October 19, 2006
Role Player? More Like "Rohlfs Player"

By James Jahnke

Michigan senior David Rohlfs probably doesn’t figure too prominently into Miami’s scouting report for this week’s big CCHA showdown in Ann Arbor.

But he does have four points through two games, which puts him on pace for something like ... the Hobey.

CCHA Notebook

Michigan's David Rohlfs has two goals in as many games this season, which matches his total from last season, when he appeared in 40 contests.

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Of course, more than a couple of his Wolverine teammates could say the same thing after the team hung 15 goals in wins over Alabama-Huntsville and Connecticut last weekend. But among the Big Blue’s big scorers, Rohlfs is the only one who’s been shuffled between forward and defenseman throughout his college career, always filling to role of “role player” while others star.

So far this season, he’s found a home on a line with T.J. Hensick and Kevin Porter, which, trust us, is a good place to be. Serving as their big-body, defensive-minded complement, Rohlfs picked up two goals and two assists against UAH and UConn. After scoring only two goals in 40 games last season and never eclipsing the 13 points he got as a freshman, Rohlfs almost apologized for his success last weekend.

“I’m just out there to support them and let them do what they do,” the 6-foot-3, 234-pounder said. “If I chip one in, that’s great.

“I know that if I make it easy on them by creating space or tying up two guys in the corner, they’ll find me. One of my goals, I was just standing in front of the net and T.J. got it to me and I tipped it in. And then T.J. is so fast, you can just get the puck up the ice to him and you have an assist.”

Rohlfs came to Michigan as a forward, but played defense in a pinch during the Great Lakes Invitational his sophomore season because the Wolverines had players at the world junior tournament. He went back to forward after that, but started his junior season on the blue line, then went back to forward late in the season. He’s entrenched up front now – “We have good depth, so it would take a lot of injuries for me to go back there,” he said – and he hopes his partnership with Hensick and Porter is permanent.

“My whole life, I’ve been taught that the team comes first,” Rohlfs said. “When I went back on D, I didn’t really know what was going on, but the coaches told me it was what the team needed. So I did it – just like a lot of guys here do what they can for the team.

“But this is fun. I like challenges. I don’t want to get too excited, because if I change my mind-set, I wouldn’t be doing the things that got me the goals, like being physical.”


Freshman foray: Joe Palmer had a strange opening weekend of college hockey, earning a 1-0 shutout in his debut, then losing a 7-6 decision the following night. The Ohio State freshman goalie had a bit of trouble maintaining an even keel against Lake Superior State.

“It was such an emotional high Friday night,” said Palmer, expected to be one of the best rookie netminders in the country. “The team plays well, you play well, you get a shutout. Then Saturday night comes, and you feel like you’re just as focused, but you get out on the ice, and it’s almost like you’re unfocused because you psyched yourself up so much.

“It was just one of those games where the puck hits you funny, and you can’t get a feel for the way the game’s going to go.”

Palmer played plenty of exhibitions against college programs as last year’s starter for the U.S. under-18 team, but he admitted the situation is different now.

“You’re in a league, fighting for points,” he said. “And you’re expected to win now. Last year, if you come in and play well and lose by a goal, it wasn’t that bad. But there are whole different expectations now.”

Another Buckeye newcomer, Tommy Goebel, scored the team’s only goal in Friday’s win. He transferred from Michigan State after the 2004-05 season.

Goebel and Palmer face a major challenge Friday and Saturday, as Minnesota heads to Columbus a week before its football team does the same. Rally towels will be distributed at Value City Arena, and the OSU band is slated to perform Script Ohio on the ice.

“Minnesota is a hockey superpower,” Palmer said.

Bronco Bustin': Western Michigan is tied for first place in the CCHA after last weekend’s split with Michigan State. And while the Broncos probably won’t be on top when March arrives, coach Jim Culhane likes his squad.

“We’re a work in progress to find out who we are,” Culhane said. “I’d like to see people walk out of our building and say we were well-prepared, disciplined and worked extremely hard. And I thought we were solid in those areas this weekend.

“I don’t know if we have a 20-goal scorer sitting in the locker room right now, but that’s why you play the games. We’ll find out over the next couple of months.”

