There are two reasons freshman first-line forward Max Pacioretty has gone relatively unnoticed so far this season: his linemates.

Kevin Porter is leading the country in scoring with 26 points.

And alternate captain Chad Kolarik is third in the country with 22 of his own.

Pacioretty? He just scored his fourth and fifth goals in the Michigan hockey team’s 4-2 win over Ohio State Saturday.

His linemates have tallied flashier statistics, and the New Canaan, Conn., native isn’t even the team’s highest-scoring freshman.

But it’d be incorrect to say Pacioretty, who towers over the two 5-foot-11 seniors by at least three inches, hasn’t played an integral part in Porter and Kolarik’s career-best seasons.

“He’s a complementary player,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “He’s given the line some size and physical presence.”

OK, physical presence might be a slight understatement.

“He bangs everything that moves,” Kolarik repeated multiple times. “He creates so much space for Porter and me.”

Between his YouTube-worthy big hits, jawing after the whistle and team-leading 11 penalties (equivalent to spending half a game in the penalty box), there’s no doubt that Pacioretty is a bruiser.

With Porter and Kolarik marked men facing up against other teams’ top lines, Pacioretty’s presence has helped the top line score 32 of Michigan’s 66 goals.

“We’re both a little more offensive and when we have more room it helps us out a ton,” Porter said. “The bigger he is and the more room he takes up, it gets us a little bit more room to move around the offensive zone.”

His hard-hitting style made a particularly big statement in Michigan’s series against Alaska. In the closing minutes of the game, Kolarik was hit hard on a cheap shot in the neutral zone. Not a blink of the eye later, Pacioretty was defending the alternate captain.

“To stick up for a teammate . I respect that so much,” Kolarik said. “He was the first guy in there and laid a couple of bombs on him. I know if he didn’t have a broken wrist at the time he would’ve fought him for sure.”

The referees issued Pacioretty a double minor and game misconduct for the retaliation.

“He doesn’t have to be told,” Berenson said. “He knows to stick up for his teammates.”

The freshman’s style of play made him stand out to Berenson as the team’s “most physical forward every night,” but the first-round draft pick’s goal-scoring ability didn’t kick in until the season’s sixth game, when Michigan faced Boston University.

Playing with a cast on his broken wrist, Pacioretty was the last of the six freshman forwards to register a goal in the Maize and Blue.

But Pacioretty hasn’t stopped scoring since then, and his shot and stick handling look more confident with the cast off, according to Berenson. Pacioretty is now fourth on the team in scoring with 15 points – five goals and 10 assists.

This week, he was named CCHA Rookie of the Month for November.

“He’s been a good two-way player as a freshman, to be able to come in and play (on the first line),” Berenson said. “Think about it. Porter’s line every night plays against the other team’s top line, and Max has been able to hold his own in that department defensively as well as offensively.”

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