“Coming into this season I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to play,” said Michigan freshman net-minder Peter Dzubay.

Last fall (in high school), after jumping into the air to pull down a loose ball, Dzubay got kicked and tore the posterior crucial ligament in his right knee.

When Dzubay came down with the ball, an oncoming striker attempted to knock it out of his hands, but inadvertently struck Dzubay’s knee.

The hit broke the opposing forwards’ shin into two pieces and part of the bone disgustingly broke through his skin, as Dzubay suffered the lesser of the two evils.

Dzubay not only finished the game, but also the rest of his season, before finally having surgery last January.

Despite wanting to train over the summer, his knee was too sore. He was unable to even kick a ball around until two weeks before the season started.

But now, outfitted with a knee brace, Dzubay has taken over the starting keeper job from sophomore Joe Zawacki.

“Dzubay got the opportunity to step up as the team was peaking and finding its form … he’s done well and the team has built confidence in him,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said. “Now the team’s trust in him is growing.”

Those attributes were heightened yesterday when Dzubay left a “goose egg” on the scoreboard for Ohio State after an overtime victory. He played a strong game, saving seven shots – two of which were from point blank range and should have been goals.

With nine minutes left in the first half, Dzubay made a dramatic kick save.

“I read the attacker and knew he was going to go low,” Dzubay said, “and I thought he would take a shot (to my) left, but then he went right and I just flung my foot out there and took a deep breath.”

In the 36th minute of the second half, Dzubay denied another Buckeye’s scoring opportunity. Michigan made a defensive miscue, allowing Ohio State to slot the ball along the right side of the 18-yard box and the Buckeyes’ forward took a rocket shot from about 11 yards out. But Dzubay reacted well and dove to his right, stoning the attempt. He further showed his skills after the impressive save, by not fumbling the ball, thus not allowing a rebound shot by one of the lingering attackers.

“He’s a big body … and covers a lot of the goal,” said junior defender Kevin Taylor. “When we get caught on our backside, it really helps that he’s back there talking.”

The keeper position helps to mobilize the team throughout the match and is often very vocal. But it was Taylor during most of the game versus Ohio State, not Dzubay, who could be heard.

“I like to do most of the talking … he doesn’t have to,” Taylor said happily.

“When K.T. is vocal, you know he’s in the game and playing well,” Dzubay said, adding, “plus I have a cold.”

Whether Dzubay is vocal or not, he makes the saves to give his team a chance for victory.

“We needed him to keep us in the game, and he kept a blank sheet into overtime against a very good Ohio State team,” Burns said of the victory, which moves Michigan into a second place tie in the Big Ten.

Dzubay also showed his toughness in the first half, when he beat Ohio State junior Justin Cook to a loose ball at the edge of the box and stood him up. Despite Cook running aggressively into him, Dzubay retained possession of the ball. Cook received a yellow card for his dangerous play.

Regardless of his experience, Dzubay is hoping the team will continue to trust in him as it finishes up the regular season and prepare for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

Having a goalie “being a freshman doesn’t bother us,” Taylor said of his lanky 6-foot-1, 188 pound keeper. “He wouldn’t be out there if the team didn’t trust him.”

With a 0.85 goals against average in nine games and a 5-1 record – including two shutout victories, in the six games he’s started – there is no reason the team won’t believe in him.

“We have to keep winning,” Dzubay said of the team’s expectations. “We want to get into the NCAA Tournament.”

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