BY LIZ NAGLE
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 24, 2012
NEW YORK — Whether it was the sea of red that infiltrated Madison Square Garden, the lingering sting of its loss last season in the NCAA Tournament or the inconsistencies of a freshman goalie, the Michigan hockey team couldn’t recover from an early deficit against Cornell Saturday night.
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The Wolverines entered the Frozen Apple hoping to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss to the Big Red in last year’s NCAA Midwest Regional. After surviving the first frame with impressive defensive labors, Michigan couldn’t repair the second-period damage.
In the opening stanza, freshman goaltender Steve Racine posted a streak of well deserved saves, despite the Wolverines’ slew of penalty-plaguing whistles and man disadvantages. The Big Red converted on only one of those open chances late in the period with senior forward A.J. Treais in the box for high sticking.
Interference, elbowing, high sticking and boarding added up to eight short-handed minutes for Michigan. Though the rookie netminder kept the Cornell power play at bay in the first period, Racine let four unanswered goals sneak between the posts en route to the 5-1 loss.
“I thought Cornell came at us hard in the first period, especially on the power play” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They got some momentum going and we held the fort, so we escaped the period even though we were down one. I thought we could come back in the second.”
Racine dropped both games of the Notre Dame series before earning the 3-1 conference win over Bowling Green on Wednesday. His inconsistent performances burdens the already struggling defense that came into Saturday as the CCHA bottom feeder, giving up 3.33 goals per game.
In the second frame, the Wolverines watched the scoreboard gap grow to 3-0 after Racine allowed a pair of even-strength goals to find the back of the net. After a strong six-save period, the Williamsville, N.Y. native couldn’t keep pace with the Big Red's shots.
After Berenson made an early-season decision to split time between goalies, Racine began seeing more ice time than fellow freshman Jared Rutledge. With an unimpressive 4-4-1 record, Racine has given up 27 goals, including six on the opponents’ power play.
“When there’s two great teams out there, goals are going to go in,” said Cornell goaltender Andy Iles. “The goalies who have the most success at this level are the ones who can turn the page after that goal and make sure when the next puck comes their way, they’re locked in and focused on it.
Michigan ran scoreless until midway through the final stanza and Cornell tacked on two more for insurance. The deflated Racine gave up soft goals as the game wore on, seemingly due to diminished confidence and the Big Red’s rolling momentum.
Iles could sympathize with Racine, but believes the key to success between the pipes is a short memory.
“It’s not about what just happened, but it’s about what’s going to happen next. … Especially in an atmosphere like this, it’s all about momentum. Sometimes it can be like an avalanche.”