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Taking A Step Forward

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The Wolverines got all they could handle from the Engineers, but pulled away to get above .500 for the first time this season.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan 3 - RPI 2

Michigan 6 - RPI 0

For three periods the Wolverines had no answer for the Engineer's gameplan. They clogged the neutral zone and disconnected Michigan's transition attack, turning them back at the blueline and countering quickly taking advantage of a Michigan team who for 57 minutes looked a stride behind. RPI came to play and they skated hard, keeping the Wolverines back on their heels and looking like the better team for most of the game.

"We weren't playing our best, especially in the first period when you could tell who had the turkey and who didn't." Berenson said in the postgame.

Facing a 2-1 deficit with three minutes left they finally managed to break through the trap when Tyler Motte came over the line and split the gap between the defensemen and backchecker, going around the defensemen and fitting the puck under the arm of the goaltender.

29 seconds later Dylan Larkin hit the line and cut to the middle of the ice drawing two backcheckers and a defensemen, leaving Zach Hyman enough time and space to pick his shot. The goaltender got a piece, but the puck went over his shoulder and into the net.

You have to give a lot of credit to RPI, they played a great game and fought hard after losing the lead. Without late game heroics from Zach Nagelvoort and a puck off the crossbar with the net empty, the Engineers would have stolen away this game at Yost.

A night later, RPI came out with the same energy and dominated the first five minutes of the game. The Wolverines didn't have a shot on net until Berenson put out his new 4th line with Justin Selman and Evan Allen on the wings. In his first game since Michigan Tech Allen was skating with a purpose, out to make his case to get back in the lineup. They responded by getting five shots on net on their first shift and the Wolverines never looked back.

Kevin Lohan opened the scoring midway through the first when Diebold made a sliding save on Tony Calderone but couldn't control the rebound. Lohan snuck in from the blueline and went around the down-and-out goaltender to score his 2nd goal of the year. The Wolverines would score two minutes apart later in the period on a power play goal from Alex Kile and a rocket shot from Nieves.

Nieves would seal the victory midway through the second, picking the puck up at his own blueline and splitting two RPI defenders, going around a third and lifting the puck over the RPI netminder. Tony Calderone and JT Compher would add third period goals; Calderone's on a 2-on-1 with Motte, the first goal of his career.

Berenson would end the game lifting Nagelvoort for senior Luke Dwyer. "Luke works hard every day; he's one of those guys who does everything right and cares about the team like it's his own family, and it's good to see them care about him."

Three Keys
  1. Special Teams: The Wolverines continued their off and on trend with special teams, failing to score on three chances and allowing RPI to convert on their only power play opportunity Friday. The next night Berenson made a switch from umbrella to 1-3-1 putting Nieves, Kile, Larkin and Hyman down in the zone around the net and scoring on their first chance while the penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4.
  2. Staying Hot: Alex Kile continues to find the net which isn't surprising for a player who scored 30 goals his final season in the USHL, but through 13 games Kile is a point per game player and the team leader in goals. Kile skates like a goal scorer, not just a player benefiting from being on a line with Dylan Larkin and Zach Hyman.
  3. Return To Normalcy: Boo Nieves and Zach Nagelvoort both started the year with high expectations and slow starts. Red stuck with both players and they have responded. Nagelvoort is 5-1-0 since the Michigan Tech series with a .930 SV%. Nieves has passed his goal total from a year ago in 22 less games and is skating with confidence that we didn't always see a year ago.

Up Next: Ohio State heads to Yost for the final game of Michigan's 7 game homestand.