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March 03, 2003 - Image 16

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8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 3, 2003

A NEW ROLE
A starter his entire life, freshman Noah Ruden now finds himself in unfamiliar territory
By Kyle O'Neill Daily Sports Editor

0

evin O'Malley, Gregg Malicke and
Chris Gordon. They are names that
ichigan freshman Noah Ruden may
not know off hand, but they are part of a newly
formed list that he has joined: Four-year backup
goaltenders to prominent four-year starters.
From 1999-to-2002, O'Malley played second
fiddle to Josh Blackburn. The four years pre-
ceding that, Malicke was Marty Turco's backup.
And in the four-year era before that, Gordon
was brought in as a freshman to be No. 2 behind
Steve Shields.
Now, for the rest of this season and likely the
three to follow, Ruden stands in the shadow of
freshman phenom Al Montoya.
A cursed entrance
On Jan. 31, that shadow nearly disap-
peared when the Wolverines faced Ferris
State - the CCHA's No. 1 team. Just 3:20
into the Friday night game, Ferris State's
Chris Kunitz got Montoya to fall awkwardly
as he scored his first goal of the weekend.
While Kunitz and the rest of the Bulldogs
celebrated, Montoya remained motionless
on the ice.
All of Yost Ice Arena was focused on Mon-
toya and whether he would get up. Well, all
except equipment manager Ian Hume, who was
preparing Ruden to go in against the confer-
ence's highest-scoring squad.

Montoya got up, Yost cheered and Ruden's
stoic and focused look turned to one of relief for
his teammate. But the night of worrying for
Montoya's health was not over. Later in the
game, Montoya was knocked down, only to get
up quickly and then fall over again as someone
responding to a concussion would act. Again,
Ruden's face became emotionless, and he was
prepared to go on the ice.
But, one more time, Montoya got up from his
injury and finished off the 6-3 win.
So is the life of the backup goaltender. On one
hand, he wants to play. On the other, he doesn't
want to see his teammate seriously injured.
"I hoped for our sake that he wasn't hurt,
because he's been doing a good job for us and
he's been keeping us in all these games," Ruden
said. "But that's what we're prepared for. That's
why every game we're dressed and we still have
to be ready, because you never know what's
going to happen. God forbid he does get hurt,
but I have to be ready at all times to jump in
there, keep the team going and get a win if I
have to."
Until that unfortunate opportunity occurs,
Ruden knows his role better than anyone else.
"Obviously, you want to play, so you just have
to wait your time and with the way Al's playing
right now, you can't expect anything else,"
Ruden said. "If I was in there and I was doing
what he's doing, I wouldn't expect not to play
either. Whatever I can do to help this team win;

if it's me getting ice time and winning, that's
good. And if it's me backing him up and pushing
him, then that's what I'm going to have to do."
What Ruden has to do is something that he
never experienced when he was younger.
"The best little brother"
Except for his days playing high school soc-
cer, Ruden was someone who never saw much
of the bench - even in soccer he saw much
more playing time than the two games he's
appeared in for Michigan this season. But those
who know Noah understand that he's not above
doing things for others if it makes them happy.
"We used to play school when we were
younger and he was my student," recalled Sarey
Ruden, Noah's sister - a graphic arts senior. "I
would make actual books up and give him tests
after he came home from school. I'd quiz him in
math. It was little things. I had a restaurant in
my room, and I'd feed him grilled cheese and
make him pay for it in our own house. He was
the best little brother, he'd be like, 'Okay.' He
probably didn't understand that he could go
downstairs and make it himself, so he'd just sit
there and pay for food."
Though she no longer makes him play school
or eat at her restaurant, Sarey enjoys pester-
'ingher younger sibling when she can.
"I probably annoy him on the computer,"
Sarey said. "I instant message him like four
times a day ... just to bother him and keep tabs"
Don't blame Sarey for trying to be in her
brother's everyday life. They've been essentially
separated for the past three years, as she has
been at Michigan since 1999 and Noah had
been playing junior hockey in the Midwest for
three years starting in 2000.
"When he started (juniors) was when I started
college anyway, so it's like I wasn't going to be
home," she said. "But it's definitely nice having
him home for dinner when he comes home."
There is one Sunday, though, that Sarey
wasn't exactly thrilled to see Noah. On
Super Bowl Sunday, Noah invited Montoya
and the rest of the freshmen to party at his
West Bloomfield home.
"We sat there and we got away from the
hockey world, got away from the dorms - it
was a good dining experience;' Montoya said.
Sarey saw their "good dining experience" in a
different light though.
"They ate all of our spaghetti," said Sarey
with a laugh. But she did admit that she likes
the group of guys that Noah has chosen to asso-
ciate himself with. "I see (the freshmen) togeth-
er all the time. It's cute."
Though their parents got divorced when
Noah was a one year old and Sarey was three
years old, both parents lived and remarried in
the West Bloomfield area and remained friends.
The close friendship allowed both parents to
play large roles in developing Noah in hockey
and take Sarey to where she needed to be for
her travel soccer team.
"(My dad) definitely pushed him, but only
because he knew that Noah wanted to play
hockey," Sarey said. "It wasn't like he was liv-
ing through Noah - I joke that he is, but he's
just very supportive.
Noah's ark to Michigan
It's easy to think that Ruden could have gone

