NOTRE DAME Michigan freshman Michael Woodford was hoping to score a goal or two during the break to help his team while its top players were, playing in the World Junior Championships.
He ended up scoring five.
The Wolverines did not have the offensive drought that was expected instead, the team averaged more goals over the four-game stretch (4.0) than it did before the break (3.4).
The biggest reason for this was the play of freshmen Woodford, Milan Gajic and David Moss. Placed on the same line in the GLI for the first time this season, the three combined for eight goals and seven assists over the four-game span.
“We knew we would be playing together after the Michigan Tech game,” Gajic said. “We played well in practice all week, and we were just hoping that our success would carry over for us.”
“They are getting more confidence,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The GLI was good for that line. It is important to us that they all play better in the second half. We have a lot more confidence in our freshmen now.”
Prior to the winter break, the three had not made their presence felt. Moss, who played in all 18 of Michigan”s games, had recorded just one goal and three assists. Woodford, meanwhile, had 17 games under his belt, but just six assists. The two had been playing together before, but their line was centered by Dwight Helminen.
Gajic, who had been playing on the second line with John Shouneyia and Jason Ryznar, had slightly more success than the other two, with seven points in 15 games. But he had not shown the offensive prowess that the coaches felt he was capable of displaying.
But over the break, the floodgates opened.
“Woodford obviously had some big goals for us,” Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “That whole line with Gajic and Moss played real well. They played well in their own end, and they were a big plus for us in the offensive zone.”
“Woodford has a lot more confidence, as does Gajic,” Berenson said. “Gajic has a role at center now, so our decision now will be to keep him at center, or move him to the wing. I think he could play both.”
Although Gajic”s position may not be clear, one thing certainly is. If the three keep scoring throughout the second half of the season, the extra depth will give Michigan a much more threatening offense. Instead of just two lines with scoring potential, the Wolverines could possibly have three or four.
With the whole team back, Berenson must decide whether to keep the line together, or return to the lines he used before the break.
Shouneyia not slowing down: With two assists in Michigan”s 2-1 win over Notre Dame Saturday night, John Shouneyia passed Mike Cammalleri for the team lead in points with 25.
What”s important to him and the coaches, though, is that he is developing into a consistent offensive weapon for the Wolverines. Not only has he scored seven goals this season, but also he has improved the play of those around him by recording 18 assists. He has also notched at least one point in 13 of his last 15 games.
“It is encouraging for me, as a coach, to watch Shouneyia develop into not only one of our best players, but also one of the leaders on this team,” Berenson said.
First time for everything: Friday night”s 3-3 tie against Notre Dame was the first time Michigan has not won after holding a two-goal lead at some point during the game. The Wolverines are now 11-0-1 in games which they led by more than one goal.