It has been a difficult assignment handed to University of Wisconsin forwards Jarod Zirbel and Jason Dhooghe so far this season.
They have been the ones playing as the 13th forward, a role made possible by an NCAA rule change this season that allows teams to dress 19 skaters instead of 18. But without being on a line of their own, they have been called on for spot shifts and quick bursts of penalty killing energy.
The Badgers and the Huskies play at the Kohl Center on Friday and Saturday.
When you're called on infrequently, you come off the bench cold. Still, the 14th-ranked Badgers say they have received exactly what they've asked of Zirbel and Dhooghe.
"Whenever I hear my name called, my goal and my mindset before I go out is just do something out there," said Dhooghe, a sophomore who made his first appearance of the season in last Saturday's 7-1 victory at St. Lawrence.
"You don't get many opportunities. I had maybe one or two in the first period, and as the game went on I got more shifts. But my thought process is, whatever time you're on the ice, make something happen because you never know what can happen."
Zirbel, a senior, played as the 13th forward in the first three games as the Badgers' four lines have become consistent units.
"For me, I just picture it as the next guy in, doing whatever I can do to help," he said. "If that means the 13th guy needs to be talking on the bench, getting guys going, that's going to be my role and that's what I'm going to do."
Usage of the 19th skater has been mixed around college hockey so far. In the Big Ten Conference, Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan State have used the spot for an extra defenseman. Like UW, Ohio State has used it for an extra forward. Michigan and Notre Dame have tried both.
The Badgers might be in position to use the spot for a defenseman in Friday night's game against Michigan Tech at the Kohl Center. Defenseman Peter Tischke missed practice this week until Thursday with a foot injury, and if he's in the lineup Friday, Granato signaled that UW would dress seven defensemen to cover for the potential that Tischke's on-ice role would be limited.
Caught on video
Badgers senior wing Will Johnson discusses the series against Michigan Tech:
Three more things
• Tischke appeared to be injured in the second period at St. Lawrence when he went awkwardly into the boards. Once he returned, the injury didn't seem to adversely affect his time on the ice. Over the final 29:25 of the game, he played 14 shifts for a total of 10:39. The senior captain has missed only one game since Granato took over, a March 4, 2017, loss at Penn State because of a lower-body injury. Granato said Thursday that Tischke was going to try to play on Friday.
• A shift in defensive pairs for last Saturday's game put freshmen and former USA Hockey National Team Development Program teammates K'Andre Miller and Ty Emberson together. Emberson hasn't been flashy in his first four collegiate games but has made a good impression on the coaches. "Ty's been quietly exceptional in his first four games," Granato said. "He's been really solid. He's been way more physical and confident with that part of the game than most freshmen."
• Former Badgers goalie Matt Jurusik is making his return to the Kohl Center this weekend as a member of the Huskies. He didn't play in his new team's first two games of the season because of an injury, but he could see time this weekend. Jurusik left UW to return to the USHL before the 2017-18 season when Kyle Hayton made a graduate transfer to the Badgers. Jurusik played in 50 games over two seasons at UW, going 17-23-7 with a 3.53 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.
Put it in quotes
Badgers wing Sean Dhooghe, on how UW plays a Michigan Tech team that can grind down opponents:
"We grind back. At the end of the day, our game doesn't change regardless of who we play. We know they're going to come in blazing hot, hitting, just in our face everywhere we go. So I think (we) return the favor — that's the way we like to play, too. It's going to be a battle, but we're up for the challenge."
Here's our projection of the Badgers' lineup for Friday:
Max Zimmer - Seamus Malone - Will Johnson
Linus Weissbach - Tarek Baker - Sean Dhooghe
Matthew Freytag - Mick Messner - Jack Gorniak
Roman Ahcan - Dominick Mersch - Brock Caufield
Wyatt Kalynuk - Tyler Inamoto
Josh Ess - Peter Tischke
K'Andre Miller - Ty Emberson
Extra defenseman: Jesper Peltonen
Starting goalie: Jack Berry