COLUMBUS — Junior defenseman Lee Moffie is a steadfast member of the Michigan hockey team’s defensive corps.
He leads the Wolverines in plus/minus points with a plus-15, as well as assists, with 16. But this weekend, he was able to add his name to the box score in a different way — with a goal.
Moffie capitalized on a rebound from freshman forward Alex Guptill 10 minutes into the first period, giving Michigan the all-important first goal. The goal set the tone for the rest of night, leading to Michigan’s 4-0 shutout victory over No. 2 Ohio State (10-4-1-1 CCHA, 14-5-3 overall).
“It’s important that the offense isn’t always coming from the forwards,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Lee is very opportunistic.”
Since the return of sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill, Moffie has found himself a new skating partner, and the pairing seems to be working very well so far. The duo have tallied six points in the past three games,
“I think there’s some stability there (between Merrill and Moffie),” Berenson said. “(Moffie’s) got to work hard and back up Jonny Merrill, and vice versa. It’s been a good pair for us.”
Even though that particular pair has been particularly active recently, Moffie insists the whole defense as a whole is improving.
“Especially on the bench, there’s a lot of good talk between the ‘D,’ ” Moffie said. “We’re communicating a lot and getting the puck out of the zone. That’s the key.”
POWER-PLAY PRODUCTION?: The topic of the power play has been something of a sore topic for Michigan.
Throughout the season, the team has only been converting on 15 percent of its power plays — a frustrating statistic for the Wolverines (7-6-4-1, 13-8-4), who have seen their fair share of man-up advantages.
But Friday night in Michigan’s 2-0 win over Ohio State, broke the bad luck — sort of.
Ohio State took its first penalty of the night with 16 minutes left in the final frame. Just as time expired, junior forward A.J. Treais took a slap shot from the top of the circle to sneak the puck past Buckeye netminder Cal Heeter.
OK, so it technically didn’t count as a power-play goal for the Wolverines. And until the end of the game, Berenson didn’t know that either. But in his eyes, Treais’ goal was the most productive he’s seen the power-play unit in a long while.
“It may as well have been (a power-play goal),” Berenson said. “I think we handled the puck better, we executed a little better. We haven’t scored a lot of those, it’s a good sign.”
NO LONGER FROZEN: All week, Berenson and the team have been downplaying the importance of the marquee event of the weekend: The Frozen Diamond Faceoff.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the glamour and excitement of an outdoor game, but the Wolverines didn’t forget that one game stood between them and Progressive Field — an away game in Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
But Michigan can breathe a little easier, at least for the meantime, as they soak in their victory over the Buckeyes.
“Coach had us stressing a lot in practice (about the first game),” Moffie said. “Our main goal was this Friday and we’ll enjoy it until maybe midnight, and then we’ll focus on Sunday.”
Berenson recognizes that the next 24 hours will bring a lot of media attention to the game, especially after Michigan’s shutout win. Though he didn’t want to dwell on Friday’s triumph too much, the high-pressure aspect of the series is over. All that stands between the Wolverines and the Frozen Diamond Faceoff is a light skate on Saturday afternoon and time getting accustomed to the outdoor rink and the feel of the ice.
Michigan is no stranger to outdoor games — they’ve played three in as many years. But with the snowy weather that has blown into Ohio this weekend, Berenson thinks this one will have have a different feel to it.
“There’s going to be a lot of talk about (the outdoor game),” Berenson said. “Those games have a life of their own. I’m sure this one on Sunday will be a big winter affair.”