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October 12, 2012

U-M notches first victory of the year

What a difference a night makes.

In Thursday's rechristening of the newly renovated Yost Ice Arena, the Michigan hockey team gave up two late goals - and RIT came back to win in overtime, 5-4.

Friday, the Tigers climbed back into the game with a goal early in the third quarter, to make it 3-2. But Michigan - with its come-from-ahead loss from a night ago still lingering - put its foot down, pulling away for a resounding 7-2 win.

In both games, the Wolverines entered the third period with a 3-1 lead.

Friday night, they won the third period - big time.

"That's the name of the game," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "You have to have a strong third period. We should never lose a third period at home. You have to give the opponent some credit. They never gave up last night. They never gave up tonight, but I thought we were the better team in the third period tonight."

Visions of RIT's comeback win dance in the Yost Ice Arena crowd's head when the Tigers closed the gap to 3-2.

But senior captain A.J Treais scored just 23 second later to put Michigan up 4-2 - and the rout was on.

"When we gave up a goal tonight, our team tightened up and we got that goal back, a big goal by A.J. and we took over the game," Berenson said.

"We had a killer instinct," added senior defenseman Lee Moffie. "We didn't get down on the bench. We made sure we stayed on the attack. We didn't change our game plan. We stayed aggressive and didn't get a defensive mindset; we stayed on the attack tonight, and that was huge. We were making plays at the blue line, too and that was a big part of the game."

After that, Michigan poured it on, scoring three more goals to put the game out of reach.

"It was huge to finish," Treais said. "In the locker room, everyone knew we were in the same situation, and nothing really needed to be said. But obviously it was in the back of everyone's minds."

In Friday's game, Berenson made the decision to start freshman goalie Steve Racine, who made 21 saves on 23 shots. He was boosted over freshman goalie Jared Rutledge who started Thursday night.

Although Rutledge struggled in the third period and overtime Thursday, Berenson says the competition at goalie is still open.

"I think [the change] was the right thing to do," Berenson said. "Rutledge was fighting it a little bit last night, and Rutledge played a good game for two periods, and then maybe it was one bad goal or a bad few minutes and our team seemed to get back on their heels and so did he. It was easy for me to put Racine in. He's an older goalie, and he needed to show what he can do, as well.

"I think they're going to battle for the No. 1 spot. Rutledge is a better goalie than he showed last night, and I haven't seen Racine play. I've never seen him play a game. Our coaches have, but I haven't, but I liked what I saw and his record. He's had to fight adversity in a lot of situations. He was ready tonight.

"All I ask from our goalies is to eliminate the bad goals. Make the saves you can make every day in practice and eliminate the bad goals. If you can do that, you'll have success here. That's what we're looking for."

Three Stars

1. A.J. Treais: The senior forward scored a goal and tallied an assist on nine shots. Although he finished the game with an even plus/minus, Treais was the one who sparked the Wolverines' scoring onslaught in the third period. After last night's sluggish third period, Treais' goal was just what Michigan needed to close out the game.

2. Jeff Smith: The junior forward scored both of RIT's goals on the night and helped keep the Tigers in the game until the Wolverines scored four unanswered goals in the third period.

3. Steve Racine: The freshman goalie wasn't stellar all night; he gave up two goals and was helped by the defense several times when he was caught a little out of position. But, at the end of the day, he did more than enough in net to give the Wolverines a victory.

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