Michigan coach Red Berenson is growing accustomed to the two-goalie approach. On a game-by-game basis, the pair of freshman netminders will most likely split time throughout the season.
Opening up CCHA play, the sixth-ranked Wolverines (2-1) will see Steve Racine between the posts against No. 3 Miami (Ohio) on Friday. But it wasn’t until after practice on Thursday that Berenson made his final decision to divide the series.
Berenson carefully weighed the options between Racine and fellow freshman goaltender Jared Rutledge upon entering conference action. But the RedHawks (3-0-1) are no strangers to the dual-goalie method themselves.
Last season, Miami graduated two seniors — Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard — that split time throughout their careers in the crease. Knapp marked a 46-22 record and Reichard finished his college career 53-24.
Miami carried that same two-fold goalie style into this season with freshmen Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. With just a small handful of nonconference games behind them, Michigan and the RedHawks will test their rookies in the net.
“It’s going to be a grudge match,” said junior forward Luke Moffat. “They’re ranked high. We’re ranked high. But really none of that matters right now and it’s just two good teams going at it, and we know it’s going to be a very intense and emotional game.”
The Wolverines will also readjust the lines with the return of junior defenseman Kevin Clare, who was scratched during their 6-3 victory against Bentley due to a minor injury.
The defensive corps regains strength heading into today’s contest — Clare will skate with freshman Jacob Trouba, senior Lee Moffie will reunite with sophomore Brennan Serville and junior Mac Bennett will be paired with sophomore Mike Chiasson.
“I can tell you from past years that they’re going to be physical,” Bennett said. “For the most part, though, they’ll keep it simple once they get over the red line and dump it in and just try to hammer the defensemen.”
The Miami offense will prove to be a challenge for Michigan’s defensive anchor with scoring standouts Blake Coleman, Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik and Bryon Paulazzo.
The quad of forwards carry the weight of the RedHawks’ early success this season, notching 19 points, including 11 of Miami’s 13 goals.
“It’s just something you’ve got to be aware of,” Bennett said. “If you know you’re going up against a good goal-scoring line, at least for a guy like me or Trouba or someone who likes to get up in the play, you kind of have to be a little bit more conservative that way you don’t get caught up front and they take advantage of that.”
But Michigan offers more depth with a spread of players finding the back of the net. In just three games, 12 Wolverines have contributed to a combined CCHA-high 17 goals — 5.67 per game.
Though Michigan boasts a diverse roster of goal scorers, it’s led by senior forward A.J. Treais with five points. The senior captain has found success against the RedHawks in seasons past, registering four career goals over Miami. But its defense won’t give it to him freely this time around.
Reflecting the 1.25 average goals given up per game — in comparison to the Wolverines’ unimpressive 3.33 — the RedHawks will look to keep Treais at bay.
Last season, the Wolverines posted a 2-1-1 record against Miami en route to reaching the NCAA Tournament. Both teams fell in the first round but entered the season ranked amongst the top half of the CCHA media and coaches polls.
“I’m sure the games will be close games,” Berenson said. “It’s not a surprise, but everybody’s a year older and a year better. If their best players have a good weekend, then that means we won’t have a good weekend, so we’ve got to make sure that we don’t let their best players play well.”