It was a rough debut for Jared Rutledge and the 2012-13 Wolverines. Michigan led 3-1 and 4-2, but RIT tied the game with 4:40 left in regulation and scored 14 seconds into overtime to knock off the #3 Wolverines 5-4.
Things were great in the early-going. Derek DeBlois scored from Lindsay Sparks off an RIT turnover just 2 minutes and change into the season to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. The Wolverines were then given a 5-on-3 advantage and Jacob Trouba and Mac Bennett worked it to perfection out at the point. Bennett's shot got past the RIT goalie to make it 2-0.
Trouba then went end-to-end on a power play and scored on a wraparound. That goal has drawn rave reviews from all who saw it. Michigan's radio color analyst, Bill Trainor, simply said, "Wow". Just before intermission Rutledge misplayed a puck and RIT got on the scoreboard to make it 3-1 after one.
Alex Guptill appeared to make it 4-1 in the second period, but upon further review the goal was waived off. Bennett took a shot from the point, Guptill tried to knock it out of the air, the ref right on the play fanned his arms out to indicate it was not a high-stick, then Guptill shot it in off the ice. When they reviewed it, they ruled a high stick. It didn't look like he made contact with the puck, but apparently he did. And, as is inevitable when Michigan has a goal waived off, it came back to bite the Wolverines.
Edit: Actually, let's talk about this one a little bit more. When Guptill waived at the rebound his stick was high, no doubt. It didn't look like he made contact with the puck and the ref indicated that he did not. Then the puck was on the ground (or at least close to it) and he shot it in. How can they go back, review the play, and then waive off the goal for the high stick (even if he DID make contact with the puck)? What's the threshold for how far you can go back in a play to see if something happened that should have resulted in a whistle? I've never seen them review something that didn't directly result in a goal and change the call because of it. I'm pretty sure that's not allowed. It wouldn't be the first time they've completely made things up as they went along, but I'm pretty sure that was yet another blown call. Again, not that it should have come down to that, but I'm getting tired of Michigan having goals waived off and then losing in overtime. Play better, it doesn't matter. But let's not make up rules either....
In the third period, Rutledge stopped a wraparound, the defenseman (Serville?) stopped a backdoor feed, but the puck came back out into the slot and Saracino bombed one into the top of the net. Michigan quickly responded after an RIT turnover in front of their net ended up in the goal before their goaltender could move. Travis Lynch pounced on the loose puck and snapped it home to put Michigan back up by 2.
RIT cut the lead back to one with a shot to the (very) short side that got over Rutledge's blocker. A few moments later there was a lot of traffic down low and a soft backhander found the back of Michigan's net to tie the game.
The Tigers had a power play late in regulation and Kevin Lynch had the best chance of anyone. He had a beautiful toe-drag around the defenseman but Josh Watson made a nice save and Zach Hyman couldn't quite stuff in the rebound.
The game went to overtime and it didn't last long. A weak shot trickled between Rutledge's legs. One of the Michigan defensemen got there and tried to hold it out, but Adam Hartley was able to jam it home for the game-winner 14 seconds into the extra session.
The positives: Jacob Trouba was outstanding. In the first period he had a goal and an assist. He was extremely active running the point on the power play and came close several other times. He's got a really good shot and great vision. We're going to love having him for the season (?) that he's in a Michigan uniform.
Kevin Lynch also had a really good game. He obliterated a guy who was looking in his feet for the puck in addition to going 15 for 21 in the faceoff circle. He and Zach Hyman did a really great job on the penalty kill. Michigan was perfect on the PK and those two were a big reason why. It's kind of interesting that they're trying Hyman on the wing when he's one of Michigan's two best faceoff guys. He was 54% last season on a lot of draws, but he only took one tonight. They must think playing on the wing with Guptill and Lynch will get him going offensively.
I thought Treais looked really good running the point on the power play as well. I don't typically like having forwards on the point on the PP, but Treais had a nice game back there tonight. In the third he had an absolutely gorgeous keep and it resulted in a really good scoring chance for Trouba walking in.
Even strength was a little bit of a different story. I didn't think the Treais/PDG/Moffatt line did a whole lot. They combined for 8 shots (don't know how many were even-strength) but were -7 and I didn't think they were overly noticeable in the second half of the game (the part that I saw rather than listened to, thank you Shawn Hunwick).
The big negative was Rutledge's performance. He was solid through the first two periods, but the third wasn't a good period. After Michigan led 3-1 after two, they gave up 4 goals on the next ten shots and Saracino's was the only goal that didn't range from soft to avert-your-eyes. Clearly I'm not getting down on him. It was his first game and he's barely been on the ice, but that was a disappointing way to end the opener, and I'm sure he'd be the first to tell you that. After the game Red Berenson said he may go with Racine tomorrow. I guess it depends if he wants Rutledge to get back on the horse. In the middle part of the game, when things were going well, I figured we'd see Racine tomorrow (just to give both goalies a shot early on in the year). With it going this poorly, though, he may come back with Rutledge to show confidence in his young netminder. He'll be okay.
It's hard to point the finger at the offense when they score 4 goals, but they could have easily had double that. There were a lot of missed opportunities--and of course the Guptill waived-off goal. Still, four goals should be enough to beat RIT. They barely scored any goals last season and they were down their top three scorers from last year (including their top returning guy tonight).
The teams are back on the ice tomorrow night and Michigan will look to even their mark at 1-1-0.