- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 12, 2013
ROCHESTER, NY — The Michigan hockey team had been here before — just last season, in fact.
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With a 3-1 lead a year ago, the Wolverines allowed the Rochester Institute of Technology back into the game to force overtime. The Tigers ultimately scored in overtime to upset Michigan and kick off one of the roughest seasons in recent memory.
Fast forward one year, and Michigan was staring at the same scenario after it surrendered a four-goal lead to RIT in the second period on Saturday.
But rather than succumb to the surge this time, the 11th-ranked Wolverines responded thanks to freshman forward Even Allen, whose goal late in the period proved to be the game winner. Michigan closed the third period with two more goals to win 7-4 and remain unbeaten two games into the season.
“I like the start of the game and I liked the end of the game, but I didn’t like the middle part, obviously,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “You could see this coming.”
Junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe had two goals while junior forward Alex Guptill had a pair of assists to lead the Wolverines in front of a crowd of more than 10,000.
The score, though, didn’t indicate the lopsided shot total, as Michigan was out-shot 46-27.
“We weren’t playing as hard, and as smart and as defensive as we should have,” Berenson said. “Pretty much everything happened in our zone.”
Allen’s goal, which swung the momentum back in Michigan’s favor, looked like more of an accident than a shot attempt. Tiger goaltender Jordan Ruby, in the midst of repositioning himself, misplayed the shot from outside the left circle and never saw the puck slide behind him.
Michigan kicked off the scoring less than three minutes into the first period, when Guptill slid through the right circle and glided the puck to an untouched Di Giuseppe, who was waiting in front of the crease to drive the puck home for an early power-play goal.
After he missed the exhibition loss to Waterloo (Ont.) and season-opening win over Boston College, Guptill brought a forceful presence around the net that frustrated a porous RIT defense.
Guptill added another assist nearly two minutes later when the Tigers left another forward alone near the crease. This time, it was senior forward Derek DeBlois who knocked in the one-timer.
“I thought (Guptill) got off to a great start,” Berenson said. “He was effective tonight, and that’s just his first game.”
Junior forward Zach Hyman fed both Di Giuseppe and sophomore forward Boo Nieves for the third and fourth goals, respectively, as Michigan closed the period on top.
But RIT took advantage of seven penalties by the Wolverines in the second period, scoring four goals in less than ten minutes.
An early whistle gave RIT the chance to strike back when forward Mike Colavecchia tore through the defense single handedly and poked the puck past sophomore goaltender Steve Racine.
Racine faced an onslaught of shots from the Tigers, laying out time after time to turn the puck the other way. Despite struggling to corral the rebound at times, he still finished with 42 saves.
“I thought (Racine) kept us in the game in the second period,” Berenson said. “Even though they scored four goals, he made some point-blank saves on guys that were wide open, that should never have been wide open.”
The defense, though, looked disorganized in its own zone during the second period and in other spurts during the game, leaving RIT forwards with too much time to set up.
Tiger forward Ben Lynch took advantage when he found himself in the right place four minutes later. A deflection off the pads of Racine went into the slot where Lynch fired the puck into the upper right corner to reenergize the crowd.
“Obviously, you have to get off your toes and start working again,” Di Giuseppe said. “I think it just made us realize that the game wasn’t over. I thought they did a great job of coming back, but I thought we did a better job making sure we won that game.”
Freshman forward Tyler Motte scored his first goal of the season with just under five minutes remaining to put the game out of reach before sophomore forward Andrew Copp added another to make the margin of victory seem much worse than it actually was.
“We maybe thought it was going to be a little easier, but it’s never easier,” Berenson said. “It’s all out, or you’re going the other way.”