Energetic start lifts Wolverines over RPI

Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 9:21pm

TROY, N.Y. — On Oct. 11, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute became a giant killer. Just three games into their season, the Engineers hosted then-No. 1 Boston College and sent the national powerhouse home with a 2-1 loss.

And as No. 11 Michigan entered RPI’s Houston Field House off the back of a near upset against Union, the Wolverines were in danger of suffering the same fate as the Eagles.After that Union matchup, Michigan center JT Compher made it clear that starting with less energy against RPI, or any team, was unacceptable — something the Wolverines clearly took to heart.

Just three minutes into the first period, freshman forward Brendan Warren received the puck in the slot from freshman center Cooper Marody and lit the lamp for his first collegiate goal to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.

After that goal, the Wolverines didn’t trail for the remainder of the game, defeating RPI, 5-2.

The rest of the frame remained scoreless, but the energy that Compher called for was evident nonetheless.

“We had a really good start today,” Warren said. “We were getting pucks deep, working down low and getting some pressure to the net. That’s something we didn’t do yesterday. We were kind of sitting back trying to play up high and be cute, and we were letting (Union) have chances. So we were on (RPI) today.”

The Wolverines (3-0-1) pressured the Engineers early and often, forcing turnovers and turning clearing the puck into a virtually impossible task for RPI. Michigan connected well through center and outshot the Engineers (1-4-1), 6-4.

Though the shot difference between the two clubs wasn’t significant, RPI’s carelessness with the puck and the Wolverines’ defensive pressure allowed them to enjoy the majority of possession.

“We were coming off a hard-fought game last night, and I think that helped us get a good start,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We had the juices running, we got into playing a fast game last night, and I think that really helped us.”

The Engineers’ most dangerous opportunity came with 8:31 left in the period, when RPI broke out on a three-on-two counter. Forward Travis Fulton received the puck in the circle and fired a shot on net, but junior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort was up to the task.

Michigan answered its captain’s call for energy to begin the second period as well.

Just 28 seconds into the frame, junior forward Tyler Motte carried the puck through the right circle before backhanding it from his knees inside the far post. With his spectacular effort, Motte put the Wolverines up 2-0 against the Engineers.

Each side notched another goal in the period — RPI’s after a combination between Fulton and Zach Schroeder, and Michigan’s coming off the stick of sophomore forward Tony Calderone.

The Engineers looked more comfortable in their offensive zone in the second, accumulating three more shots than they had in the previous period. Yet the same could be said for the Wolverines, as they tallied 11 shots compared to their total of six in the first.

The third period remained quiet on both ends until the 13th minute, when RPI forward Jake Wood found twine during a power play to reduce Michigan’s lead to one. The goal gave the Engineers new life, as they looked more threatening on the offensive end. But they never mustered the tying goal before the Wolverines could respond with a lamp lighter of their own five minutes later.

Michigan iced the game with 1:34 left to play, finishing an empty-net breakaway for its fifth goal of the game.

Nagelvoort was impressive throughout the contest, tallying 10 saves. Though the second goal he conceded could have been saved, the first goal he surrendered was largely due to an impressive effort by Fulton. The RPI forward drew Nagelvoort out of position while in possession, before laying the puck in front for an easy tap in.

With the victory over RPI, the Wolverines finished their upstate New York road trip with a win and a tie — and in the process have accomplished one small thing to begin the season that Boston College couldn’t.

“These were two tough teams in two tough buildings (this weekend),” Berenson said. “This is good for our team to get a positive feel about our own team on the road. We had a lot of young players play well, and so I’d say it was a good experience for us.”