Goaltender Jared Rutledge leaves Michigan hockey with option to return (or not)
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file photo
Michigan coach Red Berenson confirmed on Thursday that Rutledge, who just completed his freshman year with the team, would spend the 2013-14 season playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the United States.
Rutledge - who turned 19 last month - has two years of remaining eligibility in the USHL. Junior players are not paid and therefore retain their amateur status. Under the NCAA’s 4-2-4 transfer rule, Rutledge is eligible to return to Michigan or transfer to any Division I school without penalty so long as he takes courses with a two-year institution and satisfies academic requirements of an NCAA athlete while playing in the USHL.
“Jared Rutledge, after a year that maybe he didn’t live up to expectations, decided to explore his options and one of his options is to go back and play in the USHL for a year in junior hockey,” Berenson said on Thursday. “A number of goalies in our league we’ve seen do that and get a little more game experience and get their game in place.”
Rutledge - who played in the USHL with the United States National Team Development Program before coming to Michigan - was selected by Green Bay in the fourth round of the USHL draft on Tuesday. Berenson didn’t rule out Rutledge returning to Michigan, but didn’t say it was part of the plan, either. The 4-2-4 rule leaves both options open.
“It’s perfect for a kid like this, who really needs to get his game together before coming back into Division I,” Berenson said. “He’s really opened the door to a lot of options.”
Tabbed as the starter at the beginning of the season, Rutledge started the year off on a bad note, needing eye surgery during the preseason. Rutledge still started the season opener only to give up three goals in his first third period and the game-winner in overtime. He was in a rotation the rest of the year, playing in 12 games and starting seven, as Michigan struggled. He ended the year with goals against average of 4.24, a save percentage of .854 and a record of 3-6.
As Michigan struggled to a 10-18-2 record to begin last season, it rotated between Rutledge, Steve Racine and Adam Janecyk in net. Racine eventually solidified himself as the starter down the stretch, starting Michigan's final 10 games as the Wolverines went 8-1-1.
Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.