The Michigan hockey team’s roster has fluctuated more than most collegiate teams this season.
Whether it’s players heading to the Olympics, enduring a season-ending injury or being ill, the second-ranked Wolverines have had to adapt. And in these instances, their deep roster has been vital.
Lesser utilized players — like junior forward Nick Granowicz — have had to step up and make an impact. Granowicz was consistently in the lineup through the beginning of the season but fell out over time. He didn’t play at all during a 20-game stretch between Michigan’s second Notre Dame matchup to the first away game at Ohio State. Granowicz also didn’t dress for the entire month of January.
“It’s tough,” Granowicz said. “We have good depth on our team and a lot of really good players. I try to do my best with the opportunities I’m given and control what I can control.”
But when his name was called this past weekend against Michigan State in the “Duel in the D,” he took his opportunity. Off a pass from junior forward Johnny Beecher, Granowicz scored the sixth goal of the game and his first of the season.
“When I was a kid I used to always go to the ‘Duel in the D,’ ” Granowicz said. “Scoring that goal, getting my first one of the year and getting the monkey off the back definitely gives you more confidence to shoot the puck a more and go to the net.”
Other experienced players like senior forward Jimmy Lambert also made an impact. Lambert appeared in 29 games so far this season but only recorded two goals before this weekend. On Saturday he added two more in the “Duel in the D.” Lambert has been on a streak, also scoring the overtime goal against the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program two weeks prior.
Younger players like sophomore forward Philippe Lapointe had only appeared in five games going into the series against the Spartans. But on Friday night he scored, earning his second goal of the year.
“It’s extremely important,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “We need them. We talked about that at the start of the year. We were going to need everybody at some point during the season to have a successful year.”
Junior defenseman Jay Keranen didn’t play at all as a freshman, but has appeared in 16 games this season. He too earned shifts against Michigan State. Keranen didn’t tally any points but made his presence known on the ice through defending and retaining the lead.
Limited play time could affect players’ off-the-ice morale or confidence in practice. But for this team, they have something bigger on their minds.
“We’re kind of going for something bigger this year,” Granowicz said. “Some guys, whether it’s me or not, might have to make a sacrifice and be out. But the main thing this team wants to do is win.”
With the players potentially returning from the Olympics sooner than expected, players like Granowicz and Lapointe could be pushed out of the lineups once again. But when they had their chances this season, they made a difference, proving Michigan’s depth is its biggest asset.
“No matter who’s in or who’s playing, we just want to win,” Granowicz said. “Whatever is going to give us the best chance to do that every night is what we have to do. I know everybody’s on board with that.”