ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan lost its best playmaker, best defenseman and top goaltender after last season.
Saturday night, the Wolverines saw three young freshman who could fit those roles in an 8-1 victory over Toronto Varsity Blues in an exhibition game. After Mike Cammalleri and Mike Komisarek bolted to the pros and Josh Blackburn graduated, forward Jeff Tambellini, defenseman Danny Richmond and goaltender Al Montoya had their chance to prove they can slide into those spots.
Of course — they’re a little different. Richmond and Tambellini are roommates and play Enrique Iglesias as part of their pregame ritual. Montoya is the nervous type. He fretted over his first game for two days. He’s been the victim of numerous practical jokes.
But, all three showed they can play.
Tambellini, one of the best playmaking recruits in Canada, looked almost too comfortable for a freshman’s first game, tallying three assists and making acrobatic and crisp setups to his linemates. He started on the top line with John Shouneyia and Eric Nystrom and should remain there next week.
“He’s going to be an exciting player,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Richmond played on the top defensive tandem with Andy Burnes. He had a goal on a shot from the point in the first period and had several scoring chances. After a few mistakes, he settled down.
Montoya faced just 13 shots and stopped 12. Berenson liked what little he saw, especially his quick recovery on a poorly handled play.
Early in the first period Montoya came straight out of the crease to play the puck and passed it right to Toronto’s Robert Ryan. But Montoya quickly reacted and leaped to the left side of the net before Ryan’s shot could get in.
“He made a mistake and made up for it,” Berenson said. “A la Marty Turco. He made a good save on a 2-on-1 rush. He looked fine.”
Montoya follows a long list of top Michigan goaltenders who started in their freshmen seasons — Steve Shields, Turco and Blackburn.
Other freshmen contributed in their first action — forward Andrew Ebbett had a goal and two assists and forward Brandon Kaleniecki had two goals.
The Wolverines begin their season Friday at the Xerox Hockey Showcase in Buffalo, N.Y., which includes Niagara, Canisius and North Dakota. But they might not have Shouneyia, one of their few seniors. He jammed his wrist and did not play in the final two periods. Berenson said Shouneyia will have MRI results by Sunday.
NOTEBOOK: Forward Joe Kautz sat out the weekend after getting his wisdom teeth pulled. … Junior goaltender transfer Chris Gartman has been ruled academically ineligible for the first semester. … Junior Dave Wyzgowski has moved over defense this season and Berenson said he “didn’t look out of place.”