When Cooper Marody returned from a suspension that kept him out the entire first semester of the Michigan hockey team’s season, he did so with a bang, tallying three assists on Dec. 30 against Michigan State.
Since then, the sophomore forward has been a catalyst for the Wolverines’ offense. That was most evident this weekend in Michigan’s series against Ohio State. Marody broke out with four goals — three of which came in the second period of Friday’s game alone — and two assists.
It was the Wolverines’ best offensive output of the season, and though other issues arose on the defensive end, the team’s goal-scoring was cause for a bit of optimism.
“I think, just as a team, we got more pucks to the net,” Marody said. “We talked about that all week, getting shots, in all kinds of situations possible. And I think we did a great job with that.”
Marody’s offensive aptitude couldn’t come at a better time for Michigan, as senior forward Alex Kile and junior forwards Cutler Martin and Tony Calderone all sat out against the Buckeyes. Marody filled the void they left, as he either scored or assisted on 60 percent of the team’s goals on the weekend.
“You can see what he brings even though he’s only a sophomore,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “…He’s got a knack for scoring goals, and he’s got a knack for helping other people score goals. That’s been missing on a regular basis with our whole team, and I just think he can jumpstart our offense, and you saw that this weekend.”
In the early stages of the season, the Michigan penalty kill unit was thriving. In fact, it was ranked in the top-10 nationally at one time.
But since the start of the Big Ten season, the Wolverines have struggled in that regard, falling to last place in the Big Ten.
The unit’s struggles came back to hurt them yet again against Ohio State. Seven of the 10 goals the Buckeyes scored in the two-game series came on the power play. Without those opportunities, paired with Michigan’s potent offense, the Wolverines likely would have come away with two wins on the weekend rather than settling for the split.
“We’re not a ‘Broad Street Bully’ team,” Berenson said. “We’re trying to play disciplined hockey, but we’re the most penalized team in the Big Ten right now. So we’re addressing that. We’ve got to watch our stick, we’ve got to watch our hitting from behind. We’ve got our sticks up, we had some accidental hooks and trips. I mean, come on, we’ve got to get that out of our game. It’s killing us.”
Michigan’s rematch against the Spartans next weekend could prove to be a good chance for the Wolverines to right some of their penalty-killing woes. Michigan State’s power play unit ranks last in the Big Ten at just 15.15-percent.
In terms of their health, the Wolverines are currently in a state of limbo. Though Martin returned to practice Monday after missing the weekend series with an illness, Kile and Calderone remained out with upper-body injuries, while freshman defenseman Christian Meike has been sidelined with a lower-body injury for over a month.
In addition, freshman forward Will Lockwood left Saturday’s game with what appeared to be a head injury. Lockwood took a big hit near the bench area at center ice and remained down for some time.
He then went to the bench, where he could be seen talking to trainers with his helmet off. Lockwood returned to action a few minutes later, but was eventually forced to exit the game, and remained out of action in Monday’s practice.
Calderone, Kile and Lockwood are three of the top six point scorers for Michigan, and though Berenson says they are day-to-day, if they can’t play against the Spartans, others will need to step up to replicate the offensive firepower the Wolverines exhibited this weekend.
“You saw Cooper, he stepped up last weekend, and that really helped our team,” Berenson said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys that have to do more for our team, and sometimes it’s producing. … We have a lot of guys that have to help. They’re playing regular, they’re playing every night, and they’re getting a chance.
“But it’s not about the goals for — I think the goals for will come when you’re playing well — it’s about the goals against. That’s what’s killing us.”