COLUMBUS, Ohio — Al Montoya’s 30 saves and Mike Brown’s second goal of the season proved to be all the Wolverines needed to beat the Buckeyes Friday, as Michigan posted a 4-0 shutout over Ohio State in the first of four regular-season meetings between the clustermates.
Brown and Dwight Helminen each had a goal and an assist and the Wolverines did something that they’ve rarely done this season — score at even strength.
“We knew that Ohio State was a good team, maybe the best team we played and it would be huge as to who got the lead in the game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “I think the first goal was important, obviously, and being able to play five-on-five. We’ve been a team that’s not scored a lot of five-on-five goals and they’re a team that scored six last Saturday.
“We knew we had to play with their lines if we could, and for the most part we did a good job.”
Michigan jumped out to a two-goal lead after one, with Brown’s second goal of the season and the first for Nick Martens. After a scoreless second period — one in which Montoya earned his keep — Helminen gave the Wolverines a 3-0 lead early in the third, and T.J. Hensick capped the night late in the closing stanza.
The Buckeyes, whose last outing was a 6-1 win over Northern Michigan in Marquette, are now 2-5-0 on Friday nights, a trend that head coach John Markell calls frustrating.
“We didn’t play a very good hockey game,” said Markell. “I don’t know why we were flat in the first period — the long trip, we haven’t had an opportunity to practice in this building — but we certainly caused our own mistakes tonight.”
Eric Nystrom initiated the play that led to Brown’s game-winner at 8:18 in the first. Nystrom tied up two Buckeye defenders along the boards on the far side of the left circle while the puck squirted free to Helminen. Helminen then passed from behind the goal line at the bottom of the circle to Brown, who was flying in down the center of the crease. Brown’s rocket beat OSU netminder Mike Betz clean on the stick side.
Martens’ shot from out near the Buckeye blueline made its way through traffic at 17:14 in the first, and the period ended 2-0.
In the second, the Buckeyes peppered Montoya from every conceivable angle but were unable to solve the sophomore. Midway through the stanza, Montoya stoned Dan Knapp on the Buckeye power play, making a save from a difficult angle and winding up on his fanny for his efforts. With five minutes left in the period, Montoya made a breathtaking glove stop on Matt Waddell to preserve the lead and the shutout.
“Obviously, the difference when we did break down was Al Montoya,” said Berenson. “He was sharp and he made some huge saves in the game. The game was really in doubt maybe until the third goal or for sure until the fourth goal.”
When Helminen tipped in Milan Gajic’s shot at 5:59 in the third, the game was sealed. Hensick’s backhander at 16:13 made it 4-0.
“I thought we were too fancy with the puck,” said Markell. “I thought we didn’t generate the shots required to score the goals. Bounces were getting away from us.”
Typically, Montoya credited a good defensive effort for his sixth career shutout and his second consecutive blanking of the Buckeyes, who Michigan last met in the 2002-2003 Super Six, a 3-0 Wolverine win.
“Everyone came out and did a great job,” said Montoya. “Even though we were without Andy Burnes, every defenseman knew that he had to pick it up and we had three freshmen out there that played like veterans.”
Burnes, one of the three Michigan seniors and the team’s captain, is sidelined with a shoulder injury. There were, in fact, no seniors dressed for the Wolverines.
Last season, the Wolverines and Buckeyes skated to a pair of ties in the Schottenstein Center, and Berenson said he expects OSU to redouble its efforts in Saturday’s rematch. Markell said that as disappointed as he was with Friday’s effort, Saturday is a new day.
“The wonderful thing is that we have an opportunity to change it around here tomorrow,” said Markell.
Michigan (9-2-0, 5-2-0 CCHA) meets Ohio State (7-5-0, 6-3-0 CCHA) at 8:05 p.m. Saturday night in Value City Arena.