It wasn’t the start Jared Rutledge imagined when he committed to coach Red Berenson and the Michigan hockey program. In fact, the ending to Rutledge’s career debut was borderline nightmarish.
“You can’t give up unearned goals, and that’s what we did,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I’ll have to look at them again, but they all looked pretty soft to me.”
In all, five goals slipped by Rutledge, each shrinking the Wolverines’ lead until there wasn’t one left. There was perhaps no softer Rochester Institute of Technology tally than the game winner. Just 14 seconds into overtime, forward Adam Hartley fired a puck that slid between Rutledge’s legs and into the net to seal the 5-4 upset of No. 3 Michigan in the season opener.
Berenson added there’s a chance he’ll give freshman goaltender Steven Racine the start between the pipes Friday, but he’ll “talk it over” with the coaching staff, before making a decision.
Early on in Thursday’s game, it looked as if the Wolverines were heading for a blowout victory.
Junior forward Derek DeBlois scored the first goal of the young season just over two minutes into the game off a nifty one-timer through the slot following an RIT turnover. Assisting on the goal was senior forward Lindsay Sparks, who was scratched from 27 of last season’s 41 games, but appears to have found a nice touch early on. He also recorded two points against Windsor.
At the 11:00 mark, senior defenseman Lee Moffie received a cross-crease pass and failed to finish into an open net, but managed to draw a penalty in the process. Later on, with a two-man advantage, junior defenseman Mac Bennett received a pass from freshman partner Jacob Trouba and ripped a shot on goal that beat the RIT goalie stick side.
Then with 1:23 remaining in the first period, Trouba wrapped around the Tigers’ net and sprayed a wrister into the back of the net to put the Wolverines up 3-0. However, 29 seconds later Rutledge misplayed the puck and RIT pulled to within two.
The scoring slowed in the second period, and the Wolverines’ best early look came when Bennett crashed the net before hitting the post on a wrister.
With a little over five minutes to play in the period, sophomore forward Alex Guptill found himself in the crease with a chance to tap the puck into the net. After a lengthy review, the referees determined that Guptill was guilty of a high stick and the goal, initially allowed, was overturned.
Michigan played the last couple of minutes in the period shorthanded after a Moffie penalty. But the penalty-kill unit promptly killed off the RIT advantage en route to a perfect 5-for-5 night killing penalties.
Just three minutes into the third period, just three minutes in, Trouba turned the puck over behind his own goal and RIT capitalized by finding the top shelf on a rebound over Rutledge’s right shoulder to pull to within one. But another quick reply, this time by the Wolverines and sophomore forward Travis Lynch off a turnover, extended the lead to two again.
RIT’s Elliot Raibl made it 4-3 off a shot that sailed over Rutledge’s blocker at the 9:08 mark. The Tigers seized even more momentum after killing off a Michigan 4-on-3 advantage. With 4:40 to play in the game, Rutledge guessed incorrectly on a Tiger backhand from just outside the crease and RIT capitalized, sending the game into overtime.
That’s when Hartley made Rutledge and the Wolverines pay for the puck that trickled away.
“We can’t give those shots up,” DeBlois said. “It’s just kind of bearing down in the defensive zone — something we’ve got to work on and get better at. … Four goals should win a hockey game.”
The Wolverines maintained a healthy shot advantage throughout the game, outshooting RIT by a 44-26 clip, but the Tigers made the most of their third-period opportunities, outscoring Michigan 3-1.
The Tigers and Wolverines will wrap up the two-game series Friday night with a 7:35 p.m. puck drop from Yost Ice Arena.