Ann Arbor — Michigan junior forward Tyler Motte is about as selfless a player as they come.
Motte, along with linemates JT Compher and Kyle Connor — the devastating “CCM line” that has produced 67 of Michigan’s 131 goals since being paired together 25 games — are among the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, and he would sooner lobby for them to win than himself.
The Wolverines, the nation’s top-scoring team, are the No. 2 seed and face No. 3 Notre Dame Friday in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal in Cincinnati. It is the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012, and the Wolverines are coming off their first Big Ten title.
“It was nice to get that extra boost, that confidence, knowing we were probably in the NCAA Tournament anyway, but to knock the team out (Minnesota) that has knocked us out in the past, and finally put a trophy on the shelf for the seniors and for the rest of the guys in the room was really exciting for us,” Motte said of winning the Big Ten. “The extra confidence is something that we’ll need as well.”
Motte had been the Hobey frontrunner, but Connor caught fire and has been outstanding in recent weeks. If a player from Michigan wins, Motte will be thrilled.
“Recognition comes where it’s due whether I’m the guy or one of my teammates is, I’m always happy for those guys that win awards,” he said. “Being in the finals for the Hobey with two of my linemates, people say, ‘Are you going to start your own campaigns for it?’ I said I’ll be just as happy if one of those guys win it as myself.
“That award in particular is even more of a team award than some of the other ones. There’s no individual who could win an award of that caliber without the right teammates, the right coaches, and the right staff behind them.”
And if he were running their campaigns?
“He has got to be the best assist man in the country,” Motte said of Compher. “Kyle Connor might be the most dynamic and prolific scorer in the country. In the Big Ten with four goals Friday night, they just seemed casual. Teams think they have him in a spot he can’t do anything and he can put the puck into the net.”
And his campaign?
“I’d put my campaign efforts into those two,” Motte said, smiling. “I’ve just been happy to play with two great linemates.”
The CCM line has been an enormous boost for the Wolverines. For Motte, a junior who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, playing with Compher and Connor has been good for all three.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” Motte said. “For most of the season, us three being together clicked right from the start, just knowing where each other is on the ice and making plays and not really needing to think too much. We’re all knowledgeable players, we all know how to play the game the right way, play all three zones but really not having to overthink it. We kind of go out and play and let the pieces fall.”
If Motte were to campaign for himself, he might say he’s the team’s most well-rounded player who added playing with an edge and added intensity to his repertoire this season.
“I do try to be a very well-rounded player,” he said. “I take pride in the defensive zone just as much as I do the offensive zone. It’s just how I was always raised to try and do everything the right way. That’s something that’s contributed to my hockey, as well — take pride in even the little things and those things will add up to the larger things.”
Motte learned the game from his older brother, C.J. Motte, a goalie and Hobey Baker finalist from Ferris State.
“He’s really the reason I got into hockey,” Motte said. “Like any younger brother, you want to be like your older brother. Even tried to be a goalie before my parents wouldn’t let me. They said one goalie in the house was enough.”
What happens after this season is still up in the air for Motte. He has participated in summer development camps with the Blackhawks, but Motte said he is not yet thinking about whether he will leave Michigan early to pursue professional hockey.
“Being drafted was a great step in my career and the realization it could one day be my real first job and the one I really want to pursue,” he said. “Understanding that could potentially happen is special.
“I don’t try and think about it too much. Those things come after the season when you look back on the season you talk about what a great team you have and take some time to look back and reminisce and then look forward. That’s something I haven’t done yet and something I don’t plan to do for hopefully a couple weeks here. Let those pieces fall later on and put my focus on this team the next few weeks.”
He has high hopes for the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament.
“We all know we have a special group here and we can turn this into something very special,” Motte said. “Heading into the Tournament, it’s one or done, win or go home. There are no second chances, there’s no taking the option on anything. That’s kind of the glory of it. It makes everyone rise up and play to the best of their ability.”
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Faceoff: 5:30 Friday, U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati,
Records: Michigan 24-7-5, Notre Dame 19-10-7