While shot-blocking is not the most glamorous aspect of hockey, it has proven essential for the Michigan hockey team. Julianne Yoon/Daily. Buy this photo.

Narratives about physical play dominate discourse surrounding competitive hockey. Finishing checks, playing hard, beating opponents to pucks and even the occasional extracurricular scuffle — they all define what facilitates a successful win, or a meek loss.

Often lost in the shuffle of this discussion on physicality, though, is the integral shot-block. Although it doesn’t hold the same flash as a neat poke-check, nor the swagger of a bone-crunching hit, the shot-block is a metaphor in of itself. The player must physically layout onto the ice, only to receive a rubber rock ricocheting off of them in the end if they’re successful.

It’s a daunting task, yet for a No. 6 Michigan hockey team that ceded five goals from the point to Wisconsin en route to a series split last weekend, it’s a necessary one.

“After Wisconsin, we missed a few blocks and those were costly at times,” freshman defenseman Seamus Casey said Tuesday. “I thought it was something we definitely needed to work on.”

Shot blocking is often a thankless job, yet simultaneously one of the most rewarding aspects toward team success. The Wolverines average over 12 shot-blocks per game in wins and 10 in losses. A two block differential may seem insignificant, but after a weekend painstakingly marred for Michigan by missed blocking assignments, it makes all the difference.

Despite the skill and talent advertised for the Wolverines, the quietest plays are those that make the loudest impact. Neither offensive ingenuity, nor excellent defensive prowess, can overpower the simple truth: shots that can’t hit the net don’t score.

This fact continually reared its head against the Badgers — something Michigan coach Brandon Naurato made an effort to put emphasis on.

“Wisconsin’s first goal — it’s a set play — we covered it perfectly. We don’t block the shot,” Naurato said. “You gotta make plays inside of your structure.”

Discourse on playmaking often doesn’t immediately focus on shot blocking. But this past weekend presented the dichotomy of what shot blocking can do for a team.

Just as a missed shot-block led to an opposing goal on Saturday, a made shot-block led to the opposite result — a game clinching goal.

While the Wolverines were killing off a penalty, the Badgers looked to break up a 2-2 tie. As a shot came in from the point, junior defenseman Jacob Truscott knelt downwards, bouncing the puck off of his shin and into neutral zone territory. From there, Wisconsin scrambled to recover in transition before sophomore forward Mark Estapa snatched the puck and scored the game-winning goal.

“I was just doing my job,” Truscott said Saturday. “Trying to get the block and get it out.”

As ho-hum as the shot block can seem, it pays dividends — presently, and down the road.

“It’s one of the things we gotta get better at,” senior forward Nick Granowicz said. “Especially if you want to be a championship team, we gotta block shots.”

Side-by-side with the ferocious hits and school-yard scrums that send arenas into a frenzy, the shot-block’s integral role in physical playstyles has just as much meaning for the Wolverines. As Michigan claws through a loaded Big Ten Conference, it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact. 

Because just one blocked shot can change a game.