In 19 games this season, junior Luke Moffatt hadn't scored. Then in the last five contests, he's netted three markers. The Wolverines need Moffatt, and other underperforming players, to step up big if they're to make any run in the final six weeks of the season.
"We need everyone able to make a difference," head coach Red Berenson said.
Moffatt began the year with 11 career goals in 76 games, contributing far less than expected of the talented forward. But this was to be his breakout campaign. He would receive a regular shift on the power play, and as a top-two-line talent, he would see the ice more than ever before.
"Luke was not a proven 20-goal scorer; it's not like he was expected to score that many but he was expected to add to our offensive firepower," Berenson said.
Instead of flourishing, however, Moffatt languished game after game without putting a puck in the net. He chipped in with eight assists in the first 19 games, but didn't do what he was recruited to do - score goals. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native tried to focus on his defensive efforts, but that suffered too as he stood minus-3 after 19 contests.
"I think there were some games he played pretty well, and some other games he played really poorly," Berenson said. "Sometimes, when you're pressing for goals, you might start cheating for offense, and now the puck starts going in against you and you're a minus player night after night, and that's not going to work."
Moffatt finally got on the scoreboard with a deflection goal in a 5-1 loss to Bowling Green Jan. 8. Still, he was on the ice for three goals against and finished minus-2 on the night.
However, that marker seemed to junpstart the 6-0, 198-pounder, and he netted a pair of goals and had an assist in Michigan's 6-4 win over Lake Superior State Jan. 18, as the Wolverines snapped a three-game losing streak.
"I was having a tough start, a little snake bit, not that I wasn't playing well but pucks weren't bouncing for me so it was great to get a goal against Bowling Green and get the monkey off my back," he said.
"And now to be blessed to get a couple more, and a great win too. I was pretty happy. I was thanking God for helping me out. A lot of prayers got answered."
Moffatt does not stand alone in the underachieving category. In fact, outside of freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba, who leads all CCHA defenders with eight goals and 16 points, almost every other Wolverine on the team has done less than expected, including senior center A.J. Treais, who has tallied just two markers in his last 11 games.
But Treais at least started hot, with nine goals in his first 12 contests. Sophomores Alex Guptill (six goals) and Phil Di Giuseppe (four), senior Lindsay Sparks (four) and junior Derek DeBlois (three) were all expected to score in double digits, with Guptill and Di Giuseppe each possessing 20-goal potential. No one will come close to living up to season-long expectations, but they can finish strong, giving U-M a chance to overcome its dreadful play thus far.
"There are a lot of guys that have been struggling, and have sort of lost some confidence because they haven't done what was expected of them," senior forward Kevin Lynch said. "And then it's a battle to get that confidence back and to start playing the way you're capable of. But guys are trying. They're putting the past in the past, and trying to buy into this idea that we've got a second chance.
"Luke was someone that took advantage of that last weekend, and he's a guy that could get going and really help us down the stretch. We need more than Luke, but maybe if one guy gets going it will get a few other guys going too."
Tonight's game is at 7:05 p.m. and can be seen on Comcast with Saturday's 7:35 p.m. start slated to be aired by Fox Sports.