Guptill notches hat trick in annual intrasquad game

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By Michael Laurila, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 7, 2012

Sophomore forward Alex Guptill tallied his first career hat trick at a strange time — the Michigan hockey team’s annual Blue/White intrasquad game.

The Blue team used Guptill’s three goals, along with another score from junior forward Derek DeBlois, en route to a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at the newly renovated Yost Ice Arena.
Though this was the first time the Wolverines have skated competitively as a team, they managed to keep a relaxed feeling around the ice.

“Oh yeah, it was a big win definitely,” Guptill joked. “Bragging rights more importantly, but it was pretty fun.”

Despite the lack of consequence in the result of the game, there were visiting alumni players — including some of the locked out NHL players — on each team. Most notable was the presence of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on the Blue team.

Along with Johnson, former Capitals forward Mike Knuble made an appearance, and was able to tally a goal for the White Team. They were joined by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick, New York Islanders forward Andy Hilbert and alumnus Matt Rust.

Michigan coach Red Berenson said playing with the the professional players was a good opportunity for the Wolverines to see what it takes to play in the NHL. Guptill agreed with Berenson concerning the former Wolverine players.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You get to compare yourself to where you are with those guys. Jack Johnson can fly and Knuble is just huge and big and strong. You get to see what you need to do to get there.”

Besides the opportunity to skate with professionals, the intrasquad competition also allowed the new freshmen to get some ice time with the rest of the team in a game setting. Though they only played two periods and the officiating was less strict than in a regulation game, Berenson was able to mix up the lines.

“I thought (the freshmen) all held their own,” Berenson said. “None of them were out of place. On the flipside, I thought they all had glimpses of why we recruited them.”

The most notable debuts were that of the two freshmen in goal — Jared Rutledge and Steve Racine — one of which is likely to start the season. When Shawn Hunwick graduated last year, he left a gaping hole at goaltender, which is still a question mark for Michigan.

Though Rutledge wasn’t supposed to play because of a contact lens problem, he started the game for the White team. Berenson said last Wednesday that Rutledge still wasn’t taking shots, but after a Thursday-morning doctor’s appointment, he was cleared to play.

“I thought he was pretty good considering he’s been behind in terms of ice time, so good for him,” Berenson said.

Sunday was also the first appearance of highly touted freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba in a Michigan uniform. He didn’t have any standout plays, but he notched a solid first performance, holding his own against some of the upperclassmen and the professionals.

“(Trouba) got me with a nice elbow in the side of the head in the first shift, so I was really happy with him,” Guptill said. “The guys looked good. They let me score a couple, but other than that they played pretty good.”

Though there are still some question marks before Michigan’s season-opening exhibition against the University of Windsor on Tuesday, the Wolverines seem ready for Thursday when the Rochester Institute of Technology comes to Ann Arbor.