The Michigan hockey team began its CCHA swan song Friday night, winning its regular-season opener over feisty No. 3 Miami (Ohio), 4-2.
“I just told the guys here earlier, we built this Michigan-Miami thing into a rivalry so it’s kind of expected that it’s going to be a chippy game,” senior captain A.J. Treais said. “You just kind of have to expect it and play that way.”
Just over three minutes into the game, a new rule came into play that helped Miami start off with the early lead.
Michigan sophomore forward Alex Guptill was sent to the penalty box, giving the RedHawks the power play. The puck slid down to Michigan freshman goaltender Steven Racine who misplayed the puck and turned it over.
Before Miami’s Cody Martin could finish into the empty net, Racine, seemingly intentionally, knocked the goal off its moorings. The referees originally called the play a no goal, but because of a new rule that says if a puck would have entered the goal before the net is dislodged, it should be ruled a goal, Miami was given the 1-0 lead after a lengthy review.
According to CCHA director of officiating Steve Piotrowski, it doesn’t matter whether or not the goalie’s action was intentional.
After the miscue, it Racine was more focused between the pipes. But after the game, Michigan coach Red Berenson maintained that freshman Jared Rutledge will start tomorrow.
At the 17:27 mark of the first period, with the sixth-ranked Wolverines on the power play, senior captain A.J. Treais launched a slapshot from the center of the blue line that beat replacement RedHawk netminder Jay Williams to tie the game at one. Starter Ryan McKay had been pulled earlier in the game with an apparent injury.
Treais scored his second of the night at the 6:32 mark of the second period off a quick snapshot from just inside the left circle that caught Williams off guard.
But with about eight minutes to play in the period, Michigan’s power play gave Miami momentum back as Treais coughed up the puck in his own corner, creating an easy shorthanded finish for two RedHawks. Racine was unable to retreat to his post in time to bail out his teammate.
With under a minute to play in the period, and Michigan killing off a penalty taken by senior defenseman Lee Moffie, the shorthanded unit failed to tap in a puck that came to rest on Miami’s goal line, and it was covered up harmlessly by Williams.
After two periods, the game remained tied at two.
“The middle period was probably their period,” Berenson said. “Maybe we were lucky to come out of it tied.”
That’s how it stayed until the 8:41 mark of the third period when Guptill fired a rifle of a pass down ice to sophomore defenseman Mike Chiasson. He carried the puck to the bottom of the slot and put the puck in a position where the goaltender couldn’t catch up to make it 3-2 Michigan.
Three minutes later, Guptill crashed the net to find a juicy rebound off a shot from freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba waiting for him. With Williams out of position, the rebound tally came easily, extending the Wolverines’ lead to 4-2.
After the two-goal lead, Michigan kept up the offensive pressure, creating a number of scoring chances, and time ran out on the RedHawks. At the other end, Racine appeared to settle down and grow comfortable in the crease as the game progressed.
“I thought he battled hard in the game,” Berenson said. “He made the saves he’s capable of making, and maybe a few he shouldn’t have.”
Michigan and Miami will complete their two-game series Saturday night at Yost with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
This story was updated on Oct. 27, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.