Rutledge and Racine vie for starting spot

Erin Kirkland/Daily
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By Liz Nagle, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 16, 2012

The Michigan hockey team has four goalies on its roster this season — a first for coach Red Berenson.

But when game time arrives, there can only be one netminder between the posts.

Last year, then-senior Shawn Hunwick was the obvious goaltender of choice, starting all but two games for the Wolverines.

In the 2007 and 2009 seasons, Hunwick saw little ice time — in a combined 12 appearances, he posted 216 saves and an 8-3 record. But in his fifth year, the Sterling Heights, Mich. native notched 1,092 saves with a .932 save percentage and five shutouts.

While Hunwick is now playing for the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League, Michigan still searches to find his replacement.

Berenson had a pair of goalies on the roster — redshirt sophomore Luke Dwyer and junior Adam Janecyk — but recruited two more to cap this year’s roll call.

In the preseason, Berenson spoke highly of freshman netminder Jared Rutledge, who won a gold medal in the 2012 Under-18 World Junior Championships with the U.S. team.

But Rutledge failed an eye test and underwent surgery that kept him from taking many shots in practice before the start of the season.

“We thought he was fine,” Berenson said. “I think his eyesight is fine, but as far as his timing and his confidence and getting into a groove, he’s probably not there yet.”

In the home opener last Thursday, Rutledge proved he wasn’t quite ready, earning the 5-4 overtime loss against Rochester Institute of Technology. Though he notched 21 saves and the Wolverines carried a lead into the final frame, Rutledge succumbed to a late Tigers surge and allowed a three-goal third period to tie the game at four.

“Here’s a freshman goalie coming in and then he misses the better part of two weeks of skating and then he skates for a week and we expect him to play well,” Berenson said. “In the third period, he might’ve run out of gas a little bit or lost his focus. … It was the third period that jumped up and bit him.”

Though Rutledge gave up the game-winning goal just 14 seconds into overtime, Berenson said he believes that single performance didn’t reflect what Rutledge is truly capable of.

“It’s a big test for these kids to play their first game — you don’t know how much pressure they put on themselves,” Berenson said. “They never scored a real good goal on him. All the goals were kind of tainted. And could he have saved most of them? Yeah.”

Nevertheless, Berenson called on freshman Steve Racine to close the series.

Racine recorded the same number of saves as Rutledge but allowed just two goals during Michigan’s 7-2 win.

Berenson was pleased with Racine’s debut efforts and feels that the Williamsville, N.Y. native took the pressure off of Rutledge “or put some on, depending on how you look at it.”

Berenson remains uncertain as to who will be the consistent starter that Hunwick was last season. While he weighs the options, there’s a strong possibility the dueling goalies will split time.

Berenson split time between Hunwick and then-senior Bryan Hogan in the first half of the 2010-11 season before Hogan was injured during warmups before the Big Chill at the Big House against Michigan State.

“It’s just a little healthy competition,” Rutledge said. “There’s no hard feelings between us. … We’re going to be together for four years, so there’s no point in butting heads.”

With Rutledge and Racine fighting for the starting spot in the lineup, Janecyk and Dwyer remain benched.

Janecyk had a meager performance in the exhibition against Windsor, giving up a pair of goals in the third stanza. Berenson expressed his disappointment in his eldest netminder, who landed an unsatisfactory 3.17 goals against average and 0.897 save percentage last year in just five games.

Of the goalie quad, Dwyer has not seen ice time through two seasons. Berenson will continue to evaluate his staff between the pipes and fill the lineup slot on a game-by-game basis.

“I can’t tell you anything is permanent, but right now Racine looks a little more ready,” Berenson said. “Rutledge is coming off a tough game and he’ll bounce back.

“I’ve been a one-goalie coach, but I’ve also been a two-goalie coach.”