With just over four minutes remaining and the Michigan hockey team in front of Notre Dame by a score of 4-2 at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday, the Wolverines found themselves shorthanded in more ways than one.
Not only was sophomore forward Mike Brown sitting in the penalty box for a holding-the-stick infraction, but also, Brown’s teammate, forward David Rohlfs, was writhing in pain on the ice. In the process of blocking a Fighting Irish shot from the point, Rohlfs was hit in the right knee with the puck and went down in a heap.
“I didn’t know exactly what happened,” Rohlfs said of his initial reaction to going down. “I was trying to bend (my leg) so I could get off (the ice), but I couldn’t even move my leg at all.”
The sophomore clutched his leg for a few moments before being helped to the bench by defenseman Matt Hunwick and trainer Rick Bancroft, his bent right leg hanging limply above the ice. Luckily, Rohlfs didn’t sustain a serious injury. Instead, he needed to deal with some extreme swelling from the deep knee bruise.
“There’s a nice red mark right where I got hit,” Rohlfs said of his wound, which was protected by a thin sleeve as he sat out practice yesterday. “It looked like a half golf ball right under my skin (immediately after the puck hit). But then we iced it and took care of it, and it feels much better now.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson wasn’t too concerned about Rohlfs’s injury. As a man who has spent his life immersed in hockey, Berenson knows that the art of blocking shots — and its accompanying bumps and bruises — is an essential component of winning teams.
“I’m stressing blocking shots,” Berenson said. “I think we’re doing a better job in games. Sure, it’s going to hurt once in a while, but (Rohlfs will) be fine.”
Senior Jason Ryznar wasn’t as lucky in the Wolverines’ game against Northern Michigan on Jan. 29. Ryznar broke his finger when he blocked a shot late in the contest against the Wildcats, and he’s been missing from action ever since. If all goes well, Ryznar will suit up for No. 4 Michigan’s series with Bowling Green in two weeks, but his situation has been the exception in Berenson’s experience.
“(Ryznar) is the first player we’ve really had hurt blocking shots,” Berenson said. “I’ve been here a long time, and he is the first player that’s missed games because of a blocked shot.”
Rohlfs, for his part, knows that his injury is simply a part of the game.
“On the penalty kill, the goal is to block shots,” Rohlfs said. “Coach puts you out there for that exact reason, to block the shots. If (you get hit with a puck), it hurts, but we got the win and we’re that much closer to our ultimate goal. So it’s actually well worth it.”
While Rohlfs doesn’t expect to miss any playing time, it wasn’t his first malady of the season. The Northville native has also dealt with poison ivy, an elbow injury and mononucleosis this year.
Said Rohlfs with a smile: “Hopefully, I’m just getting this all out before the playoffs start.”