ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After three and a half months and 16 games, Jeff Tambellini finally found the net Friday, and he may have had a little help from a special source.
“I think I had my grandfather on my shoulder tonight,” the Michigan sophomore said. “He passed away a couple days (ago), and I think I had an angel helping me out there. I was playing for him tonight, and it’s nice to get one.”
Tambellini’s power-play goal came at 6:53 in the first period of Michigan’s 7-3 thrashing of Bowling Green. The forward with a wicked shot earned two goals for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships after Christmas, and had two during a Jan. 17 exhibition game, but he hadn’t scored in an NCAA game since Nov. 8.
Tambellini now has 10 goals and 19 points in 27 games. Last season, the Port Moody, B.C., native scored 18 goals through 27 games and finished the season with a team-leading 26.
He said the uncharacteristic dry spell had been weighing on him. “It’s frustrating,” Tambellini said. “It’s one of the favorite things I do in my life — I love to score goals. And for that not to happen is tough. But it’s part of the game.”
Although Tambellini has struggled, the Wolverines (22-8-1 overall, 17-5-1 CCHA) have had little trouble scoring, partly because they roll four lines. Friday, Michigan got goals from six different forwards, including two from sophomore Brandon Kaleniecki.
“A real strength of their team is their depth throughout their lineup — especially up front,” Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch said. “They’re so quick and dangerous through all four lines. They do a great job of capitalizing on mistakes, and they certainly did that tonight.”
Kaleniecki, who also earned two assists, now leads Michigan with 16 goals on the season. His centerman, Hensick, also notched four points, and Milan Gajic, the third member of that line, extended his point streak to 10 games with a goal and an assist.
Brian Escobedo scored twice for Bowling Green (9-15-8, 7-12-5). Goaltender Jordan Sigalet, who is used to facing a lot of shots, stopped 36-of-43. Paluch said turnovers and odd-man rushes did the Falcons in.
Michigan took a 2-0 lead in the first period on power play goals from Tambellini and Hensick. Jon Sitko pulled the Falcons within one early in the second, but the Wolverines finished the period with three straight goals.
The third period featured as many misconduct penalties as goals, and Michigan goaltender Al Montoya found himself in an unfamiliar place early in the period — the penalty box.
Escobeda scored his second goal while Montoya was down and defenseman Andy Burnes was stuck inside the net with him. Montoya was upset that the goal was allowed and earned a 10-minute misconduct with 18:25 left in the period.
“I think there was a discussion — maybe it was a one-sided discussion — about the goal” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was a disputed goal, and the official decided to call a misconduct penalty.”
It was Montoya’s second penalty of the game; he was called for roughing in the second period. Backup Noah Ruden came in and played the rest of the game, making 10 saves. The Yost Arena fans chanted “Free Montoya!” throughout the starting goalie’s stint in the sin bin.
Later in the period, Bowling Green’s Mark Wires and Brett Pilkington and Michigan’s Michael Woodford were all assessed 10-minute misconducts after a scuffle behind the Falcons’ net.
Michigan, which now holds a three-point lead over Miami at the top of the CCHA, hosts Bowling Green again Saturday night.