FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Riding the pine is a place no Michigan hockey player wants to find himself. Since Michigan forward Andrew Ebbett found himself in that very position five weeks ago, he has been a player on a mission.
“I don’t ever want to sit in the stands like that again,” Ebbett said. “That kind of shook me and woke me up a little bit.”
After sitting for the two games against Alaska-Fairbanks, Ebbett has found his way onto the scoresheet with some regularity. With a goal in each game this weekend — plus an assist on Friday — Ebbett has 11 points since he found himself practicing in a black jersey before the Nanooks came to town. His goal on Friday was his first since Oct. 23.
“It feels real good to help the team put some pucks in the net,” Ebbett said. “I know I’ve had a lot of assists lately. I’ve been playing well. But it’s a load off my shoulders, I know that.”
His teammates are taking notice, too. Snatching the rebound off a Jeff Tambellini shot, Ebbett drilled home a power play goal to give Michigan a 4-2 lead. With the way his teammates reacted — piling on top of Ebbett against the glass — the Yost crowd might have thought that it was a tournament-sealing tally.
“When you’re playing hard, the puck finds you,” senior captain Eric Nystrom said following the Michigan State series two weeks ago when Ebbett notched his 20th multi-point game. “And that’s what he was doing. He was moving his feet, he was finishing his checks, he was awesome on faceoffs.”
Berenson is happier not only with Ebbett’s play in the offensive zone, but also the more consistent defensive showing he’s gotten from the junior. During Notre Dame’s 5-on-3 advantage Saturday, Ebbett made a diving poke check on Brock Sheahan to clear the zone after he and Nystrom were trapped out on the ice and forced to kill during an extended shift.
“That was a good effort,” Berenson said. “Hockey is a game of sprints, but, when you have to stay out there for a minute and you’re stopping and starting and working hard, the other team has the advantage. We got through that and finally got the puck out. That was a big part of the game.”
Plucky Freshmen: Michigan freshmen Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter have had a special touch against the Fighting Irish in their rookie season.
Last time the two teams met, Porter earned CCHA Rookie of the Week honors when he posted two goals and a trio of assists for the Wolverines. He continued where he left off this weekend, netting the first goal in each of the two matchups.
“It’s just one of those things,” Berenson said. “Both Kolarik and Porter, whether they have that bit of luck going for them against the Irish, I don’t know, but so far, so good.”
For Kolarik, this weekend was the tale of two games. On Friday, the freshman notched a pair of goals, one coming with the extra attacker. The following night, Kolarik reverted to a playmaker role, setting up the Wolverines final two goals of the game.
“Coach Berenson plays us like we’re not freshmen,” Kolarik said. “We still are freshmen, but we’re playing as if we’re not. So we’re playing with a lot more confidence.”
What can Brown do for you: By playing all 60 minutes Saturday, Notre Dame goalie David Brown became the only of the three Irish goalies to start and finish a game against the Wolverines. Brown and Morgan Cey both started a game apiece in the first series, and both were relieved as Michigan piled on the goals.
During Friday’s 9-2 Michigan win, Cey was replaced by Rory Walsh midway through the third period after giving up nine goals.
“(Changing goalies is) not a science,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin said after Friday’s game. “I normally wouldn’t leave my starter in for that long. I was contemplating taking him out and then it happened — bang, bang — before I could get him out.”
Michigan combined for 29 goals on Notre Dame netminders during the four-game season series.