Michigan’s freshmen haven’t found success in their first season of college hockey by focusing on individual accolades. The Wolverines don’t want to start worrying about that stuff now.
Three of the seven CCHA players named to the CCHA All-Rookie team yesterday were Wolverines. Forward Jeff Tambellini, goalie Al Montoya and defenseman Danny Richmond were all voted in by opposing coaches.
“It’s a great honor,” said Tambellini, who led all CCHA rookies and tied for first in the nation with 25 goals in the regular season. “When you look back over the years and see the guys that have come through this program and through the league and have won this award, it’s a nice thing to have.”
Tambellini not only led Michigan in scoring with 38 points, but he’s been clutch, too – scoring goals such as his overtime winner against then-No. 14 Miami on Jan. 4. On the season, he finished fourth in the nation with six game-winning goals.
“At forward, I think Jeff Tambellini was a shoe-in, just because of his numbers,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It wasn’t like he just came on last week . . . It’s been all year, Jeff Tambellini has been one of the top rookies in the league.”
Montoya has also played big from day one. The youngest player in college hockey finished the regular season fourth in the CCHA in goals against average, posting a 2.41 mark. He started all 36 of the Wolverines’ games, tallying a 24-9-3 overall record.
“For me, I just hope it’s a sign of big things to come in the future,” Montoya said. “I feel really privileged to receive an award like this.”
Richmond was an offensive talent before he arrived in Ann Arbor.
And he showed that this season, notching three goals and 18 assists to lead Michigan’s blueliners in points. But his main challenge this year has been learning how to play defense at the college level.
“I think Richmond gets in there like a lot of defensemen,” Berenson said. “Whether they deserve it or not, they’re picked on their points. And I think other coaches will be looking at Richmond’s points, and he’s probably right up there with the other freshman defensemen offensively.”
While not receiving accolades, Michigan’s other newcomers also had an outstanding year. Forward Brandon Kaleniecki is in a three-way tie for second on the team in goals (13), and center Andrew Ebbett is sixth on the team in points with 24.
“Our other freshmen had really good seasons,” Berenson said. “Maybe their numbers weren’t as outstanding. But both Ebbett and Kaleniecki have had, I think, great seasons.”
Yesterday, all of the freshmen named seemed more excited about the start of their first conference tournament this coming weekend then being named to the all-rookie team.
“The feeling around playoff time, it’s indescribable,” Richmond said. “It’s not nerves, you just want to get it started. It’s just it’s a war out there. It’s a lot of fun.”