marody’s return. With a majority of the Big Ten season left to play, coupled with the Wolverines’ inconsistency thus far, they need a boost from somewhere.