Goaltenders just good enough in opening series
With less than 7:30 left in the game and the No. 11 Michigan hockey team up 3-2, Zach Werenski held the puck inside the left circle, just a few feet away from the Wolverine net.
The usually steady sophomore defenseman took two steps and pushed the puck forward before being stripped by Mercyhurst forward Jack Riley, who had already scored once for the Lakers.
Riley took two steps before firing at the Michigan net. But junior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort was up to the task, sliding across the crease and making a blocker-board save to deny Riley the game-tying goal.
Later in the game, with the time winding down and an empty net behind it, Mercyhurst (2-0 Atlantic Hockey Conference, 3-2 overall) pushed forward, looking for its elusive third goal of the night to tie the game.
Again, Nagelvoort was up to the task, stopping a flurry of shots in the final minute en route to a 3-2 Wolverines victory.
“I thought (Nagelvoort) played fine,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He wasn’t tested a lot, and when he was, in crucial times — isolated chances — he was good.”
Friday night, it was a different goaltender in the net for the Wolverines (2-0). Senior goaltender Steve Racine started the game in Michigan’s season opener after Berenson and the coaching staff saw a “slight edge” in his play leading up to the game.
While Racine gave up two more goals than Nagelvoort, the senior finished with 26 saves compared to Nagelvoort’s 19 on Sunday.
“I thought he played good,” Berenson said. “He didn’t play great, he played good. I can’t tell you there were bad goals, but any goalie will tell you when they give up four goals, you say ‘I should’ve got that one,’ or ‘I could’ve got that one.’ ”
But as the scoreboard showed, neither Michigan goaltender was perfect. The duo allowed six goals combined on the weekend, and each goaltender allowed at least one tally that they could have been reasonably expected to stop.
On Mercyhurst’s first goal Friday, Racine was beaten stick-side on a shot from Lakers forward Kyle Cook. On Mercyhurst’s second goal Sunday, Nagelvoort gave up a big rebound that Laker forward Jonathan Charbonneau was able finish to knot the game at two.
But neither goaltender was completely at fault. Four of the six goals came on odd-man rushes, and in most scenarios, there wasn’t much they could do.
At the end of both games, Berenson said Racine was “fine” and Nagelvoort was “good,” but neither was excellent.
But both netminders were capable, as they helped Michigan earn two wins to start off the season.
And with so many games left to play, that’s all that matters right now.
“We have two goalies that can play,” Berenson said. “Don’t be surprised if you see both of them. Or if one of them gets hot, we’ll play the hot goalie.”