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Michigan outlasts Nebraska-Omaha, 4-3

By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 16, 2013

OMAHA, Neb. — So much for an offensive slump.

The No. 2 Michigan hockey team scored goals 49 seconds apart in the second period and held off a late comeback to beat Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday night, 4-3, salvaging a weekend split at CenturyLink Center.

After a scoreless first period, Michigan (7-2-1) needed less than two minutes in the second frame to take the lead. A botched clearance created a breakaway with no one but the goalie to beat, and sophomore forward Andrew Copp capitalized by firing home a loose rebound with moments remaining on a power play.

Forty-nine seconds later, junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe carried the puck into the offensive zone unmarked and used a slick deke to beat netminder Reed Peters, putting the Wolverines ahead by a pair and quieting the crowd.

But after a Nebraska-Omaha (6-6-0) comeback, Michigan needed forward Derek DeBlois’s late goal in the third period to seal the victory. The senior inadvertently blocked teammate Nolan De Jong’s effort but recovered in time to fire the game-winning shot home.

“Luckily, it was a tap-in goal,” DeBlois said. “Anyone could’ve done it.”

DeBlois’s tally gave Michigan more than three goals in a game for the first time since a 7-4 win over the Rochester Institute of Technology on Oct. 12.

“We’ve got the guys, we’ve just going to start putting them in the net,” he said. “It’s going to take those gritty goals.”

Though Copp and Di Giuseppe handed Michigan a two-goal lead in the second period, it didn’t last long in a back-and-forth frame. Forward James Polk broke through first for the Mavericks, sneaking a bad-angle shot by the glove side of sophomore netminder Steve Racine. Freshman forward JT Compher followed with a shorthanded tally for the Wolverines to restore the advantage, but Nebraska-Omaha cut it in half again when defenseman Brian O’Rourke’s soft attempt snuck through a crowd and past Racine.

With seven minutes remaining in the third period, forward Brock Montpetit brought the Mavericks all the way back, one-timing a loose puck in the crease over Racine’s sprawling pad.

“This is part of playing on the road,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Sometimes we get on our heels.”

But it took less than a minute for DeBlois to break the tie in the Wolverines’ favor.

Peters earned his first start in net for Nebraska-Omaha, and Saturday marked Racine’s first appearance since he pulled his groin on Oct. 18. The goaltenders struggled through the second period, combining to surrender five goals on 23 shots. But Racine made big stops down the stretch and finished with 40 saves on the night, many while Michigan was on one of six penalty kills.

Freshman netminder Zach Nagelvoort sat for the Wolverines despite a .940 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average in seven appearances, including a 3-2 loss Friday. The team learned of the netminder switch Saturday morning.

“Racine came in and gave us a strong game,” Berenson said.

And though each goaltenders surrendered three goals in his start, DeBlois’s timely goal propelled Michigan to a victory Saturday.