DETROIT — With two top-tier skaters playing in the World Junior Championships and absent from the Great Lakes Invitational — freshman defenseman Jon Merrill and sophomore forward Chris Brown — Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson knew he had a few key holes to fill.
But with a hole in the top defensive pairing and on one of his most productive offensive lines left by Merrill and Brown, Berenson plugged a few lesser-known skaters in and hoped for a little productivity.
What he got was more like a late holiday blessing from the hockey gods — a goal-scoring conglomerate made up of names that aren’t normally expected to grace the box score, or that have been quieted this season.
The real surprise of the tournament came in the form of junior forward Luke Glendening, who entered the tournament with two goals to his name, one of which was a dribbler from the side boards that somehow hopped into the net against Ohio State on Dec. 4. He took home the Tournament MVP honors after scoring three goals in the two games.
Always a humble player, Glendening admitted that he never expected to produce like that at the Joe Louis Arena, but said that “every once in a while, it’s nice to help the team out.”
In Michigan’s 4-2 semifinal victory over Michigan Tech, the goals came from four players who had combined for just a handful of goals through the first three months of the season before the GLI.
The first two to beat the Huskies’ goaltender, Josh Robinson, were sophomore forwards Lindsay Sparks and Jeff Rohrkemper, both of whom registered their first goals of the season.
Sparks was playing in his seventh game of the season while Rohrkemper was on the ice for just the third time on Wednesday.
“Rohrkemper looked like a goal-scorer on that one, but Sparks’s goal, you could have put that one in, I think,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson joked after Wednesday’s game. “But still, it’s important to get some confidence and to get going.
“It was good to see them get the monkey off their backs and score. It was good to see those guys step up and score important goals.”
In the GLI Championship Game against Colorado College (12-9-1) on Thursday, it was another new name that came up big for the Wolverines. This time it was sophomore defenseman Lee Moffie who chipped in, netting his first goal this season.
After the Tigers scored twice within a minute in the third period to take a 5-4 lead, Moffie got time on the power play primarily because of Merrill’s absence and deadlocked the game.
Although Moffie prefaced his post-game comments by saying, “I was basically coming off one of the worst power play shifts of my life” before scoring the game-tying goal, Berenson couldn’t have been happier with the young players’ showing as a whole.
“If you look around this tournament, it’s amazing how many players who scored their first goal … not just on our team, but on other teams in the tournament,” Berenson said.
Of the 10 Michigan (12-5-4) goals in the pair of games, eight different players registered a point, and only one of them was among the team’s top 10 point-getters this season.
“We needed some secondary scoring, because our top scorers are sometimes nullified by the other team.” Berenson said.
Berenson got just what he asked for, and quickly.
The scoring from unexpected sources presented itself for the Wolverines within the first minute of play in the title game against Colorado College. Senior forward Ben Winnett, a scratch from the lineup the previous night, whacked home a rebound just 39 seconds into the game for his third goal of the season.
And on Thursday, Michigan needed help from its secondary players down the stretch as the Tigers matched them step for step the entire way.
But Moffie and sophomore forward A.J. Treais — who capped off the victory in the final six minutes — provided that late-game spark that the Wolverines were looking for.