MADISON — It’s not all about the superstars for the No. 4 Michigan hockey team. Despite the concentration of talent atop the roster, its lineup is filled with quality players.
Tonight, that depth was on full display as the Wolverines received contributions from a plethora of skaters.
Prior to tonight’s contest, sophomore forward Philippe Lapointe had only appeared in four games this season. He replaced graduate forward Luke Morgan as Michigan’s top line right winger, playing alongside fifth-year senior Michael Pastujov and sophomore Matty Beniers. He hadn’t recorded a point and had taken only two shots this season.
All of that changed early in the second period when Pastujov’s hard forecheck resulted in an open look for Lapointe in front of the net that he buried behind Wisconsin’s goaltender.
“Really proud of Phil Lapointe and Jimmy Lambert for getting huge goals for us,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “Overall real good team effort… Huge three points, really proud of the team. They put themselves in a great position.”
His goal not only leveled the game, but it slowed down a Wisconsin team that was poised to extend its lead.
“That second goal was a huge goal,” Pearson added. “It took the fans out of it.”
Lapointe wasn’t the only unexpected goal scorer, though. Senior forward Jimmy Lambert and freshman defenseman Ethan Edwards each had just one goal going into the game and both had excellent individual efforts for their second tallies of the year. Through two games, it’s clear that the extra responsibilities have not phased the Wolverines.
Edwards in particular had a strong offensive showing. He’s typically a more reserved blueliner, but tonight, he looked eager in the offensive zone and finished the night with six shots. The rookie has seemingly gotten better every game and after this evening’s performance, his confidence appears to be at an all-time high.
“I found another gear in my game recently,” Edwards said. “That confidence builds up and it just leads into offense. I’ve been a two-way type of guy so I like to get up in the play somewhat. With confidence, it definitely helps.”
Michigan also saw its bottom six forwards make an impact on offense. Those lines are usually more grind-it-out than finesse, but that didn’t stop them from peppering Badger goaltender Cameron Rowe. Senior forwards Garrett Van Wyhe and Nolan Moyle each had assists. Junior defenseman Keaton Pehrson — who had just one point on the season — also notched a helper.
Overall, fifteen different Wolverines showed up in the box score. Aside from freshman forward Mark Estapa’s two assists, no Michigan player had multiple points. It may not seem like the most impressive stat, but considering the Wolverines scored six times tonight, it highlights their well-balanced attack. Opposing teams will have a tough time defensively if they have so much firepower to deal with.
Michigan is more than aware of the threat it poses:
“You don’t see a roster like ours in college hockey,” Edwards said. “Obviously we’re missing some key guys as they’re off at the Olympics, but we’ve got such a deep roster. Guys coming in and I think guys stepping into roles that maybe they weren’t playing before. We’re a super deep team.”
When Beniers and fellow sophomore forward Brendan Brisson leave for the Olympics, Pearson will have to rely more on guys like Lapointe and Lambert. Games like this one should instill the belief that even without his top guys, the Wolverines might not miss a beat.
“What does it say about our depth?” Lambert asked. “It says we have it.”