As if losing senior alternate captain John Shouneyia for up to two months wasn’t enough, the Michigan hockey team had two more of its prominent players go down with health problems.
Junior alternate captain Andy Burnes is out for at least three weeks after contracting mononucleosis and sophomore Jason Ryznar is out for at least one more game – if not the entire weekend series against Merrimack – with an injury to his right shoulder.
“Burnes was sick last week,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We gave him a couple days off and he started to feel better and thought he could play. He played (against Niagra and North Dakota) and then he really wore out on Saturday.
“We’re not even thinking about (Ryznar) for Friday. Best-case scenario is Saturday or the following week.”
Sophomore forward Eric Nystrom will fill in for Burnes as an alternate captain until the junior has recovered enough to rejoin the team.
The losses come at a tough time for the Wolverines, who are still trying to get effective defensive pairings and offensive lines together.
With just five defenders returning from last Saturday’s lineup, Berenson will have to decide whether to move Reilly Olson or David Wyzgowski into the starting lineup, or just play with five defenders and increase their ice time. Berenson noted that playing just five would not be a problem as Michigan played just four during its 1998 NCAA Tournament winning run.
Ryznar, who had been teaming with Milan Gajic and Jed Ortmeyer, will be replaced by Mark Mink, who recorded two goals this past weekend.
“We’re missing some key players now,” freshman goaltender Al Montoya said. “We all just have to go out there and battle. What we do in one game is going to follow to the next.”
Learning something new: For Montoya, Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to North Dakota was one that will stick with him for awhile – in a positive way.
Though he and his teammates blew a two-goal lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game, there were some important things the freshman goalie learned in his first visit to HSBC Arena – the site of this year’s Frozen Four.
“It’s such an advantage now, knowing that rink,” Montoya said. “It’s such a different rink than what we’re used to playing on. The boards are so much in tighter, like if you put the puck behind the net you have nowhere to go. It’s such a different thing, and I’m glad we got to experience what could be around us. I really want to be back in a couple months.”
Although the experience did not end the way he wanted, Montoya knows that the errors he did make were ones that can be easily corrected with experience.
“I just made some rookie mistakes going out there – mishandled a pass, gave up a goal,” Montoya said referring to North Dakota’s Quinn Fylling intercepting a pass from Montoya early in the second period.
Michigan was on the power play at the time, but the ill-advised pass caused a two-on-one breakaway for the Fighting Sioux. Fylling easily dished the puck to Zach Parise for the shorthanded goal to tie the game at two.
But where Montoya made his mistakes, he also stood strong at times to hold onto Michigan’s momentum. He did get some revenge against Fylling with a huge kick-save just three minutes after the shorthanded goal. He also robbed a breakaway by Parise – who had four points on the night – with a glove-save early in the third period to preserve Michigan’s 3-2 lead.
Montoya had an advantage over his teammates, who may have grown accustomed to Yost Ice Arena’s large and raucous crowd to keep them fired up. He wasn’t bothered by the fact that HSBC Arena was barely filled and resembled an audience for a play more than a hockey crowd.
“Last year in juniors we’d only get 30 fans a night and you’d have to make your own motivation, so I’m pretty used to that now,” Montoya said.