Hockey: Freshman stands out with power shot

Ohio forward Michael Harris proves himself to be a force of nature by combining his large stature and power shot. During his freshman season, Harris led the team in scoring. (Daniel Kubus | Staff Photographer)

A “grinder” in hockey is a player more known for throwing around his body and less apt to put the puck in the back of the net.

That’s what coach Dan Morris thought he had when he brought in freshman Michael Harris from the North American Hockey League’s Fresno Monsters, where he paired three goals with eight assists in 35 games last season.

After scoring a team-high 20 goals and ranking second on the team with 38 points, he has proven himself to be much more than just a physical

“He’s exceeded our expectations,” Morris said. “We didn’t project him to be (the leading goal-scorer). We always knew he’d be a contributor, we just didn’t know he’d contribute this much. …We saw him as a grinder-type, but we’ll take (the offense) for sure.”

The robust stat sheet even took Harris, a native of Silver Spring, Md., by surprise.

“I wasn’t really expecting to do as well as I have,” Harris said. “…I figured myself more as a power forward because I’ve got a big body, heavy shot and a decent skill set. I didn’t think I was going to score as much as I did. And I thought I was going to have to use my body to create a lot of scoring chances and get in front of the net to score some dirty goals.”

Though he does score goals using his size, more emphasis has been focused on his powerful shot. Morris tells Harris that he shouldn’t have the puck on his stick during a game for more than four seconds because he’s more of a shooter than a playmaker.

“I know my role,” Harris said. “If the team needs me to score goals, then I need to score goals. I’m going to keep doing what I do: shooting the puck and skating as little as possible.”

And Morris also feels that some of Harris’ disadvantages in other facets of his game may have prevented him from seeing his scoring skills on earlier teams.

“He’s a big physical body with a good, hard shot,” Morris said. “His ability to put the puck in the back of the net has been overshadowed by some of his inadequacies defensively.”

After tryouts, senior Nick Rostek had no idea that Harris would be a major contributor on the offensive end. But after several practices, the freshman’s hard shot led Rostek to believe that Harris would have success.

“From the beginning, it’s been a trend to just give him the puck and let him shoot it,” Rostek said. “That’s what’s been working out for him.”

But what Morris has found most important in Harris’ game has been his ability to succeed on whatever line the coach has placed him on.

Harris scored a goal this past weekend against Oakland on a line with seniors Jay Mazzarella and Jonathan Pietramala, and had success on lines with senior Tyler Pilmore and Rostek earlier in the season.

“He’s very important because you never know (what could happen),” Rostek said. “Like, tomorrow I could go out and get injured and he could play with Pilmore and (Brett) Agnew. It’s very important to be able to play with anybody.”

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