It didn’t take Luke Moffatt long to decide that Ann Arbor was the place for him. And it didn’t take Michigan coach Red Berenson any longer to discover Moffatt’s passion.
When Moffatt, now a freshman on the No. 11 Michigan hockey team, lifted a back-hand high over the shoulder of Ohio State goaltender Cal Heeter midway through the first period on Saturday, he spun with a relieved smile to greet his teammates. It was Moffatt’s first goal at home this season — but it certainly wasn’t his first style point at Yost Ice Arena.
Three years ago, the then-15-year-old from Paradise Valley, Ariz. strode into Berenson’s office in the bowels of Yost’s old barn with one goal in mind — to become a Wolverine, and to do it in true Clark Kent fashion.
As the meeting came to a close, Berenson told the high school sophomore that he could have as much time as he needed to make a decision regarding the scholarship Michigan was offering him.
But Moffatt didn’t need another second. He stood up and pulled off his sweater to expose a maize Michigan shirt underneath.
“I had it all planned out … I just said, ‘Coach, I want to be a Wolverine,’ ” Moffatt said Monday. “(Berenson) was pretty happy.”
Hailing from the Southwest, the seventh-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche knew all along that his next step in hockey would be far from Arizona.
Moffatt moved to Ann Arbor to join the U.S. National Development Program the following year — Michigan was that next step.
“You’ve really got to go to hockey places if you want to succeed in hockey,” Moffatt said. “Arizona is great hockey, nothing against it, but I had to move on at some point.”
After turning down Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other hockey powerhouses for a chance with the Wolverines, Moffatt still had something left to prove — hockey players are at a premium in Arizona, but they’re a dime a dozen in the American hockey heartland.
“I was one of the top dogs in Arizona, but now I was coming out to the Midwest and out East where it’s more of a hockey hotbed,” Moffatt said. “There are a lot of good players out here, and I was really wondering how I compared with them, and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to hold my own with them.”
In Moffatt’s first sixth months at Michigan, it’s been the coaching staff who has been pleasantly surprised.
To Berenson and his assistants, Moffatt has turned from just a highly-touted recruit into the Wolverines’ leading freshman forward. He’s 11th on the team in points, with four goals and eight assists in 26 games.
“He’s in the mix,” Berenson said Monday. “He battles hard on loose pucks. He’s strong on the puck and it was good to see him show a little skill around the net, because he is a goal scorer, we just haven’t seen that side of him yet.”
After alternating starts with freshman wingers Derek DeBlois and Jacob Fallon, who was dismissed from the team in January, Moffatt earned a regular spot in the starting lineup by asserting himself on both ends of the ice.
“The thing I liked about Moffatt was his work ethic,” Berenson said. “He’s learning every day, he’s competing hard and he’s showing strength beyond a freshman. When he gets on the puck he’s able to ward off some of these … stronger defensemen. Moffatt was one forward who handled that well.
“We’ve got other guys getting knocked on their can, but not Luke Moffatt.”
The freshman is a regular Superman — he doesn’t have to hide his Michigan t-shirt anymore.