DETROIT — It took the Michigan Wolverines two periods to knock off the rust from the extended holiday break.
Through 40 minutes, Michigan Tech out-shot Michigan 29-14 but due to stellar play from goalie Steve Racine and timely goal scoring, the Wolverines came away with the win in the opening game of the Great Lakes Invitational, 2-1 over the fifth-ranked Huskies.
The Wolverines managed to strike first, as freshman defenseman Cutler Martin scored the game’s opening goal 6:28 into the period.
The top line of Andrew Copp, Zach Hyman and Alex Kile put together a strong forecheck in the offensive zone where Copp wrangled the puck in the corner and looped near the faceoff circle left of the net. Copp sent a cross-ice pass to Martin on the blue line where he let a quick wrist shot go from 60 feet away that beat Huskies goalie Jamie Phillips over his right shoulder.
The lead didn’t last long, as Michigan Tech continued its offensive threat and tying the score at 1-1 three minutes later.
An aggressive pinch by Huskies defenseman Riley Sweeney kept the puck in the Wolverines’ zone and kept the pressure on. Sweeney streamed down from his blue line position to win a race to a loose puck along the boards near the hash marks. Sweeney moved the puck into the corner where Tanner Kero passed to his linemate Alex Petan. Near the faceoff dot to the left of Racine, Petan one-touch passed the puck over to Malcolm Gould who took a one-timer from the weak side to finish off a tic-tac-toe sequence.
“Riley did a really good job of holding the blue line,” Gould said. “We made sure we wanted to keep the puck low and Tanner was on their D and did a good job of turning it over. He found Alex in a soft spot there and Alex made a really good, heads up play to find me back door. It was a nice play.”
Michigan Tech continued to keep the pressure on the Wolverines, putting 29 shots on goal through the first two periods. Racine, however, was spectacular for the maize and blue in net. When the Huskies threatened, Michigan’s Racine was there to turn them away, stopping 40-of-41 shots on goal.
“I was seeing the puck really well today, it’s always nice as a goalie,” Racine said. “You kind of feel like you don’t have to move around that much. Pucks are just hitting you and guys are doing a really good job letting you see shots.”
Opportunities came in bunches for the Huskies with scoring chances favoring them 14-to-5 after 40 minutes but none more pivotal than the final moments of the second period. With five shots on goal and the Wolverines scrambling in the defensive zone for the final 60 seconds, Racine shined making big saves including a slap shot from the blue line through a screen of bodies in front of the net in which Racine redirected into the far corner to keep the game at 1-1 as the second period came to a close.
“I give their goalie, Steve Racine a lot of credit for a kid that’s been maligned,” Huskies coach Mel Pearson said. “I thought he had a strong performance and a great performance tonight.”
Despite being outshot and out-possessed for much of the game, the Wolverines were able to make good on its opportunities.
Early in the third period, Christoval Nieves carried the puck on a 3-on-2 and split the Huskies defensemen, driving to the net and not only generating a scoring chance but also drawing a penalty as Auk hauled Nieves down to the ice. While Phillips turned away the initial scoring threat, the penalty set up the Wolverines with a man-advantage.
Near center ice, defenseman Michael Downing moved the puck up to Copp who gained the blue line and chipped a backhand pass to a streaking Zach Hyman. Hyman coasted near the tops of the circles where he sailed a wrist shot over Phillips’ right shoulder to regain the lead, 2-1 in favor of Michigan.
“We were just talking we’re still in this game, it’s a 1-1 game and anyone can win it,” Wolverines forward Alex Kile said. “We got that goal and we felt like we did everything we could to control this game and I’m just happy to come out with the W.”
With the 2-1 victory, the Wolverines will play at 7:00 p.m. on Monday night against the winner of the Michigan State/Ferris State semifinal game that took place following the Michigan game. Additionally, the Huskies will play in the consolation game at 3:30 p.m. prior to the championship game at Joe Louis Arena.