When the Michigan hockey team defeated Bentley 6-3 on Friday, freshman goaltender Steve Racine notched his second-career victory.
Though he is 2-0 on the year, Racine’s performance hasn’t been the kind that the Wolverines were accustomed to in years past with Shawn Hunwick in net. Racine is still in a battle for the starting netminder position with fellow freshman Jared Rutledge. Rutledge doesn’t have a victory yet, but Michigan coach Red Berenson expressed early in the season that neither goalie has seized the job.
Opposing Michigan in net for the Falcons was junior Branden Komm. Coincidentally, Komm and Racine both are from Williamsville, N.Y. — a small suburb of Buffalo.
While Racine started on Friday, Berenson said Rutledge has been “lights out” in practice this past week and that he is beginning to find his comfort zone in the net.
After a slow first two minutes of the game in which neither side tallied a single shot, the Wolverine offense finished the first period with 12 shots, compared to just six for the Falcons.
Though the final score was 6-3, Friday night’s game turned into a battle in the net, especially on Bentley’s side of the ice. Racine finished with a .880 save percentage and Komm an .890 save percentage.
Racine’s stat-line benefited from a strong defensive effort that was absent from the Falcons’ end. He struggled throughout the game to control the shots and stop the puck from rebounding in front of the net, and looked flustered at times when there was pressure on him in the crease.
And the final score didn’t show the kind of performance that Komm put forth. Michigan totaled 54 shots, 20 of them coming in the second period. With the constant battering of the Falcon net, it was just a matter of time before the goals started coming for the Wolverines. It finally happened in the third period when Michigan tallied another 22 shots on net.
“(Komm) is a good goalie,” said senior forward A.J. Treais. “I’ve played against him my whole life. It’s just a matter of keeping at it and getting shots on net and getting guys in the paint and eventually the pucks started going in.”
Both players are 21 years old, but Racine’s inexperience showed early and often. He let a soft stick-side goal go right past him on Bentley’s first goal of the game, which gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead. Berenson said that he didn’t like the first goal, but was pleased overall with Racine’s performance.
“Even in the third period when we were up three goals, there were some point-blank shots from the slot that he was in good position,” Berenson said. “We need a goalie that can make the saves he should be able to make.”
On more than one occasion he probably should have held the puck to allow his lines to change, but instead passed it behind the net to a defenseman, leaving the same line on the ice.
However, with CCHA play opening this week when the Wolverines host Miami (Ohio) in Ann Arbor, Berenson is still not set on who will be the starter.
“I can’t tell you that there’s a plan right now,” Berenson said. “I want to see them both play well … They both need to play games and they’ll both play, and we’ll see where we go from there.”