Sophomore Anthony Ciraulo has spent much of his college hockey career waiting.
First, there was the two years toiling in the junior-level North American Hockey League for a spot on the roster. A spot that only came last season after a highly touted recruit signed a pro contract just weeks before the season began.
Once Ciraulo made it on the Michigan roster, he had to wait longer. The 21-year old freshman didn’t see game action until Dec. 1, 10 games into the season.
When Ciraulo got a permanent spot in the lineup Dec. 10, he played a solid supporting role in Michigan’s final 23 games. The 5-foot-6 center impressed his coaches and teammates with his quick play and effective forecheck, though he tallied just two points for the season.
After junior Danny Fardig broke his knuckle blocking a shot last Friday against Nebraska-Omaha, Ciraulo’s experience, though limited, made him the logical replacement as the fourth-line center.
So if Fardig can’t play tonight and Ciraulo gets into the lineup for the CCHA matchup against Alaska at Yost Ice Arena, Ciraulo’s eight-game absence from the lineup won’t have been all that long in the grander scheme.
“When (Ciraulo) came to Michigan, he knew he wouldn’t be in the starting lineup until he proved to everyone that he could take someone’s job and compete at this level,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And it took him half a year to do that last year.”
Ciraulo was a bit sluggish in practice early in the week, Berenson said. But he has picked up the intensity each day, making the coach more comfortable to put him into the lineup this weekend.
“Every practice has to be like a game for me so I’m ready to go when my time comes,” Ciraulo said.
This season has been harder for the Clinton Township native because he knew it would be difficult to break into a lineup with depth at forward.
“It’s really tough when you’re not playing,” sophomore Brian Lebler said. “Your confidence isn’t very high and your school work seems like it’s that much harder. Everything is just slower.”
Lebler is Ciraulo’s roommate, so he knows first hand how hard watching has been for Ciraulo this season. Still, Ciraulo hasn’t gotten down and works hard in every practice, Lebler said.
If Ciraulo does make it into the lineup this weekend, he will likely see some time on the penalty kill. Ciraulo’s quickness and intelligence make him well suited to counter the opposing teams power play.
But there are no guarantees for Ciraulo.
Fardig wants to play this weekend, despite the cast on his right hand, and if he does, Ciraulo’s wait will stretch on longer, perhaps for the entire season. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s meaningless to the team. Ciraulo knows his role is to work hard in practice – to contribute even if no one is watching.
“I just try my hardest on every shift and every little thing,” Ciraulo said. “Trying to make our top guys better, and, of course, playing with the guys we have, making me better.”