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October 18, 2013Michigan led at RIT 4-0 last Saturday. Then, the Tigers roared back to tie the score. A year ago, the Wolverines, at least early in the season, probably would have lost that game, but this time around, they rallied for three goals to earn win No. 2 on the year.
"When we were up 4-0, it was too easy for us to score, and then to have us get demolished in the second period with penalties and poor defensive play, coming back into the locker room, Red [Berenson] was angry and for good reason, and he gave it to us," senior captain Mac Bennett said.
"A year ago, if they tie the game and it's 4-4, I'm not sure we're winning that game. But this year, if you were in that room, and you could feel the confidence - there was not a doubt in anyone's mind we were going to win that game. And that's what we did. They had one good shot in the third period and then we shut them down."
In 2012-13, Michigan got of to a horrid start, going 4-5-1 in its first 10 games, blowing 3-0 and 4-2 leads over RIT in the season opener to lose 5-4 in overtime. The season would get worse, with the Maize and Blue falling to eight games under .500 on Feb. 8 (10-18-2) with a 7-4 loss to Notre Dame. It took Michigan four months to earn its first sweep (over MSU Feb. 1-2) but the Wolverines didn't take off until Feb. 22, going 8-0-1 down the stretch until their season-ending loss in the CCHA finals.
"Team chemistry and the attitude in general is better this season," sophomore alternate captain Andrew Copp said. "We're a lot closer this year. Last year we had guys doubting all the time, and this year we had no doubt in our mind that we would finish that game out.
"I thought it was important we came back and won. We needed to get it going again and turn the momentum in our favor. All we needed to do was win a period and we did that. It was a big win for us in terms of finding a way to win."
Instead of finding a way to lose, like they did last season. It's early, Bennett acknowledged, but this team does feel different, more together, more capable than last season's version.
"We have confidence in everyone's ability to do their job and the sky is the limit for us," the senior defenseman said. "If we want to get something done, all it takes is us to say it and then we go out and do it. And that's what we did in the third period and I was really, really proud of that."
That ability to rally from a vanquished lead in front of a raucous crowd of 10,556 should help the Wolverines when they go on the road this weekend, beginning a two-game series at No. 13 New Hampshire tonight (7:30 pm, Fox College Sports).
"That was a good crowd and a good opponent and a good experience for our team," Berenson said. "This week will be a better team, and playing in their home rink will be another challenge."
After upsetting Boston College and beating RIT, Michigan rose six spots to No. 5 in the USCHO.com Top 20, but the Maize and Blue understand they are far from a polished product just two games into the season.
"I'd like to see our team be harder to play against," senior alternate captain Derek DeBlois said. "We got off to an early lead against RIT and let the other team back in it when we could have put them away. We need to be more physical and harder to play against in our own zone.
"I think we came off a pretty good win against BC and then we went in and were up 4-0 against a big crowd so we thought we were on top of the world. Then we got into penalty trouble and you could see the momentum just shift. It continued until it was a tied game, and then we realized we're not a great team when we're not playing well. We regrouped, played well enough in the third to win.
"It was good to get a win on the road. The freshmen hadn't played in a big atmosphere like that. The crowd was amazing the whole game -- even when they were down 4-0 you thought they were winning. It was their homecoming game so it was a great environment for the freshmen to be in and I think that will help us deal with a little adversity in New Hampshire."