Late in the first period of Friday’s game against No. 11 Ohio State, Will Lockwood forced a turnover in the neutral zone and, after a few seconds of chaos, worked his way through the offensive zone with the puck on his stick.
The senior forward’s shot from the slot was blocked by defenseman Gordi Myer and was loose in the slot, right in front of Buckeyes goaltender Tommy Nappier. Sophomore forward Dakota Raabe tried to get a stick on the puck to poke it into the net, but Nappier made the save.
“(Lockwood) struggled tonight,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “He couldn’t find the handle on a few things, got away from him. Tried to do too much at times. But that’s how much he cares. He’s really trying to put this team on his back and carry it.”
And when Lockwood found himself with a scoring chance in front of Nappier with four minutes left in the third period, he made sure the second one counted.
After a shot from Buckeye defenseman Matt Miller bounced off Lockwood’s chest, he collected the puck and was off to the races. He moved into the offensive zone, dropping the puck off for senior forward Jake Slaker to shoot. Nappier saved Slaker’s shot, and Lockwood was right there on the doorstep for the rebound.
His first attempt couldn’t get past Nappier, but Lockwood was undeterred. He picked the puck back up, swung around behind the net and poked it through the hole between Nappier and the post.
As Nappier sank to the ice, the referee pointed at the net to signal a goal, the goal horn went off and Lockwood thrust his arms into the air in jubilation. The goal gave the Wolverines a 3-2 lead, and it was one they wouldn’t relinquish on their way to a win over Ohio State.
“He’s a consummate student athlete and player here,” Pearson said. “There’s a reason he came back and he’s a captain and I’m so happy for him. … Sometimes, he’s trying to carry too much of the load, but good for him, and we needed that. Good for our team.”
Added Lockwood: “It’s a treat to have something like that happen. I think I got a lot of fortunate bounces and (Slaker) made a good play off the pad there. I just tried to finish the far post and fortunately enough, it squeaked in there.”
It was Lockwood’s first goal since Dec. 30 at the Great Lakes Invitational and just his third in the last two months. He’s now tied for third on the team in goals with six. In the second semester of his senior year, these games mean a lot to Lockwood, and he’s trying to do everything he can to bring the team to success.
At times, to watch him play is to see a player desperately trying to carry his team to victory — a player who knows his time is running out to win with this team. Sometimes, like Friday, it works, and Lockwood pokes home the game-winning goal.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can for the team right now,” Lockwood said. “My time is coming to an end here. I’m coming to terms with that, and I want to do everything I can to make the team win.”
Friday night, Lockwood did just about everything he could. He didn’t have his best game of the year, and at times he tried to do more than he needed to, but it was enough. His teammates stepped up around him, and he found the back of the net for the game-winner.
Lockwood is guaranteed just 11 more games in a Michigan sweater — the remaining nine regular-season games and two in the Big Ten Tournament, if the Wolverines get swept. Eleven more games to live out what’s been a dream of his since he was in the sixth grade. Eleven more games to win at Michigan.
It’s clear that he plans to make them count.