It’s difficult to describe the Michigan hockey team’s fourth line without listing off a handful of clichés.
Hardworking. Positive energy. Outhustling.
“That’s what they’re doing in practice, just working hard, outworking, and then when they get in the games, they’re outworking all the lines they’re playing against,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said.
And it’s easy to get tied up with the same words when describing what senior Danny Fardig, junior Anthony Ciraulo and freshman Luke Glendening have brought to the ice the past few weeks.
“We just work hard on working hard,” Glendening said.
That’s exactly what the coaching staff wants out of those three forwards. Michigan coach Red Berenson uses the fourth line to spark a sometimes energy-sapped team. The line is also a critical part of the Wolverine penalty kill, which is 32-of-34 in its past three series.
Playing on the fourth line doesn’t seem like a role that requires a scoring touch or a knack for stick handling. So why does it matter that Fardig, Ciraulo and Glendening are filling those responsibilities?
The three have developed a rapport and turned a constantly rotating line — in terms of who plays and who’s scratched — into a reliable anchor on Michigan’s forward line chart.
“They’re in the lineup because they’re adding something every time they’re on the ice,” Berenson said. “And there’s the chemistry — they’ve got something to prove, they don’t play on the power play (and) they don’t get premium ice time on this team.
“But when they play, they play hard, and they add something to our team.”
Before the Bowling Green series two weekends ago, the fourth line often changed on a nightly basis. Those who were in the line’s rotation, including the three curently on the line, often got just one night of playing time in a two-game series. But when sophomore second-line center Matt Rust was a last-minute scratch due to sickness before the Saturday night game against the Falcons, Ciraulo was added to the lineup and something clicked.
Ciraulo’s line set up the game’s only goal midway through the second to salvage a split for the Wolverines against the CCHA basement dweller. As a result, the trio played in both games against Michigan State and will likely play in each contest against No. 1 Notre Dame this weekend.
“Those are the guys that are taking advantage and are helping push other players,” Berenson said. “We’ve got pretty good players not even dressing because these guys are working so hard and they’re helping our team win.”
Prior to the Great Lakes Invitational in late December, Ciraulo saw action in just two games.
“Ciraulo has been the odd man out most of the year,” Berenson said. “Then he played that game, scored a goal in the GLI and he looked good, and now we’ve given him another look and he’s taking advantage of it.”
Fardig, winding down the last few months of his Wolverine career, is playing some of his best hockey, according to Berenson and Pearson.
And Glendening, the youngest of the three by more than two years, is providing a combination of quickness and strength to the line.
“That’s why having a younger guy like Luke — who works so hard — is fun for an older guy like me,” Fardig said. “He’s young and full of energy and just tries to push you everyday.”
And that’s exactly what the fourth line does best for the Wolverines.
“You get certain guys who just want to work hard and that’s what we want, just (to) outwork everybody,” Fardig said.