ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan freshman netminder Al Montoya was visibly frustrated–not to mention angry.
And it wasn’t because of his 24-save performance in Michigan’s 3-1 victory over No. 11 seed Bowling Green in the first round of the CCHA Tournament at Yost Ice Arena.
Montoya said the Falcons took cheap shots physically at him all game long. The most serious of blows occurred midway through the second period.
That’s when Bowling Green sophomore forward Alex Rogosheske steamrolled into Montoya after a breakaway chance. The blow knocked the net off its magnets and Montoya onto the ice for several minutes–and struck fear into the Michigan faithful.
“My vision was a little blurred for a minute, but I was all right,” Montoya said.
Michigan freshman Jeff Tambellini was skating nearly a step behind Rogosheske the entire way, and tried to push him out of harms way. Instead, Rogosheske plowed into the freshman, earning him some time in the penalty box.
Rogosheske got called for roughing and charging the goalie. And Tambellini got called for cross-checking.
“I just saw [the replay] in slow motion and it was ridiculous,” Montoya said. “He laid the shoulder down and he had about two seconds to move to the left–and he went straight at me. They were going after me all night long.”
Michigan defenseman Andy Burnes, who had a good vantage point from the ice on the play, said, “I didn’t see [Rogosheske] let up that much. He just lowered his shoulder and went in there. It’s frustrating – you hate to see it. No coach tells you to do it. You just got to let up.”
Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch firmly denied that his players took shots at Montoya.
“We don’t run over goalies on our team,” Paluch said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Montoya said he was especially surprised referees didn’t crack down more with stiffer penalties for the hit because of the recent tragedy involving Merrimack goalie Joe Exter.
Exter remains in serious condition after suffering head trauma in a game against Boston College last Friday. The 24-year old senior captain is still in his hospital bed after he collided with Boston College forward Patrick Eaves’ when going after a loose puck.
“Something is going on nowadays, and it has to be stopped,” Montoya said.
Montoya did stop 24 shots in the game. But it was his counterpart, Jordan Sigalet, which kept the game close.
The Wolverines peppered Sigalet all night long, generating nearly a dozen point-blank scoring chances. They had breakaways. They had one-timers. They had wide-open nets. They outshot Bowling Green, 40-25.
But Sigalet stood strong and kept the Falcons in the game. Mnd midway through the first period, they grabbed the lead. Freshman forward Mike Falk, a Davisburg, MI native, slammed a rebound past Montoya to put Bowling Green (8-24) ahead, 1-0.
The Wolverines answered early in the second period, as senior John Shouneyia back-handed a loose puck over the outstretched glove of Sigalet to tie the game.
Then, Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer took over.
Ortmeyer’s game-winner started with his hustle. He poke-checked the puck away from several Falcons at the blueline. He craftily maneuvered the puck over to Tambellini in the right slot and then aggressively crashed the net. After Tambellini’s shot was set aside by Sigalet, Ortmeyer lifted the puck over Sigalet’s pads.
Tambellini assisted on all the Michigan goals.
“Our team was fragile tonight, and Jed was one player who was playing like a captain–and playing like a leader,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And that helped everyone on the team.”
Helminen added an insurance goal in the third, his first tally since Feb. 21.
“We had an opportunity,” Paluch said. “We can’t give them turnover opportunities like we gave them tonight. They are too good a team.”
And the Wolverines could be an angry team after the extra-curricular activities on Friday night surrounding Montoya.
“It definitely gets you mad when other teams go after your goalie,” Burnes said. “It makes for some chippy play.”