Maybe the players on the Michigan hockey team’s most
productive scoring line play so well together on the ice because of
how different they are off of it.

Junior Andrew Ebbett’s unassuming demeanor and Kevin
Porter’s freshman humility combine to keep two-thirds of the
unit calm, but senior Milan Gajic’s outgoing style spices
things up a little.

“It’s a bit of a clash when it comes to
personalities,” Gajic said. “But (Ebbett and Porter)
both like to joke around, and I’m a pretty big joker.
I’ll say things sometimes just to get a rise out of them, to
see how they react.”

Gajic’s latest stunt has come at Porter’s expense.
Throughout the season, the senior has lightheartedly badgered the
freshman about not passing him the puck.

“(I) just like to give him hell about it,” Gajic
said. “We’ve even got his dad involved now.”

Said Porter: “My dad would call me up and leave me
messages on my cell phone. He would say, ‘Hey, this is Gajic.
Move me the puck. Pass me the puck. I’ve got a stick,
too.’ After every game Gajic will go talk to him, just to let
him know that I need to move the puck more.”

But Porter’s play this year has left little to be
desired.

“Porter is really finding his way here,” Ebbett
said. “He’s really working hard and he’s listened
to everything that everybody’s told him. He just does his job
out there.”

Gajic isn’t shocked by his new linemate’s quick
start on the college level.

“We’d heard things about (Porter and fellow freshman
Chad Kolarik),” Gajic said. “So it doesn’t
surprise me at all.”

Still, Porter isn’t completely happy with his progress. He
knows he still has to continue to adjust to a quicker game in the
CCHA.

“I think I need to get used to the pace a little
more,” Porter said. “(Ebbett and Gajic) are a lot
quicker, and I just need to pick up my speed a little bit. Their
first couple steps are real strong, and they get off to a good
start. It’s hard to catch them when they get
going.”

While practical jokes may steal the attention, exceptional play
from Ebbett — who according to Michigan coach Red Berenson is
the line’s “glue” — has often gone
unappreciated. Ebbett quietly put up 38 points last season, good
for the second-best mark on the team.

“I just kind of float under the radar,” Ebbett said
before practice on Monday. “I do my job, I work hard and I
make sure my line’s ready to go every night. It doesn’t
bother me not getting any press. As long as I go out there and work
hard, my teammates notice it and I notice it, and that works for
me.”

Over the past two-plus years, Gajic has come to appreciate what
sets Ebbett apart from most other skaters.

“(Ebbett) is such a great player,” Gajic said.
“He moves the puck and his head is always up. It would be
really hard not to have success with him because he’s just so
good with the puck.”

But it’s Gajic who currently leads No. 3 Michigan (3-1-0
CCHA, 5-2-1 overall) in scoring with 10 points.

“(Gajic) is a very offensive-minded guy, and that really
helps me,” Ebbett said. “I’m able to get him the
puck, and he does the rest. He knows how to put the puck in the
net.”

This season, all three linemates are currently among the top
five point-earners on the team. Ebbett sits third with eight and
Porter finds himself tied with senior defenseman Eric Werner in the
fifth spot with six points.

“You’ve got a little bit of everything there,”
Berenson said, referring to the varying ages and styles of play of
the three forwards. “We’ve made a lot of line changes
for different reasons, but right now they’re definitely a
line I can count on. Gajic is a smart player and he’s an
opportunist who can score. He can also make good plays.
Porter’s a good two-way player. Ebbett’s a classic
centerman. If you play with (him), you should get chances to
score.”

Gajic is satisfied playing on a line that has registered at
least a point in every game this year except Saturday’s
shutout loss at Ferris State. But he believes his team is deep
enough to duplicate his group’s achievements with any
combination of players.

“Just from the makeup of our forwards, you can’t
have a bad line on this team,” Gajic said.

Still, Ebbett is content to milk his trio’s scoring surge
for all it’s worth.

“We’re just really clicking right now,” he
said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.