No, this wasn’t Notre Dame. It wasn’t Ohio State in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff. It was an exhibition game against an obscure team the Michigan hockey team had never played before.

UOIT 3, Michigan 2 (ex)

The opponent really didn’t matter. Luckily for the Wolverines, the game didn’t really matter either.

On Saturday, Michigan dropped its first exhibition game of the year to the Ontario Institute of Technology, 3-2, in a sloppy effort highlighted by the Wolverines’ inability to finish near the net. Michigan had twice as many shots on goal as the Ridgebacks, 56-28, but couldn’t convert 54 of those shots into goals.

On top of that, Ontario played more than a third of the game on the penalty kill, amassing 22 penalty minutes. The Wolverines led in every major statistical category — except for goals.

“That team turned out to be a good team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We don’t know much about our opponent, but it turned out to be a good team.”

Michigan looked to be in the driver’s seat early on, when senior defenseman Greg Pateryn rifled in a shot from the blue line for the early lead. The Wolverines dominated the rest of the first period, outshooting Ontario 20-6.

The tide started to turn in the second period. The Ridgebacks tied it up when sophomore forward Brendan Wise scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal. Michigan still outshot Ontario 20-17 in the period, but failed to find the net.

“We carried the play in the first half of the game,” Berenson said. “We kept them in the game. And then sure enough, they started to carry the play. They took advantage of our turnovers in the second period. They got back in the game, and it was anyone’s game in the third.”

The teams swapped goals in the final period, with Michigan freshman forward Phil Di Giuseppe scoring 10 minutes in, countering an Ontario goal scored five minutes earlier. The Wolverines made it interesting in the final minute by coming close to the back of the net multiple times, but they failed to send in the equalizer.

Earlier in the week, Berenson mentioned that he had no idea who was going to lead this team in scoring. Chances are, he didn’t get a much better idea after Saturday. Michigan had plenty of opportunities that didn’t amount to anything — a sign of a rusty team that doesn’t have complete chemistry yet.

“We’re not just going to come in here and throw our six out there and because we’re Michigan we’re going to win,” said fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick. “We have to come every night and play hard.”

Michigan also trotted out eight freshman. When almost half the team on the ice is experiencing Yost Ice Arena for the first time, first-game nerves are to be expected, especially for a team that hasn’t had much time to jell.

Still, two goals against Ontario is not the way the Wolverines wanted to start out their season.

“This is (high-level) hockey and it’s not just our young players, it’s our experienced players that have to understand the summer’s over,” Berenson said. “Summer hockey’s over, this is the real deal and we need to pick it up.”

But no one is panicking. Berenson was collected after the game, and Hunwick was his usual, relaxed self. The team realizes it has time to fix things, markedly with another exhibition on Monday.

“I think, you know, we’re OK,” said senior forward Luke Glendening. “Obviously no one likes to lose, but I think our team will be OK.”

The result of the game doesn’t matter. The stats don’t count, and the Wolverines’ record is still 0-0. The biggest winner on Saturday was Berenson, who gets a better feel of his team and what they are capable of.

“That’s what these games are for, to try and get something going. … Like I say, it’s one game,” Berenson said. “It gives us an idea. Ask me after Monday and Tuesday I’ll have a better idea.”

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