After a Rochester Institute of Technology goal early in third period cut the Michigan hockey team’s lead to just one at 3-2, there was an eery and familiar feeling in the Yost Ice Arena. Just one night prior, the Wolverines had surrendered three third-period goals and fell to the Tigers in overtime.
“In the locker room, everyone knew we were in the same situation,” said senior captain A.J. Treais. “Nothing really had to be said. Obviously, it was in the back of every one’s minds.”
But Friday was a different story. The Wolverines responded with four consecutive goals in the third period to make the score 7-2 and all but secure Michigan’s first victory of the season.
“We had a killer instinct,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “We didn’t get down on the bench. We made sure we stayed on the attack.”
Following a devastating 5-4 overtime loss on Thursday to RIT, the Wolverines were hoping to avoid making history — Michigan hadn’t lost consecutive season-opening games since the 1944-45 season.
After a poor performance by freshman Jared Rutledge on Thursday in the season opener, freshman goalie Steve Racine made his collegiate debut for Michigan. Last season, the Williamsville, N.Y. native had an impressive 15-0 record with Georgetown in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“I thought (changing goalies) was the right thing to do,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Rutledge was fighting it last night. … It was easy for me to put Racine in (Friday). He’s an older goalie and he needed to show what he can do as well.”
Racine’s 21 saves and two goals allowed were good enough to earn the 7-2 victory for Michigan and his first career win.
The Wolverines weren’t the only ones that made a change in net, though, as the Tigers went with Josh Watson instead of Jordan Ruby.
Michigan came out looking like a different team on Friday evening. In the first period alone the offense tallied 19 shots compared to RIT’s five. Despite the offensive bararage displayed by the Wolverines, Berenson was equally pleased with the defensive effort.
“You didn’t see any break aways (Friday),” Berenson said. “You saw hardly any grade-A scoring chances against us. … We played with more conviction tonight and that’s why we had a better result.”
And with 11:02 remaining in the first period, the Wolverines got on the board first after Moffie fired a shot from just inside the blue line on the left side of the rink. The puck hit an RIT stick and deflected into the back of the net.
Moffie’s tally capped the beginning of a game that had seen the Wolverines dominate possession and drastically outshoot the Tigers.
Michigan went on to score again with a minute and a half left in the first period while on the penalty kill. Sophomore Travis Lynch received a pass across the middle of the ice from junior forward Derek DeBlois and buried it in the back of the net for the Wolverines first shorthanded goal of the season.
But with 15:12 left in the second period, RIT had an answer of its own. Racine let in a shot that was initially called no goal since the RIT player appeared to be in the crease, but the referees decided that it was a goal after review, which put the score at 2-1.
The scoring continued in the second period when sophomore forward Phil Di Giuseppe’s wrist shot found the net. It was his first tally of the season and gave Michigan a two-goal cushion.
Then came the third-period scoring barrage.
Fourty-seven seconds after RIT’s Jeff Smith scored his second goal of the game to make the score 3-2, Treais buried a pass from junior forward Luke Moffatt in the right corner of the net to put Michigan back up by two.
Sophomore forward Andrew Sinelli added another goal — his first-career goal — with 11:35 remaining in the game to make the score 5-2 in the Wolverine’s favor. A minute later, highly touted freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba flashed his play-making affinity and scored his second tally in as many nights to push the lead to four goals.
Senior forward Lindsay Sparks capped the scoring for the contest with a quick snipe with 11:52 remaining in the third period to put Michigan ahead 7-2 and effectively send the Tigers packing.
Aside from the goal scoring, another positive for the Wolverines during Friday night’s contest was the special teams. Michigan held the Tigers to 0-for-4 on their power plays. More importantly, though, was the Wolverines ability to limit their own penalties. On Thursday they took seven penalties, compared to just four on Friday.
“We don’t want to kill penalties all night,” Berenson said. “It’s tough on our defense and tough on our forwards. If you only have to kill four or five penalties, I think we can do that.”