The return of the National Hockey League cost Michigan its number-one goaltender Wednesday, as senior-to-be Al Montoya opted to leave school and sign a contract with the New York Rangers.
“Al is one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey and we are extremely pleased to have signed him,” said Rangers general manager Glen Sather. “We feel this will be a big step for Al in advancing his development. He has been working extremely hard this summer and we are looking forward to seeing him on the ice at training camp in September.”
“It’s disappointing to lose a player who is going into his senior year,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “He had a lot of pressure from the New York Rangers organization to turn professional and he made the decision to do it. He had a good career at Michigan but I wish he would have stayed and enjoyed his senior year.”
Montoya, a native of Glenview, Ill. and a graduate of the U.S. National Development team, was the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2004, taken sixth overall. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
In his junior year of 2004-05, Montoya equaled his career high of 30 wins, previously set in 2002-03 as a freshman. His 2004-05 winning percentage of .788 (30-7-3) was his career best. He posted a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .895.
He enjoyed his best season at Michigan during his sophomore year of 2003-04, setting a school record for single-season shutouts with six while compiling career bests in GAA (2.23) and save percentage (.917). That year, he was second-team West All-American.
As a 17-year-old freshman in 2002-03, Montoya started all 43 games for the Maize and Blue squad that reached the NCAA Frozen Four. His season line of 30-10-3 with a 2.33 GAA, a .911 save percentage and four shutouts earned him numerous accolades. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional, a member of the CCHA Super Six All-Tournament team, and selected to the CCHA All-Rookie team.
Montoya also played for the United States in the World Junior Championships twice, including backstopping the U.S. to its first gold medal in 2004. In six contests that year he went 6-0-0, had a .944 save percentage with a 1.33 GAA and two shutouts, and was named the Directorate Award winner as the tournament’s top goaltender.
Over his three-year career with the Wolverines, Montoya compiled a career record of 86-29-8 (.732) with a 2.36 GAA, a .908 save percentage and 13 shutouts. Michigan won two CCHA regular-season titles and two Mason Cups as the league’s tournament champion during his tenure in net.
His .908 career save percentage is tied for first all-time at Michigan, while his 13 shutouts are third, his 2.36 GAA is third and his 86 wins are fourth in the Michigan all-time career record book.