BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Michigan added another regular-season championship to its mantle by defeating Bowling Green, 4-1, at the BG Ice Arena on Friday night.
With the win, the Wolverines (25-7-3, 22-3-2 CCHA) pick up their second consecutive league title and the opportunity to play Notre Dame in the first round of the CCHA playoffs next week.
Meanwhile, the Falcons (16-13-4, 13-11-3) missed the chance to overtake Nebraska-Omaha for fourth place in the league. Bowling Green needs at least a tie in their final game to clinch the No. 4 seed in the postseason tournament.
While Michigan’s potent offense put up impressive numbers in tonight’s contest, the difference maker was Michigan goaltender Al Montoya. He stopped 21 shots on goal, and made a number of game-saving stops to keep the Falcons from gaining any momentum.
“You don’t like to have to make those saves,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He was the difference maker. He kept us in the game when the game was close.”
Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch agreed.
“I thought Al was exceptional,” he said. “Five or six of those saves were really swing-type saves. I thought we could have gotten the lead a few times
in the first. That would have been really big for us. He also made some real good saves early in the second period.”
While winning their second consecutive CCHA regular season title was a goal coming into the game, Berenson said it was not his team’s focus.
“I can tell you, we did not talk about first place,” said Berenson. “It was about playing well and playing our best hockey this time of year.”
Wolverine Senior Eric Nystrom, who has been a part of three CCHA title teams, was pleased with what the victory brought.
“What’s good about a league championship is, it shows consistency throughout the whole year,” said the Wolverine captain. “We started off the season well. We got in first place and we showed no signs of slowing down.”
Nystrom was also pleased to see Montoya, who has struggled for consistency this season, pull out a stellar performance.
“This is an important part of the year, and if [Montoya] can step up and play
like he did tonight, he’s really going to help us in the end run. It was good to see the old Al.”
The Wolverines jumped in front at the 7:26 mark of the opening period with a
shorthanded goal. A turnover in the BG offensive zone led to a 2 on 1 going the other way, which junior Andrew Ebbett took advantage of, notching his fifth goal of the year.
Bowling Green knotted the score just 26 seconds later with a power-play goal. Junior winger Mike Falk scored his eighth goal of the year, picking up a
rebound in front of an open net and depositing it into the twine. Jonathon
Matsumoto and Jonathon Sigalet picked up the assists.
“I liked the goal tonight,” said Paluch. “It was a great goal. It was a mentally tough goal too, to come right back after the shorthand.”
Nystrom gave Michigan a 2-1 advantage midway through the second period. He fired a shot between the circles that ricocheted off the crossbar and into
the net. Ebbett and Eric Werner assisted the goal. With the goal, Nystrom extended his consecutive-game point streak to six (5-3–8).
Michigan increased its lead to 3-1 in the third as time expired on a Bowling Green penalty. Right winger Jeff Tambellini one-timed a shot from the top of the zone that found the five-hole of Sigalet. Werner and Eric Martens assisted on the play.
Michigan iced the game late in the third period on a pretty 2 on 1 play. T.J. Hensick took a feed from Tambellini in front of Sigalet and beat the BG goalie glove side for the 4-1 lead.
The Falcons finished 1-for-8 on the power play, while the Wolverines were shut out in six attempts.
Al Montoya stopped 21 of 22 shots, while his counterpart stopped 25 of 29.
The two teams will square off again Saturday night at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.