to some other Division I school and been its
starter, if not now, at least for the future. But the
lure of the maize and blue is something that is
not easily turned down.
"For starters, it's Michigan and it's tough to
turn down Michigan when they come talking to
you," Ruden said. "They said to me that they
had Montoya and that they had one spot open
and 'it's going to be a battle and we want you to
come out here and battle for it.' I probably
would regret ifI ever turned down Michigan."
The interesting thing is that he may have not
had that offer to turn down had it not been for
North Dakota goaltender Josh Siembida.
"We noticed him the year before ... we actu-
ally went to watch a kid named Josh Siembida
- who ended up going to North Dakota - but
Noah played extremely well and might have
beat him that game," Michigan associate head
coach Mel Pearson said.
On Nov. 10, 2001, Ruden - playing for the
Tri-City Storm - and Siembida - playing for
the Waterloo Black Hawks - squared off in a
3-2 overtime shootout win for Siembida.
Though Ruden didn't win, he was perfect when
the teams were even-strengthed and allowed just
two powerplay goals, along with the shootout
goal. The game was Ruden's starting point on
his road to Michigan.
After Pearson and assistant head coach Billy
Powers liked what they saw, the two asked
Michigan goaltending coach Stan Matwijiw if
he had heard of Ruden. Sure enough, Matwijiw
knew of Ruden from a few years earlier and
Ruden was one season of juniors away from
being a Wolverine.
"They'd mention names and ask me if I'd
heard of guys and I'd mentioned to them that I
had seen him play as a little kid, but I hadn't
seen him in many years," Matwijiw said. "Noah
plays a pretty simple game - which is good
from a goalie standpoint - he doesn't open up
a lot of holes. When he comes across, every-
thing is nice and tight. The biggest question
mark with him would be outside of his crease.
The closest guy to him would be (Montreal
Canadians' goaltender) Jose Theodore, being
that he's a left-handed goalie, and I think Noah
moves very similar to him."
Ruden finished 20-16-4 with a .903 save
percentage for the Storm, and one of his most
interesting highlights from the season actually
came in the form of the backup role. Down 4-
0 to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Ruden
came in for goaltender Larry Sterling early in
the second period. Ruden kept the RoughRid-
ers off the board until his teammates were able
to tie things up and force a shootout. Although
Ruden did lose the shootout, he was 5-3 in
them for the season.
"In juniors we go to shootouts after overtime,
which is something the fans like and something
personally I like," said Ruden, who also enjoyed
seeing Turco's glove save to win this season's
NHL All-Star game in a shootout. "For a goalie,
you can't score that overtime winner, so that last
save is our overtime winner."
The waiting game continues
Until Ruden does get his chance to be in the
limelight, his only chances to make those last
saves come during the games that the Wolver-
ines play after practice is over. Everything
from one-on-none breakaways to wide-open

TONY DING/Daily
Freshman goaltender Noah Ruden saw the ice
for the third time this season Friday night.
slapshots are worked on by each player.
"We always like to get out there.,. they (the
forwards and defensemen) get to work on stuff
that may happen just once in a game and so do
we, and it lightens the mood a little bit,"
Ruden said.
For as laid back as Noah appears during
those games and off the ice, he is very differ-
ent when between the pipes in practice.
"I think Noah's doing a good job. I think
he's learning even though he's not playing
every night," head coach Red Berenson said.
"And he's realizing there's actually more pres-
sure on him than he probably thought there
would be. There's pressure on him to be ready
to play, like the minute we have a problem
with Al or a situation that calls for a change,
then Noah has to be ready. I've told him, 'Are
you ready to make a difference or come in and
save a game?' Then on the other hand, he's
fighting and competing with (junior goal-
tender Chris) Gartman to be the backup
goalie. So there's a sense of competition that
may not show up in the games."
As for when he does dress for games - he
and Gartman split time being the No. 2 goalie
- Ruden is everything from a psychologist to
another coach on the bench.
"Some of the players ask me on the bench
during (the game) what weaknesses I see in
the other goalies, and like what places they
think they should shoot and what moves they
should make," Ruden said. "(Ferris State goal-
tender Mike) Brown was sitting far back in his
crease and some of the guys asked me where
to go and I said up high just because he was
sitting back in his crease. And if you look at
some of the goals we scored, Burnes' first
goal on (Jan. 31) and Kaleniecki's goal were
both top shelf."
Just three times Ruden has appeared on the
ice this season - in the later stages of
blowout wins against Merrimack and Western
Michigan, and Friday night when Montoya
was pulled in Michigan's 4-0 loss to Michigan
State - and although it is better than nothing,
he'd much rather be in there every night.
"Noah's never been a backup goalie, so I'm
sure he's a little disappointed," Sarey said.
"But that's part of what you get when you're
on a great team, and I know he's happy, but
I'm sure he wants more playing time too.
"He's used to being the one who's back
there. I'm sure it's just killing him sitting
there, but he sets aside those emotions to do
what he has to do."
Because that's what good teammates and
brothers do.

9

TONY DING/Daily
Freshman backup goaltender Noah Ruden looks on from his normal seat on the bench. While there,
he serves as an extra coach and a motivator for his teammates.

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