Having lost offensive mainstay Brent Walton – a 20-goal scorer the last two seasons – to graduation, most preseason prognostications had the Broncos in the CCHA cellar. Perhaps Sunday’s home victory over MSU is a signal of better things for the program. Or maybe it was just Lawson Arena magic. WMU is 6-2-1 in its last nine home games against the Spartans.


Great Weekend Getaway
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Maverick Stampede (Fri.-Sat.)
Boy, what a weekend it will be in CCHA barns, including the big RedHawk/Wolverine tilts in Ann Arbor. But you can’t beat the quantity of good hockey in Omaha, where the annual Maverick Stampede has a decent field that could result in an intraleague final. Northern Michigan plays UMass Lowell in the opener, and host UNO faces Niagara in the other semifinal. Keep an eye on Niagara’s Ted Cook and Les Reaney. They’re the real deal.

While You’re There: For some reason, there seems to be a correlation between hockey folks and country music. These people will be happy to know that Rascal Flatts is in town Thursday night at the Qwest Center

Stick Salute

Ferris State sophomore J.T. Dahlinger must be a big man on campus. Not only did he have a goal and two assists in last weekend’s sweep of Mercyhurst, but he freakin’ wrote “The Catcher in the Rye.”

Bench Minor

To the CCHA’s nonconference scheduling last weekend. Of eight teams in action outside the league, five took on squads from the CHA or Atlantic Hockey. Haven’t seen that many cupcakes since looking at Wisconsin’s football schedule.

• Can’t wait for all the nonconference action this weekend. On the slate: Notre Dame and Bowling Green head to Boston College and Providence for a game against each, Minnesota visits Ohio State for a set, Alaska hosts the first half of the Governor’s Cup series against Alaska Anchorage, Lake Superior State plays two at Clarkson, and Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Michigan are in the Maverick Stampede field along with Niagara and UMass Lowell.

• The Notre Dame vs. Providence game should be interesting, as Paul Pooley, who coached the Friars for 11 seasons, returns to PC as a second-year assistant with the Irish. ... Minnesota will be the first WCHA team to play OSU at Value City Arena, which opened in 1999. (Of course, several WCHA teams have played in the VCA. Remember the 2005 Frozen Four?)

• For all of you whose chests swell with CCHA pride, here are the Commissioners’ Cup games with pertinence to the league this weekend: UAA at UAF (Fri.), Minnesota at OSU (Fri.), BGSU at Providence (Fri.), Notre
Dame at Providence (Sat.) and LSSU at Clarkson (Sat.). Go, team, go!

• Miami senior forward Matt Christie is expected to play against Michigan after sitting out three games for precautionary reasons with a “very minor” upper-body injury, according to a team official. That’s good news because the RedHawks have lost 19 straight games at Yost Ice Arena, and are 2-40-1 there overall.

• Notre Dame just started a stretch of seven straight games away from home. On the other hand, Alaska is opening with seven straight home games (if you count its exhibition against Western Ontario). The last time the Nanooks opened with seven in a row in Fairbanks was 1993-94, coach Tavis MacMillan’s senior season.

• INCH spoke with Palmer moments after the team’s picture was taken. “I jelled my hair up a little,” he said.

• Notre Dame defenseman Luke Lucyk, who played 44 games over the past two years with the Fighting Irish, has decided to spend this season with Tri-City in the USHL, then return to South Bend as a junior next year. ND loses several upperclassman defenders after this season, and coach Jeff Jackson reportedly supported Lucyk’s decision.

• Ferris State has been swarmed over with injuries, including serious problems for seniors Mark Bomersback (broken leg) and Jeremy Scherlinck (knee). “It’s been one thing after another,” FSU coach Bob Daniels said. “It’s almost been like a playoff run with a rash of injuries to key players, and it’s only October. I’m hoping something positive will come out of this. We played the heck out of our freshmen (against Union) – in crucial situations – and I was buoyed by some of the things I saw from them. We went into the season not really knowing what we had with our freshman class, but we came out of the weekend thinking, ‘Hey, maybe we have a little more than we thought.’”

• Miami fired 64 shots on goal during Saturday’s 3-1 win over Canisius. The school record for SOGs is 83, set against Cincinnati’s club team on Oct. 20, 1978 – Miami’s first game as a varsity program.

• Alaska set a school record with six power-play goals (in 10 chances) during Saturday’s 8-4 win over Air Force.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report