Whether he has wanted it or not, Milan Gaijc has always been visible around the Michigan hockey camp this season. Saturday night was no different, but this time it was for the right reasons. For the most part, anyway.
After Michigan coach Red Berenson scratched the sophomore forward for both games against Ohio State last weekend, Gaijc showcased his talents as he scored a goal and added an assist in the first period of the Wolverines’ sweep over Bowling Green. While on the powerplay, he took a pass from Andrew Ebbett in front of the net and beat Falcons goaltender Tyler Masters down low. Then, two minutes later, he helped set up Moss’ goal to give Michigan a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission. Gaijc also had a few other solid shifts playing on a line with Moss and Jason Ryznar, creating some chances while crashing the net.
A two-point game for most players would draw praise from Berenson, but Gaijc – who has been in Berenson’s doghouse ever since he was suspended for academic reasons in November – didn’t have much to offer.
“Well, he had a couple of good shifts,” Berenson said. “I can’t tell you I liked his game, but he did what he can do. That’s the dilemma with Milan Gaijc. It’s, ‘What are you going to get night after night?’ He doesn’t give enough of an honest game, and once in awhile he’ll make that real nice play.”
The sophomore’s season has had a number of highs and lows. The British Columbia native scored twice in Michigan’s comeback over Ferris State on Jan. 31 but Berenson has had little praise for him in interviews after practice ever since.
But Gaijc has maintained the same attitude throughout, reiterating that he is here for the team.
“I’m just go out and work,” Gaijc said. “If I play, I play. If I don’t, I don’t. I care that I’m not playing, but as long as we keep on winning, the team comes first.”
Full blast: After Merrimack goaltender Joe Exter was sent to the hospital due to a horrific collision with Boston College’s Patrick Eaves, the awareness for protecting goaltenders hasn’t been higher. So when Al Montoya laid on the ice after receiving a full-blown body check from Bowling Green forward Alex Rogosheske on Friday, everyone was driven into a frenzy.
The play resulted in Rogosheske receiving penalties for charging the goaltender and roughing while Tambellini was handed a cross-checking minor. Tambellini admitted that he actually pushed Rogosheske into Montoya, but Berenson felt that the collision was avoidable and that the penalty given out “could have been more severe.”
As Rogosheske raced down the left side, Jeff Tambellini tried to push him away from the net. But Tambellini pushed Rogosheske right at the goaltender, leaving him on the ground for a few minutes.
“That’s got to be something that the coaches, referees and players all understand is that’s what we’re trying to get out of the game,” Berenson said. “If contact is avoidable, you have to get out of there. The referees have a lot of flexibility in the rulebook to call that. We’re telling our players, ‘Stay away from the goalies.’ I don’t know if all other players are understanding that.”
Montoya, however, did not have to leave the game and finished the remainder of the weekend strong stopping 52 of 55 shots. The 18-year-old remained a target as he has all season, but he has been able to shake off the reputation he came to Michigan with as someone who would retaliate after such punishment.
“At the beginning of the season, to tell you the truth, I would have,” Montoya said. “But I’ve learned it’s really not going to get you anywhere and it just going to make the teams keep coming after me and hit me more.”
Goin’ dancin’: The Wolverines are a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament after winning this weekend’s series. While Michigan would have likely made the 16-team field even if it had not advanced to the Super Six, it now stands to receive a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional at Yost Ice Arena in two weeks. As of Saturday’s games, the Wolverines are tied for ninth in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimics the NCAA selection process by comparing all teams with a Ratings Percentage Index above .500. If Michigan won the CCHA Tournament, it would likely be ranked in the Pairwise top eight and would receive a two seed. Otherwise, Michigan stands to be seeded third, meaning that it would have to upset two teams on consecutive days to advance to the Frozen Four.