October 27, 2012
Michigan drops critical weekend matchup against Miami
It was there for the taking.
Up a goal early in the final stanza of a game that would have given them a weekend sweep against arguably their biggest competition for the CCHA crown, a brief defensive lapse proved monumental in a 4-3 loss to No. 3 Miami (Ohio) Saturday night.
The Red Hawks scored twice in 18 seconds, first when sophomore third-liner Jimmy Mullin snapped a quick wrister by freshman goaltender Jared Rutledge to take a 3-2 lead, and padded the score when senior left winger Curtis McKenzie bolted down the left side past a Michigan defenseman and deked out Rutledge before burying the puck to give MU a 4-2 lead.
"It was disappointing to go into the third period with the lead, at home, in the second game of a series that is a must win and to have a defensive lapse like we did in the third," head coach Red Berenson said. The faceoff goal and the power-play goal are inexcusable.
"We got out-powered, out-muscled going to the net and we had no answer for it. We had chances, we were close, and we came back and so on. But you cannot go into the third period at home and give up three goals and expect to win."
"I think we were kind of sleeping," chimed in junior defenseman Mac Bennett. "I think they dominated us in terms of getting pucks in deep and just kind of taking advantage of that and getting shoved-in net chances. It was sloppy hockey on our part and we have to clean it up."
MU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with 16:16 minutes left in the first on a quick slot-snap shot by freshman left-winger Austin Barber, but Michigan responded later in the period when sophomore Travis Lynch punched in an egregious rebound given up by freshman goalie Jay Williams.
The Wolverines took a 3-2 lead with 9:10 left in the second when a perfect cross-ice pass by senior Kevin Lynch was buried into an open net with the backhand by sophomore Alex Guptill.
The goaltending situation has been a point of contention thus far this season. With Berenson trying to choose between two inexperience freshman, tonight was another chance for Rutledge to prove his worth after he gave up five goals on, including three in the third period, on 26 shots (80.7 save percentage) in a 5-4 overtime loss to RIT in his previous start.
His counterpart, Steve Racine, made 30 saves and only gave up two goals in a 4-2 victory over the Red Hawks last night.
"He gave up a breakaway goal, but he gave us a chance," Berenson said of Rutledge. " I thought he played a good game, and we just did not give him the type of support you need to give your goalie."
Miami controlled the pace early in the game by dumping the puck deep and controlling the corners, but U-M was able to counter with a fast-paced transition game late in the first period and early in the second, utilizing speed and athleticism to create odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities.
A physical Red Hawk team created its fair share of chances, but it was clear that this was the pace the Maize and Blue had to play if it was to prevail.
Down 4-2, senior left winger Lindsay Spark brought U-M within striking distance by putting away a late-third period rebound attempt, but Michigan failed to tally the tying goal during a furious rally during the final two minutes of the third.
The missed opportunity at these critical three points is far from lost on team and staff.
"We can't get these points back in March.," Bennett said. "Every weekend we play, whether we're playing one game or two games, we want to take all the points we can. That's going to sting a little, but we just have to pick it up."
"It was a must win," Berenson added. "We're in the CCHA right now - we're playing for first place. These games are huge.
"We split these games at home, and you can't do that. You have got to win your home games, especially against a team like this. They are a good team, and give them marks. It is just not acceptable."
1: Freshman goaltender Jay Williams: Williams outdid his counterpart, making 34 saves - many of which on shots with Michigan in the lead that could have changed the complexion of the game. U-M opened things up by speed up the game, and Williams had an answer for most shots; many against odd-man rushes.
2: Sophomore center Austin Czarnik: The Washington, (Mich.) native was all over the ice all night, and made two slick plays to set up the Red Hawks' first and last goal.
3: Senior left winger Lindsay Sparks: Sparks sparked the Maize and Blue third line, tallying a second-period assist and scoring a goal late in the third to give the Wolverines a chance. He was also a menace around the ice, making his presence known without the puck on his stick.
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