For a hockey goalie, rebounds are important. There’s a constant focus for a netminder to control rebounds and stop opposing teams from getting second and third shots. But that’s the obvious stuff, and a goalie has to rebound from a lot more than that.

Ice Hockey
Michigan goalie Al Montoya is giving up an average of one goal per game in the playoffs this season.
(RYAN WEINER/Daily)

During Friday’s semifinal game against Alaska-Fairbanks in the Super 6, Michigan goalie Al Montoya faced just 12 shots — six in the first period and six more in the next two combined.

“It’s a tough game for a goalie to play in because you’re not taking a lot of good shots,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Al was good. This was a game of staying focused for a goalie.”

So what does a goalie do to keep his focus while facing one shot every five minutes? Montoya’s backup, Noah Ruden, explained that it’s tough for a goalie in a situation like that, but there are things that they do to stay involved in the game. Ruden said that a popular solution for a goalie is to come out of the net a lot — either to play the puck or to skate around in between whistles.

“And from night to night, it’s not that much different because when you finish one game, the next day you start your refocus again,” Ruden said. “And he does a good job of getting himself ready for every night.”

The next night, against Ohio State, Montoya faced 29 shots — 28 from the Buckeyes and one that ricocheted off Michigan defenseman Eric Werner and flew into the goal just wide of Montoya. After the game, Montoya said that he made all the saves that he thought he should have made. Ruden said that it was one of those goals that was just unfortunate and added that, as a goalie, you have to learn to forget those.

“In a game like that, you have to brush it off right away because they drop the puck 15 seconds later, and, if you’re still thinking about that goal, the next shot coming — you’re not going to think about it.”

Recently, Montoya has been on fire. In the playoffs, he has given up an average of just one goal per game. It is, in part, because the Wolverines have focused defensively on not allowing as many shots, but it is also because of the kind of saves that Montoya has been making. Midway through the first period of the game against Ohio State, Montoya made a save from the high slot. He couldn’t quite control the rebound, and it trickled out to his left. He dove to his left and made the second save. Berenson has said all season that his hope is for his goalie to be at peak form when the playoffs start, and maybe Montoya is at that point.

“I think he’s making subtle saves. He’s making hard shots look easy. He’s ready for the second shot. And I think that, if it comes down to goaltending, then we’ll have an edge,” Berenson said.

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