More than the fourth line

Sunday, January 6, 2019 - 3:33pm

Freshman forward Nolan Moyle has scored two goals in the last three games.

Freshman forward Nolan Moyle has scored two goals in the last three games. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

Don’t call it the fourth line.

Last Monday in the GLI Tournament against Michigan State, the line listed fourth for the Michigan hockey team on its line chart matched up against the top line for the Spartans. After Saturday’s win against Notre Dame, Michigan coach Mel Pearson referred to that line for Michigan State as “maybe one of the best lines in college hockey.”

Pearson went on to say that he has no problem calling on freshmen Nolan Moyle and Garrett Van Wyhe, along with sophomore Dakota Raabe, in key situations. The line has continued to make strides since being formed early on in the season.

Variations of the trio –– often Raabe and Van Wyhe –– frequently appear on the penalty kill. The two are physical defensively and among the fastest skaters on the team, perfect for a pesky penalty kill.

In the second period of Monday’s tie against the Spartans, the Wolverines committed three penalties in less than 10 minutes. In the first penalty kill of the period, Van Wyhe was able to use his size and speed to kill crucial time off the clock. Instead of dumping the puck into the offensive zone, Van Wyhe entered into the offensive zone and skated around, retaining possession and shielding off Spartan defenders. It sent Michigan on its way toward killing all three penalties in the period and kept the deficit at one goal.

Throughout the game, the line created quality scoring chances as well. The Wolverines nearly jumped out to a lead in the opening minutes when Moyle skated up the left wing past his defender and flicked the puck towards a streaking Raabe.

Raabe –– who also had a stride on his defender –– redirected the puck on net and was inches away from finding the back of the net.

On Saturday, the pair connected on a goal.

Raabe skated along the right-side boards and towards the blue line in the Wolverines’ offensive zone. As he was passing the right faceoff circle, he drew two defenders and laid off the puck to an open Moyle in the right slot. Moyle, in one motion, reached back to collect the puck and tucked it underneath the crossbar to extend Michigan’s lead to 3-0. It was Moyle’s second goal in the past three games.

“Well (Moyle) was a good player last year in the USHL,” Pearson said. “He’s a scorer. So, one of the things Nolan had to do was learn how to work harder at this level. It’s an adjustment, and I think he’s finally realized.”

In the final seconds of Saturday’s win, Raabe’s hustle was rewarded.

With an empty Fighting Irish net, the sophomore battled for a loose puck along the boards. He won possession, found open space up the ice and fired towards the goal –– delivering the nail in the coffin by extending the lead to 4-2 with 12 seconds remaining.

“Dakota is great,” Pearson said. “Blocking shots, using his speed. And it’s very fitting for him to get that goal.

“We talk about our freshmen, there’s no freshmen anymore. Once Christmas rolls around, they’ve played enough games, they understand the systems now, they understand how hard it is to score and be a good player at this level. With that in mind, someone referred to them as the fourth line, I said, ‘they’re not our fourth line.’ … they’re only going to get better moving forward.”