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October 11, 2012Red Berenson wouldn't commit to it, but there is a good chance freshman goalie Steve Racine will make his debut Friday night after classmate Jared Rutledge looked shaky in allowing five goals on 26 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to RIT Thursday in Michigan's season opener.
"You have to give that team credit," Berenson said. "They were down two goals in the game and two in the third period, and they came back. On the flip side, we were disappointed in our overall game, starting with our goaltending, our defense and our d-zone play. You can't give up unearned goals and that's what we did."
Michigan appeared to be in complete control of this one, scoring three first-period goals, including power-play markers from junior defenseman Mac Bennett and freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba, but the first of a slew of soft goals slipped between Rutledge's legs at 19:06 of the first, giving life to a lifeless Tigers team.
After a wild, penalty-filled first period - the two teams combined for eight - Rochester Institute and Michigan settled down in the second, going scoreless for 20 minutes, though both U-M and RIT had their chances.
The Wolverines dominated a mid-period power play, showing the movement, creativity and crisp passing that was missing from last year's anemic unit, however, Trouba's point shot hit a post and the rest of his teammates were denied on their chances.
Tigers forward Jeff Smith proved opportunistic at 10:02, stepping out of the box for a perfectly-timed breakaway but his shot sailed high over the crossbar.
Sophomore forward Alex Guptill, who led the Wolverines with 16 markers a year ago, then had two glorious chances, first on a 2-on-1 at 12:48 and then on a rebound just nine seconds later. Guptill actually punched the second one in, but the goal was waived off when the referees ruled it had been directed in with a high stick.
Michigan had one more power play before the period expired, and again looked sharp, but came up empty as the two teams skated off the ice after 40 minutes with U-M leading 3-1 still.
Tigers defender Chris Saracino scored 3:31 into the third period on a slapshot from the left faceoff circle but the Maize and Blue responded when sophomore Travis Lynch capitalized off a turnover, going top left corner to re-establish Michigan's two-goal lead at 5:50.
The Wolverines would have chance after chance after that but goalie Josh Watson was there to turn aside 15 of 16 shots in the third period, keeping his team in the game, while on the other side of the ice, Rutledge surrendered goals at 9:08 (a short-side shot that snuck between the goalie and the inside post) and 15:20 (a backhand from the slot that appeared to beat an unaware rookie netminder).
"I'll have to look at them again but they all looked pretty soft to me," Berenson said. "The kid made some good saves too, but it was a tough night to be a goalie in our net, and we have to do be better than that."
With the score knotted at 4-4, and Yost's meager crowd (4,611) shocked, senior center Kevin Lynch actually had a chance to put U-M back in front, streaking down the ice on a 2-on-1 with sophomore Zach Hyman. After some nifty stick work, Lynch was denied by Watson on a point-blank shot on the doorstep and Hyman couldn't take advantage of the prime rebound opportunity.
The two teams would finish the final three minutes tied, heading into overtime, where RIT struck 14 seconds into the extra session, an average shot slipping through Rutledge's legs and eventually knocked in by Tiger Adam Hartley.
"Four goals ... you should win a hockey game, but it came down to defensive zone and we didn't bear down," junior forward Derek DeBlois said.
"You can't blame it on anybody. It's a team game from the defense to the goalie to the forwards, and everyone needs to bear down more."
Berenson was clearly annoyed after the game, walking off the ice lamenting a game that inexplicably got away from his team.
"Our defensemen overall had a pretty good game but it's a game of breakdowns. When you make a mistake the goalie has to back you up and when he doesn't, the scoreboard changes," Berenson said.
1. Josh Watson: After 20 minutes of play, it appeared Michigan was in store for a blowout win over the Tigers, but Watson, playing in just his seventh career contest, kept RIT in the game during the next 40 minutes, coming up big with 13 second-period and 15 third-period saves as he stood between U-M and multiple power-play goals. He would finish with 40 saves on 44 shots, and his performance stood in great contrast to the struggles on the other side.
2. Adam Hartley: Because of the nature of the goals, it's tough to give this slot to any particular RIT player but Hartley netted the game-winner and played strong overall.
3. Jacob Trouba: The rookie defenseman's first entry into the stat book probably wasn't what he wanted - a holding penalty at 9:31 of the first period - but he would quickly make up for it with an assist on Bennett's goal and a marker of his own, showing the offensive instincts that makes him one of the top two-way blue liners in his NHL Draft class.