By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 20, 2013
DURHAM, N.H. — Zach Nagelvoort’s first start as the Michigan hockey team’s goaltender began with a fish thrown at his feet.
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Not seven minutes into the fifth-ranked Wolverines’ clash with No. 13 New Hampshire on Saturday night, Wildcat forward Kevin Goumas’s slap shot from the blue line ripped past Nagelvoort. Per tradition, the student section at Whittemore Center Arena tossed a fish onto the ice, a long-standing ritual meant to symbolize how the man between the pipes had to fish the puck out of his own net.
But the cold-blooded, lifeless creature and the sellout crowd of 6,501 didn’t seem to bother Nagelvoort. He delivered an impressive performance as Michigan (3-0-1 overall) escaped Durham with a 3-2 overtime win.
Sophomore Steve Racine, the starting netminder for the Wolverines’ first three games of the season, suffered a lower-body injury while making a save early in the third period in Friday’s contest, forcing Nagelvoort into action. The freshman made 15 saves and didn’t allow a goal in his debut that night as he helped preserve a tie.
On Saturday, Nagelvoort’s numbers weren’t quite as pretty. He faced just three shots in the first period and 12 more in the second where he surrendered a pair of goals — one came from behind the net and bounced off his skates — and finished with just 22 saves. But in a stop-and-start game that featured nine penalties called in the first 40 minutes, the 6-foot-2 freshman’s quick reactions kept his team in line for the dramatic victory.
“That’s a great experience for a young kid,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “(Friday), he didn't know he was playing and he just went in and played when Racine got hurt. (Saturday), he had all day to think about it and get prepared and so on, and that was a good test for him.”
Minutes after the initial puck drop, New Hampshire (1-2-1) attacked with a 3-on-1 break, and Goumas was left unmarked near the crease. The forward was fed perfectly by a teammate, but Nagelvoort moved across the net quickly enough to stymie him with his pad as the Wildcat attempted to stuff the puck across the line.
“When we have opportunities to put it into the back of the net, we need to put it in the back of the net,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “Give credit to (Nagelvoort). He did a good job, especially given the situation he was put into this weekend.”
In the second period, the netminder flashed the leather, twice making glove saves through heavy crowds as Michigan spent much of the frame on the penalty kill. And Nagelvoort denied Goumas’ bid at a hat trick in the waning moments of regulation with a right-pad save as New Hampshire and the Wolverines went to overtime for the second straight night.
“We have four good goalies, and Zach's taken this opportunity to step up and prove that he can play,” said senior defenseman Mac Bennett. “He made a lot of great saves, and he's just going to continue to improve.”
With the fish just an odd memory from the first stanza, freshman forward Tyler Motte's overtime goal gave Michigan a sudden-death victory less than 100 seconds into the extra period and the incessant chants of “sieve” finally ceased. Nagelvoort’s teammates congratulated him at the net and he then skated slowly towards the locker room, the echoes of the crowd quickly fading into silence.