DETROIT — Sophomore Noah Ruden knew when he joined the
Michigan hockey team two years ago that he could have a backup role
at goaltender for his entire collegiate career. Coach Red Berenson
likes to have four-year starters in net, and his plan for fellow
sophomore Al Montoya was no different.

Janna Hutz
Sophomore Noah Ruden started his first career game and picked up his first career win at the GLI over break. (TONY DING/Daily)

But with Montoya at the World Junior Tournament, Ruden had a
weekend full of firsts. He started his first career game on Dec. 27
against Boston College, and won his first collegiate game against
Michigan Tech on Dec. 28.

Ruden had made three relief appearances last year and two this
season. Ruden’s first game couldn’t have come against a
tougher opponent than No. 2 Boston College. In addition, he played
in front of a large crowd at an NHL arena and a large audience on
regional television.

“It’s always a good experience to play against top
competition like Boston College and in Joe Louis,” Ruden
said. “But it is always a better experience when you can win.
Individually, what it was like for me wasn’t as good because
we couldn’t pull it out.”

It seemed that the Michigan defense had trouble adjusting to
Ruden’s style of play against the Eagles. Montoya tends to
roam out of the net and play the puck more than Ruden, who stays
home in the crease. As a result, the defense had a learning curve
getting used to the different styles of play, and it led to several
early breakdowns at the Michigan end.

In the third period, Boston College forward Dave Spina chased a
loose puck behind Ruden and two Michigan defenders followed him to
the back of the net. As a result, the Wolverines left the
Eagles’ Chris Collins in front. He flipped an easy shot over
Ruden to make the score 3-0.

Forward Eric Nystrom felt that regardless of who was in net,
Michigan didn’t play well enough to beat Boston College.

“We were trying our best to play good defenses and the
goals they scored were on defensive breakdowns,” Nystrom
said. “The plays (the defense) made were from somebody
missing their man or someone not picked up in the crease. The way
Noah played, I don’t think anyone else in net could have
saved their chances either.”

The next day against Michigan Tech in the consolation game,
Ruden notched his first career victory making 12 saves through two
periods of play. Granted, his opposition wasn’t as tough as
the day before, but Ruden seemed to take his game to the next
level. He faced the top goal scorer in the NCAA in the
Huskies’ Chris Conner and made several tough saves.

“We were a little upset with how we played (Dec. 27), so
we made sure that this was the way we were going to come out the
rest of the season,” Ruden said. “When you have a 4-0
cushion it makes the goalie’s job a lot easier because you
feel more relaxed. Getting that first win was fun.”

Freshman goalie Mike Mayhew also got a chance to play in his
first career game. He made a relief appearance against Michigan
Tech four minutes into the third period. Despite coming in when
Michigan held a comfortable 6-1 lead, Mayhew faced some of the
toughest shots of the game. He faced 12 shots during Michigan
Tech’s comeback attempt.

“Noah had been playing so well I didn’t expect to go
in,” Mayhew said. “As soon as I got in, they started
shooting the puck from everywhere knowing that I was coming in
cold. I thought I got a lot of experience. It was a great crowd,
and it was a lot of fun. ”

U-S-A! U-S-A!: The United States Under-20 National Team won the
World Junior tournament yesterday, defeating Canada 4-3 in the gold
medal game. Montoya was in net for all six games of the tournament
for the U.S., allowing an average of 1.33 goals a game, with a .944
save percentage. Montoya was named the best goaltender of the
tournament, and was selected to the All-Tournament Team.

Freshmen defenseman Matt Hunwick helped Montoya and the
Americans, playing all six games as well, finishing with a +2
rating.

Sophomore forward Jeff Tambellini played for the team north of
the border, and notched two goals and three assists in the
tournament.

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