The Michigan hockey team knew that it would need players to step up in the absence of its departed starters over winter break. The coaches were looking in the direction of their captains to fill the void, but they knew that some of the scoring slack would have to be picked up by freshmen.
It came as no surprise when Michael Woodford and Milan Gajic stepped up their scoring over the break. But the Michigan coaches did not expect freshman walk-on Charlie Henderson to provide some of the offensive firepower.
Henderson emerged over the winter break to earn a spot on a line with veterans John Shouneyia and Mark Mink. The first sign of his potential came against Harvard when he scored his first career goal to give Michigan the lead in the third period.
“I just got an opportunity to get in there and show what I can do,” said Henderson, an East Lansing native. “I”ve had some help from my teammates, and they help me to play. Luckily I”ve been able to play well and get some help.”
Henderson then continued to play above expectations by notching a goal and an assist in the GLI, putting together a three-game point scoring streak. He was rewarded for his effort and his hard work when he was placed on the top line for the Notre Dame series.
Henderson continued to display the hard work that put him on the line against the Fighting Irish and assisted on Mink”s game-winning goal Saturday.
While it was the first time the freshman has received significant playing time, it is not his first break. When he got his acceptance letter from Michigan, there were no open spots on the Michigan roster. But the departure of Andy Hilbert forced the coaches to give an open casting call for an extra forward.
Henderson”s speed, grit and on-ice awareness impressed the coaching staff enough to award him the last spot in the lineup. His hard work and willingness to do the dirty work on the ice has been a hallmark of his playing style in practice.
“It was great to see him walk onto the team and with hard work, show what he could do,” said associate head coach Mel Pearson. “There were no guarantees made to him, and I think that is the most satisfying thing about seeing his success.”
His recent performance has ensured that his hard work will also be able to be seen in games. While the coaching staff has not designed a lineup for this weekends series against Alaska-Fairbanks, they did say that it will be hard to leave Henderson out of the lineup with him playing as well as he has been.