ANN ARBOR, Mich. — By the end of the first period between of Thursday’s game between Rochester Institute of Technology and Michigan, the Wolverines were up 3-1. By the end of regulation, the Tigers had tied it up and before overtime was a minute old, RIT had upset No. 3 Michigan 5-4, with senior Adam Hartley’s first goal of the season winning the game.
“Michigan as they normally do put you on your heels,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “We were very tentative and nervous with the puck early in the game. I thought they had a lot of skill and they had a lot of opportunities. I think the difference for us is that as the game went on, we had some small steps in the game.”
The Wolverines seemed to be in control of the game with goals by Derek DeBlois, Mac Bennett and Jacob Trouba — two on the power play — by close to the end of the first period, but leading 3-0 just after Trouba’s goal at 18:37, the Wolverines collapsed defensively, leading to Josh Mitchell’s first career goal for the Tigers at 19:06.
Through a scoreless second period, the Tigers capitalized on that period-ending goal’s momentum in small increments. Two successful penalty kills in the middle 10 minutes of the period helped RIT keep the game close enough to play itself back into the contest in the third.
“You have to give that team credit. They were down two goals in the third period and they came back,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “On the flip side, we’re disappointed in our overall defensive game, starting with our goalkeeping, our defense, and our D-zone play. You can’t give up unearned goals and that’s what we did.”
At 3:31 in the third, Chris Saracino pulled the Tigers to within one but Michigan’s Travis Lynch made it a two-goal game again a little over a minute later.
Three unanswered RIT goals led to the Tigers’ victory, two in the third that flanked a four-on-three Michigan advantage. That penalty kill, especially, helped turn the tide for the Tigers.
“I thought we had two real big blocked shots on their four-on-three power play,” Wilson said. “We hung in there and then all of a sudden maybe they just got a little tight, but we hung in there and battled and found a way to win the game. I don’t think it was necessarily a great game for us but we did find a way and so it gives us a little bit of confidence going into tomorrow, but we’ve got a lot to work on.”
In his first win of the season, Josh Watson made 40 saves on 44 shots. In his first game for the Wolverines, freshman Jared Rutledge struggled, allowing five goals on 26 shots.
“I’ll have to look at them again,” Berenson said, “but [the goals] all looked pretty soft to me. The kid made some good saves, too, but it was a tough night to be a goalie in our end and we’ve got to play better than that.”
Michigan freshman Steve Racine may start in Friday’s rematch. “We’ll talk about it,” Berenson said.