EAST LANSING — In Michigan’s first 16 games, it has
experienced a roller-coaster ride worthy of Cedar Point
consideration. During this stretch, the Wolverines have been marred
with inconsistencies: Offensive production has flickered between on
and off as rapidly as Internet service, the powerplay has gone from
dominant to dominated (0-for-23 the last six games) and
Michigan’s lines have been swapped more than a Ken Griffey
Jr. rookie card.

Mira Levitan
Goaltender Al Montoya received constant praise from players and coaches all season long, despite the outcome of the games. (CURTIS HILLER/Daily)

But one thing that has remained steady in the young season is
the team’s praise for goalie Al Montoya. Win or lose, no
matter how many goals Michigan gives up, coaches and players alike
have always been quick to commend the efforts of their sophomore
netminder.

This weekend, Montoya turned out a performance deserving of the
hype. The Glenview, Ill., native stopped 38-of-40 Michigan State
shots and made many spectacular saves. Montoya was at his best on
Friday, when he recorded his third shutout of the season and
seventh of his career.

“He made some good saves, and it wasn’t an easy game
for a goalie to play,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
“It seemed like shots came in bunches. They weren’t
easy to see. There were a lot of screen shots, loose pucks and
rebounds. Al was strong and he battled hard.”

A scoreless game until late in the third period, Friday was a
night for the goaltenders. In Michigan’s 2-0 win at Yost Ice
Arena, Montoya — the game’s first star — stuffed
all 23 Spartan shots on goal. After 13 saves in the first two
periods, Montoya really stood out in an intense third period,
blocking 10 Michigan State attempts.

“That’s why you play goaltender — you know
you’re back there, and you have the last say on
everything,” Montoya said.

Although Montoya produced numerous crowd-pleasing stops, one
save seemed to trigger a celebration louder than the rest. In the
second period, Michigan State defenseman Ethan Graham received the
puck above the left faceoff circle and fired a heavy slapshot
toward Montoya’s left. Positioned above the right half of the
crease, Montoya completely outstretched his left arm and snagged
the puck. The save immediately set off a bowing “Al
Montoya” chant from the student section.

On Saturday, Montoya played well, but surrendered two difficult
goals. Michigan State’s first score came on a first-period
powerplay. Defenseman Corey Potter ripped a slapshot from between
the faceoff circles. Montoya deflected the puck over the goal, but
it bounced off the boards and dribbled back in front of the goal.
Before Montoya could relocate the puck, Mike Lalonde buried the
putback.

The Spartans scored their second goal in the third period. David
Booth found himself uncovered just in front of the blue line,
skated forward and shot through a crowd of players screening
Montoya. Montoya’s stellar play throughout the game kept
Michigan within striking distance.

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