Through 20 minutes of sluggish, uninspired hockey, Michigan looked like anything but a team that could score six goals in a game. The Wolverines had mustered just five shots on goal and looked completely out of sorts, offensively.
By the time the second period buzzer sounded, Michigan had four goals, 27 shots and a firm grasp on victory over Ohio State. The Wolverines ended up with a resounding 6-0 win over the Buckeyes, overcoming their abysmal showing the night before.
The offensive explosion, though, came from some unlikely suspects: namely senior forwards Dakota Raabe and Jack Becker.
“(They) haven’t played as much lately but have stayed ready,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “You get the opportunity to play when you’re asked to come in the lineup. If you do a good job, you can contribute to the team’s success and they did that.”
Raabe didn’t even take the ice Friday night, but on Saturday his inclusion in the lineup proved well worth it.
Eight minutes into the second period, up 1-0 on the power play, Raabe found himself alone in the right faceoff circle. The Wolverines worked the puck left to right over to him, and he ripped a shot into the back of the goal.
It was Raabe’s first goal of the season and a much needed boost to an offense that had looked sluggish up to that point.
“It’s never easy to see guys that work day in and day out get scratched,” freshman forward Thomas Bordealeau said. “I was really happy to see him score, especially on the powerplay. It was a really important goal for him I’m sure, and it was an important goal for us to give us momentum.”
Michigan continued its offensive surge from unexpected sources — this time from Becker. Four minutes after Raabe’s goal, Becker drove hard to the slot and knocked in a loose puck that had trickled through the Ohio State goalie’s pads.
Becker hadn’t played at all in the previous series against Wisconsin. But the Wolverines captain remained engaged, and when a mid-game injury to senior forward Michael Pastujov forced Becker into a regular spot on a line, he pounced on the opportunity.
“That’s a big reason he has the C on his chest,” assistant coach Kris Mayotte said earlier in the week. “He puts the team in front of himself.”
Raabe and Becker gave Michigan what proved to be an insurmountable lead. On a night when leading scorers such as freshman forwards Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson were kept quiet, Michigan’s offense didn’t miss a beat. It showcased the Wolverines impressive scoring depth and the team chemistry that allows anyone to step up on a given night.
“Everybody’s going to get the opportunity to play at some point,” Pearson said. “We’re going to need everybody before the season’s over.”
One of the most difficult parts of Pearson’s job is choosing who he’s going to keep out of the lineup each night. That can also be tough for the mindset of a player to come to practice and compete everyday without knowing if they’re going to see the ice come gametime. But Raabe and Becker have been supportive teammates all year, and when they had the chance to shine, they took full advantage.
“In practice, they work hard, they never give up and when they got put in the lineup they took advantage of their opportunities and that’s the character that we have in this locker room,” junior forward Jimmy Lambert said. “If you’re not getting put out there; you stick to it and you pump your teammates up. And when it’s your turn to go out there, you do your best for each other.”