Notebook: Racine practices, freshman trio continues to shine

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 30, 2013

Sophomore goaltender Steve Racine returned to practice Monday after missing three games with a groin injury. Racine was forced to leave Michigan’s game at New Hampshire on Oct. 18 in the third period and hasn’t played since.

After evaluating Racine’s progress this week, Michigan coach Red Berenson said freshman goaltender Zach Navegvoort will likely be the starter this weekend, but he will wait until after Thursday’s practice to determine whether Racine will see time when Michigan Tech comes to town Friday.

“(Racine’s) getting better every day,” Berenson said. “I was worried he might be sore today after (Monday’s) skate, but not so much.”

Meanwhile, Nagelvoort has filled in admirably the past three games. The back-up goalie has posted an impressive 1.47 goals-against average in four games against Hockey East opponents.

With a bye next weekend, Berenson mentioned it might make more sense to allow Racine to rest this weekend and that he would be reluctant to rush him back. And with Nagelvoort’s consistency in net thus far, this serves as a safe bet, even against a strong Michigan Tech team.

FRESHMAN TRIO MAKING AN IMPACT: Just five games into the season, Berenson has pieced together an all-freshmen line that has already done serious damage.

The trio of Tyler Motte, JT Compher and Evan Allen has combined for 11 points — six goals and five assists — to provide a much-needed boost for the Wolverines. Allen started the season on the fourth line but was moved up on Nov. 19 at New Hampshire to replicate the chemistry between the three youngsters from when they played with the U.S. National Team Development Program last season.

“We’re all the same age, and we’ve all been together for a few years,” Allen said. “Me and Tyler have been together before that, so I think we have a lot in common on the ice and off the ice.”

The NTDP plays across the country against top Division I opponents every season, making the program a recruiting hotbed for college coaches. Before the season, Berenson and his assistants hoped the trio could fill the production void left by former Wolverines Jacob Trouba and Jon Merrill. They have done so thus far, and the reassurance these freshmen have provided has made coaching worthwhile for Berenson.

“Part of the reason I’m still coaching is I look forward to seeing the players we’ve recruited finally get here and see what they can do on the ice,” Berenson said. “These players have lived up to their early season expectations.”

PEARSON RETURNS TO YOST: Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson, a former Michigan assistant under Berenson for 23 years, will make his first trip back to Ann Arbor this weekend after taking a position as head coach of the Huskies after the 2010-11 season.

In those two years, Pearson has led Michigan Tech to its second-best two-season stretch in program history with 29 total wins. Perhaps none of those wins were more meaningful than shutting out Michigan in the 2011 Great Lakes Invitational, when the Huskies went on to win their first GLI title since 1981.

For Berenson and Pearson, it will be a battle between teacher and student. For the Wolverine seniors, it will be a shot to beat the coach that recruited some of them to Michigan. There will be mixed emotions on both benches come Friday night.

“He was a really, really good coach,” said senior captain Mac Bennett. “He was someone I looked forward to practicing with. It’s kind of strange (seeing him on the other bench), because he was here when I got here.”