Jeff Rohrkemper cut his spring break short last week, coming back to Ann Arbor early to work on his shot — and that extra work paid off this weekend.

With Michigan leading Lake Superior State 1-0 on Saturday, junior defenseman Chad Langlais carried the puck into the Lakers’ zone with Rohrkemper skating with him. When the puck was deflected away from Langlais by a defenseman, Rohrkemper was there to put the puck in the top right corner of the net for his first career goal.

“Obviously you wish the first one comes a little bit earlier in the season, but it was exciting to score a big goal in a big game for us,” Rohrkemper said.

The freshman walk-on has appeared in 13 games this season, including both games this past weekend. Rohrkemper did play in four straight games in series against Ohio State and Notre Dame in early December, but he hadn’t recorded a point until Saturday.

Rohrkepmer has seen his action on the fourth line this season, and Michigan coach Red Berenson has made it clear what he wants out of his fourth line — to not be minus.

“Not scoring,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “He was brought here with the idea that he would add some penalty killing, defensive specialist type of role on our team. And any scoring is a bonus. … Really, his role on our team is to be a good solid defensive player, who you know if you get the chance, chip one in, but make sure you kill penalties and be a plus player.”

The Grosse Pointe native has been smack dab in the middle of a rotating fourth line all season. But after winter break, fellow freshman forward Lindsay Sparks started scoring and has only missed two series since then.

But Rohrkemper is a different style player from Sparks and one that might fit exactly what Berenson is looking for on the fourth line. He’s a defensive-minded forward.

Rohrkemper has had to make his impression in practice due to a lack of playing time. And that’s where he has made an impact with the coaches. The coaches saw that Rohrkemper would be good away from the puck in the offensive zone to complement his defensive play, so they decided to give him a chance with playing time.

“Those (fourth-line players) work hard every week, and they don’t know if they’re going to play or not on the weekend,” Berenson said. “Maybe they didn’t play that poor but our team didn’t play that well. So there’s things they can’t control. But the one thing they can control is their effort and their honest play when they play and sometimes it shows up in goals.”

One thing that both Rohrkemper and Pearson admitted the freshman needed to work on was building strength. With added strength in his lower body and improved skating, Rohrkemper would match up better defensively with the physical offensive talent around the CCHA.

Pearson also added that though Rohrkemper hadn’t seen much time on the penalty kill so far, he will get playing time on the unit in the future. That’s Rohrkemper’s bread and butter — the goals are just gravy.

“In fairness to Jeff, he hasn’t played a lot, and even in the games he played, he hasn’t played a lot,” Berenson said. “And I don’t base his game on whether or not he scores. He’s an honest two-way player and he showed that given a chance, with a loose puck, he can score as well as anyone else. Good for him and good for our team.”

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