- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 17, 2013
Featured on sophomore goaltender Steve Racine’s biography on the Athletic Department’s website is his list of accomplishments. Included are his career achievements, highlights from last season and game-by-game statistics.
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But one category — the shutouts — reads different than the others. Instead of the number zero, it reads, “To come.”
The phrase, though common for future milestones on MGoBlue.com, says a great deal about the confidence the Michigan hockey team and its coaching staff have in Racine this season. In the team’s first week of practice, Michigan coach Red Berenson declared Racine the Wolverines’ starter for their Oct. 9 season opener against Boston College.
“Now, I think it’s a whole different ballgame,” Berenson said. “He’s been through a year of the routine. Of school, and hockey, and off-ice training and he’s had the ups and downs. Fortunately, he finished on a high.
“If 90 or 100 percent of the game is mental, then he’s got a lot more confidence going forward.”
Last year, it took the Wolverines nearly three quarters of the season to decide on a starting netminder, but the way Racine played at the end of the season was enough to set him apart.
Racine started the final 10 games of the season, in which he allowed 2.1 goals per game and posted an 8-1-1 record. He also made three saves to assure Michigan a shootout win in the regular-season finale against Ferris State.
At the beginning of last year, Racine was slowed due to a summer hip surgery that kept him off the ice for six months. In his first nine games, he posted a 2-5-2 record, leading Berenson to rotate goalies for the duration of the season.
“This is definitely the hardest I’ve worked in the summer,” Racine said. “Fitness-wise, I’m much stronger than I was at the end of last year and especially at the beginning of last year.”
But Racine’s improved season doesn’t guarantee that his spot is secure for the remainder of the season, according to Berenson. Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort, a late commit from the United States Hockey League, has been declared the primary backup.
The Wolverines already feel more confident with Racine starting in net after his success last year. That confidence will be needed after Berenson said that the sixth defenseman spot is still up for grabs.
“If every time he turned the puck over and it ends up in your net, pretty soon you’re fighting the puck,” Berenson said. “I mean, if I make two or three mistakes, then maybe I can get that behind me and get my game together.
“It’s a team thing. I think our whole team has a lot more confidence in Steve Racine than they did a year ago.”
GUPTILL SITS OUT: Tuesday, Berenson announced that junior forward Alex Guptill — last year’s leading scorer — hasn’t been skating so far. Berenson didn’t specify as to why, but said that he removed him “because of something that happened this fall.”
Berenson didn’t say how long Guptill would be off the ice, but said he would be back at some point.
Guptill was also one of three players Berenson listed as needing a breakout year, along with senior forward Luke Moffatt and junior forward Phil Di Giueseppe. Last year, Guptill led the team with 16 goals and finished second with 20 assists. He is expected to be one of the top forwards, should he continue his form from last year.
WILY VETERAN: Red Berenson has been coaching so long that he has impressed himself. That, or he needs something else to do.
When the season begins on Oct. 9, Berenson will begin his 30th year at the helm of the program, by far the longest-tenured coach in program history.
“It means I don’t have a better place to go,” Berenson said.
Berenson said that the late-season stretch in which the Wolverines climbed four spots in the CCHA standings over the final weeks was rejuvenating.
Berenson’s 789-389-82 record makes him the fifth-winningest coach in Division I history and No. 2 among active coaches.
“The plan wasn’t to come and stay necessarily, it was to come and be at Michigan again,” Berenson said. “To try and resurrect the program and help players live the dream.”