Excepting goaltenders, no one with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team has blocked more shots over the last four-plus seasons than Tyler Inamoto.

But Inamoto and his 260 career blocked shots weren’t on the ice with the game in the balance last week because of injury, taking UW’s defensive mainstay out from the kind of situation where he’s often used.

The Badgers defense didn’t buckle, with one of the newcomers to the unit filling Inamoto’s shot-blocking role quite well.

Altoona native Daniel Laatsch made himself into a big presence with UW protecting a one-goal lead against Army last Thursday and in a penalty killing situation late in a 0-0 game Friday.

The freshman made an unorthodox but effective block on the Black Knights’ returning leading scorer, second-team All-American Colin Bilek, in the series opener and two more a day later.

“He’s played four games of college hockey now and holy cow,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “His confidence, his poise, his game recognition, his knowing how to use his teammates, it’s a heck of a game for him.”

The poise Laatsch is showing belies the internal worries about stepping into a bigger role in NCAA hockey, he said.

“I’m trying to be comfortable. It’s pretty hard at first,” he said. “But I’m trying to just stick to my strengths and do those the best I can. Whatever happens, if I make a mistake, it happens. I let it go and just keep going.”

Injuries to Mike Vorlicky and now Inamoto have put freshmen defensemen Laatsch, Corson Ceulemans and Jake Martin in more key situations early in the season.

Vorlicky hasn’t played because of a lower-body injury that could keep him out for a long stretch of the season. Inamoto is probably out for this week’s non-conference series at No. 3 St. Cloud State, Granato said.

Associate head coach Mark Osiecki, who works with UW’s defensemen, said before the season his advice to the newcomers was not to worry about the growing pains.

“You’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “You’re going to look bad at different times. Who cares? Dust yourself off and learn. It’s not a big deal.”

That’s not a natural instinct, Laatsch said.

“I’m usually pretty hard on myself,” he said. “But I’ve been working at it just to be able to forget it — or try to forget it and at least just not let it affect me the rest of the game.”

Laatsch had his hands full with Bilek in the final minutes of both games against Army. As Army skated with an extra attacker Thursday, he was trying to get his stick in the way before the senior released a shot from the left circle. His long reach only set him down on the ice awkwardly.

It was still enough for Laatsch to get in the way of the puck, and he then swept it over for Roman Ahcan to send out of the zone. Owen Lindmark intercepted a pass seconds later and scored into an empty net to seal UW’s first victory of the season.

“I was in the way so I wasn’t going to move,” Laatsch said of his seated block. “I’ll just take one. It didn’t feel the greatest, but that’s all right.”

Laatsch was sent out to start a penalty kill with defensive partner Anthony Kehrer and forwards Tarek Baker and Owen Lindmark with 4:18 remaining in a tie game Friday. Kehrer and Baker got in the way of the first two Army shot attempts before the Black Knights pushed things to Bilek on the right side of the ice.

Laatsch blocked two attempts 11 seconds apart, one while down on a knee and the other while standing. Baker scored on a short-handed breakaway deep into the shift as the Badgers escaped with a 1-0 victory.

“I think we have a pretty good D corps and I think anybody can go out there and do what I did,” Laatsch said. “But I’m honestly very happy to be in the position I am. I’m just going to keep trying to do what I can do and hopefully I keep getting put out in those moments.”