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Montoya leads 'M' to weekend split

BY GABE EDELSON
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 1, 2004

BIG RAPIDS — Some sports are games of inches. On Saturday
night, the Michigan hockey team found out that its sport was one of
bounces.

Eston Bond
Brandon Kaleniecki fired eight shots this weekend, but was held scoreless. (TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily)

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Despite a stellar performance from junior goalie Al Montoya
— who set a career-best shutout streak of 150:01 minutes
— No. 4 Michigan (3-1-0 CCHA, 5-2-1 overall) had to settle
for a split in its weekend series with Ferris State (1-3-0, 2-6-1),
after the Bulldogs’ Matt Rutkowski fired a puck past Montoya
1:52 into overtime at Ewigleben Ice Arena. Ferris State won
Saturday’s contest, 1-0, following Michigan’s 3-0 win
on Friday at Yost Ice Arena.

The game-winning goal came as Rutkowski skated down the left
side of the ice into the Michigan zone. The junior’s shot
from the left circle bounced on the ice and beat Montoya stick
side, sending the small but boisterous crowd into a frenzy.

“The puck was on the ice the whole way up to my
stick,” Montoya said. “Right when it got to my stick,
it took a weird bounce and went over it.”

Senior captain Eric Nystrom acknowledged that the game could
have gone either way in overtime, it just happened to go into
Michigan’s net.

“This was a tough game to take,” he said.
“(The puck) took a funny hop off the ice. That’s
overtime for you. You come down the wing, you throw it on the net,
and for some reason things happen at that time of the game.
That’s the way it goes.”

On the weekend, the Wolverines failed to convert with the extra
man on all 13 of their chances, including three consecutive 5-on-3
advantages in the second period on Friday and one two-man edge in
the third period on Saturday. Friday’s game broke
Michigan’s streak of six straight contests with a power play
goal.

“The weekend was a disaster for our power play,”
Berenson said. “That’s where you have to take
advantage. It’s disappointing when you can’t capitalize
on your power plays and your 5-on-3s.”

Despite outshooting Ferris State, 33-20, the Wolverines were
shut out by the Bulldogs’ goalie Mike Brown, who notched his
second win of the year. Both games were marred with penalties, many
of which stemmed from scuffles after the whistle. But Michigan
responded to the physical play rather than backing down.

“You knew it would be a hard-fought game,” Berenson
said. “We didn’t capitalize on any of our chances, and
the game came down to one shot and they got the break on the shot.
We had the benefit of more scoring chances. We had a good chance to
win this game.”

Michigan has not won a game in Big Rapids since a 5-4 victory on
Nov. 30, 2001. But Montoya insists that the team’s poor
record in Ferris State’s building did not factor into the
outcome of Saturday’s contest.

“They have a good home presence, but they don’t
intimidate us,” he said.

Berenson recognizes the home ice advantages common to both
teams.

“(Ewigleben Ice Arena) has never been kind to
Michigan,” Berenson said. “It’s a great home rink
for Ferris, and our rink is a great home rink for Michigan.
That’s what it’s like playing on the road in the CCHA.
Yet that was still a game we could have won. That’s the best
we’ve played in here in recent years.”

But in the end, Michigan simply couldn’t find the offense
that gave them the decisive edge on Friday.

In the first game of the weekend set, Michigan freshman forward
Kevin Porter scored after taking a cross-ice pass from junior
forward Andrew Ebbett on a 2-on-1 at 7:19 of the second period.
Just five and a half minutes later, senior forward Milan Gajic
knocked in a rebound to make it 2-0 in Michigan’s favor.
Sophomore forward Mike Brown’s shorthanded goal at 10:50 of
the third period ended the scoring. After Montoya made 17 saves for
his first shutout of the season, it was Ferris State’s turn
to step up the defensive pressure the following night.

“(Ferris State’s) Mike Brown had a good
weekend,” Berenson said. “He gave them a chance to win
both games, and Al Montoya gave us a chance to win both games. We
only needed one goal (Saturday). We didn’t need six. It was
frustrating that we didn’t get it.”

Nystrom puts the blame on the offense for the loss.

“You can’t expect to win a game without scoring any
goals, and we didn’t score any goals tonight,” Nystrom
said. “We played hard, we played good defensively, but you
have to put one in the net.”

For Montoya, the bottom line is simple.

“We’re not happy with the split and (Ferris State)
is,” he said. “We just have to regroup this week and
get ready for next week.”


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