EAST LANSING – Michigan goalie Al Montoya made his birthday something to remember.
The freshman, who fast-tracked his last year of high school to join the Wolverines this season, turned 18 on Thursday. And in his first game as a legal voter, he shut down his team’s archrival en route to a 3-1 win.
Montoya made a number of eye-popping saves on Friday to keep the Maize and Blue ahead. His biggest sequence may have come with Michigan leading 2-1 in the second period and a delayed penalty coming against the Wolverines.
The Glenview, Ill. native stopped a number of rebounds before his team was able to gather control of the puck and draw a whistle.
Montoya, who was serenaded by the home crowd with “Happy Birthday” multiple times over the course of Friday’s game, certainly seemed to satisfy his coach with his play.
“The question about our goalie playing in a big game like this, I think was answered,” coach Red Berenson said.
On Saturday, Montoya was bombarded by 29 Michigan State shots. Despite giving up four goals and taking the loss, many said that he kept his team as close as anyone could have asked.
“Montoya kept them right in it,” Michigan State defenseman John-Michael Liles said. “He played fantastic. You really can’t fault him for any of the goals I don’t think. He played very well.”
Michigan State coach Rick Comley agreed.
“There were times we could have been up three or four to nothing in the hockey game, and he came up with a couple really big saves,” Comley said.
But for Montoya, Friday night will still be the highlight of the weekend.
“Turning 18 and getting a win in my first game against Michigan State, what more could I ask for?” Montoya said.
Fast out of gate two: For five minutes to start the second period, Michigan State was on the attack, and it had Michigan on its heels.
After the two teams skated to a scoreless first period Saturday night, the Spartans jumped onto the ice to start the second and took the game and a series sweep away from the Wolverines. Michigan State scored two goals in the first 3:25 of the period to build a lead. And with the Munn Ice Arena crowd behind them, the Spartans never looked back.
“We came out on the powerplay and just took it to them,” Michigan State freshman Colton Fretter said. “That was the loudest I’ve heard (the crowd) going in a long time.”
With Michigan defenseman Nick Martens serving the final 54 seconds of a roughing penalty left over from the first period, Liles lobbed home a wristshot from the blueline for a 1-0 edge just 48 seconds in.
“That first goal on the powerplay I think really got us going,” Liles said. “And then for about five minutes, we were really flying.”
Liles added another score a little more than three minutes later to give Michigan State a more comfortable edge.
The Spartans were pleased with the way they played in the first period, and didn’t make too many adjustments at the break.
“We played well in the first period,” Liles said. “We just said, ‘We’ve got to keep plugging away, and keep chipping the puck out of our zone, clearing rebounds away from (goalie Matt Migliaccio),’ and I think we did that pretty well.”