KALAMAZOO — Maybe Michigan goalie Al Montoya was angry about the United States’ fourth-place performance in the World Junior Championship after winning it a year ago. Maybe he was upset that Western Michigan had scored two goals in the last minute of the second period to cut Michigan’s lead to 5-4. In any case, Montoya snapped.
After Western Michigan forward Mike Erickson scored a power play goal with 13 seconds remaining in the second period, Montoya got tangled up with Broncos junior Daryl Moore. The forward skated away after a small scuffle, but Montoya wasn’t done with him yet. Montoya came from behind and pulled Moore to the ice in a fashion that would have made Hulk Hogan proud.
“He just poked me and said a couple of things,” Montoya said without really disclosing what occurred. “I think I tripped. I’m not sure.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson was upset that one of the Broncos skaters would have the audacity to fight a goalie.
“It was all behind the play,” Berenson said. “You just hate to see that. That’s the last thing you want to do (as a skater) is get in a shoving match with a goalie. That was always considered to be cheap if you had to resort to punishing (the goalie).”
As the referees were trying to restore order on Michigan’s side of the ice, the skirmish escalated further when Michigan forward Eric Nystrom — the captain with an eye-for-an-eye mentality — confronted the Broncos netminder Daniel Bellissimo. Nystrom glided towards the Broncos goalie and the two exchanged words and a shove to the delight of the 4,000-plus in attendance. Even with all the ruckus, the referees never let the fight everyone wanted to see take place.
Both goalies gestured and yelled at each other from their respective nets as the crowd roared and banged their thunder sticks together in anticipation. But before either goalie could get past his respective blue line, the men in the striped shirts sent them back to their nets.
Saturday’s game featured a combined 62 minutes of penalties, including Montoya’s two-minute hit after the whistle call — which could have easily drawn a ten-minute misconduct instead. Michigan junior Andrew Ebbett served the penalty for Montoya.
Of the 62 minutes, eight were the result of roughing and 18 were the result of hit after the whistle penalties.
Last year’s games between the Broncos and the Wolverines were just as hot-blooded, and Montoya was in the middle of the action again. Broncos forward Dana Lattery — a senior last season — earned a five-minute major penalty for checking Montoya behind the net. Additionally, four players were ejected for fighting.
Back in Black: Saturday’s contest in Kalamazoo was the fifth edition of “Blackout Saturday,” a promotional event that encourages Broncos fans to wear black to support the Western Michigan squad. The Broncos got so into it that even their coaches were clad, head-to-toe, in black suits and ties. Michigan’s 6-5 win lowered the Broncos record in Blackout games to 3-2.
“Our crowd is tremendous,” Western Michigan junior Vince Bellissimo, brother of Daniel, said. “There is no feeling like coming out and seeing them up there. We don’t give up and a (reason for that is the crowd). You don’t see anyone leave early or something like that. The student section is filled almost every night. Whenever we play, they’re loud and they get behind us.”
Berenson was aware of the animated crowd that lined up for first-come, first-serve seating in the early afternoon for the 7:30 game. But he downplayed the crowd as an integral factor in the game.
“Their crowd set the tempo early in the game and we had to try to match that,” Berenson said. “In old fashion terms, you’d call that a ‘barn-burner.’ But when you are on the bench it’s not as exciting. It’s exciting, but it’s not necessarily as much fun as it is for the fans.”
Notes: Saturday’s win improved Michigan’s all-time record at Lawson Ice Arena to 19-13-8 … So far this season, Michigan is 6-3-0 when allowing the first goal — something it did both nights this weekend … The Wolverines are 13-0-0 this season when leading after two periods.