Michigan sophomore goalie Al Montoya was invited Tuesday to represent the United States on the ice.
Montoya was one of 22 players named by USA Hockey to the preliminary roster for the Under-20 U.S. National Junior hockey team. The team, which will be trimmed to 16 players in December, will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, which will take place in Finland at the end of December.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Montoya said. “Just to be able to put on the red, white and blue — it’s just a great thing.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson was also pleased with the announcement, but noted that it was by no means a shocker.
“I’m not surprised,” Berenson said. “He’s done everything you could ask for a goalie his age. I think he’s had a real good year at Michigan, and so I think it was a pretty easy choice for them.”
Michigan junior alternate captain Eric Nystrom, who captained the under-20 squad last year and also participated on the 2001 team, noted that the competition is a step up from NCAA hockey.
“This is the real deal,” Nystrom said. “This is where Canada sends their best players (and) the whole world sends their best players. This is the cream of the crop, besides the Olympics.”
The only negative about Montoya playing on the national team is that he will be absent when the Wolverines take the ice for the Great Lakes Invitational. Berenson said his presence will be missed, but others will have to step up and fill the hole.
“For our team, that means he’ll miss a couple of games,” Berenson said. “(They will be) important games, and that puts (the pressure) on our backup goalies.”
Sophomore Noah Ruden will most likely start in net for the Wolverines at the GLI. Ruden has seen playing time in a few games this season, most notably against Miami when Montoya was pulled in the third period after allowing six goals. Freshman Mike Mayhew is the third goalie on the Michigan roster.
In addition to being named to the junior national team preliminary roster, Montoya was also named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week last week for his performance against Northern Michigan. Montoya allowed just two goals on 43 shots in that series.
Helminen to sit out this weekend: Michigan will be without one of its more experienced forwards Saturday when it takes on Niagara. Berenson said that he has decided to sit junior winger Dwight Helminen for academic reasons.
“I’m giving Dwight the week off,” Berenson said. “He’s got some work in school that he’s got to get done, and I’m not satisfied he’s getting (it) done, so he’s got all week to get it done.”
Berenson said the decision to hold Helminen out of competition is entirely unrelated to anything Helminen has done on the ice. The coaches will meet with Helminen on Monday to determine if he is ready to play in the following weekend’s series against Ferris State.