EAST LANSING — Four years and 10 months.

That’s how long it had been since the Michigan hockey team went on the road and defeated Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena.

Until last night, that is.

Junior goalie Al Montoya made 29 saves, including 16 in a hectic first period, to lead the No. 2 Wolverines to a 4-2 victory over the Spartans. Last night’s outcome marked the first time the Wolverines’ senior class tasted success in the Spartans’ building.

“The seniors wanted to end their careers with at least one win in this barn, which we finally got for them,” sophomore forward T.J. Hensick said. “They carried us. (Jason Ryznar and captain Eric Nystrom) were killing some penalties. (Brandon) Rogers led the way on defense. It’s a big win for those guys to finally get a win in this arena, in this environment.”

Senior Eric Werner notched the game-winning goal 1:21 into the third period. With Michigan skating shorthanded, senior David Moss fired a shot that was stopped by Michigan State goalie Dominic Vicari. But the rebound came out to the high slot, where Werner was waiting. The defenseman’s shot remained on the ice all the way to Vicari, who allowed the puck to slip between his legs.

“We got a goal from a defenseman,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was a broken play and (we were) short-handed. How often do you see that? But, more often than not, those are the kind of goals that make the difference between these two teams because they’re so evenly matched.”

T.J. Hensick ended more than 13 minutes of scoreless, back-and-forth play with a wrist shot that beat Vicari over the glove at 13:08 of the first period. But at 4:04 into the second frame, with the Spartans on the power play, Michigan State senior captain Jim Slater knotted the game at one when he fired the puck past Montoya, who was screened by a tangle of players in front of the net and a Michigan State player who fell on top of him just before the score.

Michigan sophomore David Rohlfs took advantage of a Michigan State turnover to score on a breakaway at 12:59 of the second period. Rohlfs deked Vicari to the right, then beat him stick side to make the score 2-1. Werner then proceeded to tally Michigan’s third goal. Just three-and-a-half minutes later, sophomore Mike Brown gave the Wolverines a commanding 4-1 lead on an unassisted wraparound shot. Spartan forward Bryan Lerg capped the scoring with a goal late in the third.

The star of the night was Montoya. The junior kept Michigan (6-1-0 CCHA, 8-2-1 overall) in the game early on, despite heavy pressure from Michigan State (3-4-0, 5-5-1), and helped his teammates shake off the rust after a bye weekend.

“Montoya was the difference in the first period, and then we got the bounces after that,” Berenson said. “Al knew he had to come in here and give us a chance. He had to be focused. Our team has got something to prove in here. I thought he was solid.

“He gave the whole team confidence. I don’t know how many great saves he had to make, but he was really quick around the net on the loose pucks. When a goalie makes it look easy, you know he’s playing well.”

Montoya knew what he had to do for the win.

“(Facing) 10 shots or 30 shots, my job is to keep the puck out of the net,” Montoya said. “There’s no excuses.”

Michigan returns to Yost Ice Arena to play the Spartans tomorrow night at 7:35 pm.

 

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