SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — In an up-and-down series against Lake Superior State (5-1) in which the Wolverines appeared to be two different teams between Friday and Saturday night, there was one constant for the No. 12 Michigan hockey team (4-3): sophomore forward Josh Norris.
“He was our best player last night by far,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson Saturday night. “I thought he was, tonight, a man. A man amongst boys. You can see he’s a difference maker. You don’t have to be a hockey fan to come to this game and ask someone, ‘Well, who stood out?’ I mean, they’re gonna say Josh Norris.”
Norris flashed his ability all across the ice in both games, scoring the first goal of the game each night, as well as tallying four points on the weekend.
Friday, Norris and junior forward Will Lockwood got loose on a two-on-one breakaway from the neutral zone. Lockwood passed the puck from the high slot to a waiting Norris in the left faceoff circle, and Norris didn’t waste a second as he fired a wrist-shot that found the top right corner of the net.
Saturday, Norris once again found twine in the top right corner of the goal. He cleaned up a rebound from senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi’s shot from the left point, and for the second time in two games, Norris led his team to a 1-0 lead.
Though the two games diverged after Norris’s early goals, his performance stood out — regardless of what was happening with the rest of the team.
Friday’s game got away from Michigan in a hurry, as the Lakers scored twice in 43 seconds to take a 2-1 lead and then punched in two more before the Wolverines struck back. Lake Superior State embraced a physical playing style, prompting Norris to get physical in return.
“He really thrived on this environment where it was a physical, hard-nosed game, and I thought he really showed up and played hard,” Pearson said. “I can’t say enough about his game.”
Norris was the Wolverines’ best player both nights, but Saturday night, he stood out in a way he hasn’t all season. Every time something was happening, whether the Lakers put pressure on freshman goaltender Strauss Mann or Michigan had the puck on a breakout, it seemed like Norris was right in the middle of it.
Late in the second period Saturday night, sophomore forward Jack Becker was whistled for cross-checking, sending Michigan to the penalty kill. Moments later, Norris found himself skating into the offensive zone with no one between him and the net but goaltender Mareks Mitens.
His low-to-high wrist-shot flew over Mitens’ shoulder before he even saw it coming, and suddenly Norris had scored his second shorthanded goal of the season.
“I think it’s always fun when you can create offense on the penalty kill,” Norris said. “It gives your team a bit of confidence and it’s definitely a bit of a momentum shift so it’s good to get that one.”
And after the goal, Norris skated over to the glass in front of the Lake Superior State student section to celebrate his second goal of the night and continue his fun from the shorthanded score.
He claimed to have had nothing going through his mind when he went over there, but seconds later, he had a change of heart.
“A little bit of emotion, so that was fun,” Norris said. “It’s always good when you can rub it in someone’s face a little bit.”
And after seven games, Norris is just two goals away from tying his total of eight from last year — which he scored across the 40-game season. He has scored a goal in five straight games and is averaging nearly two points per game.
If he keeps this level of consistency, Saturday may not be the last time Norris rubs something in someone’s face this season.