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August 01, 2005 - Image 11

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-08-01

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Monday
August 1, 2005
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTS

11

New Yor New York:
Montoya leaves Blue

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Editor
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
As the summer months rolled by and the
NHL looked closer and closer to striking a
deal that would end its year-long lockout,
Michigan coach Red Berenson had a sinking
feeling that senior goaltender and New York
Rangers draft pick Al Montoya would shed
the Maize and Blue for the bright lights of
New York City.
"The longer the NHL was out and Al wasn't
making a decision, there was no longer any
doubt," Berenson said. "He wasn't ready to
make any commitment to staying."
Berenson's instinct was right. The Rangers
announced on Wednesday afternoon that they
had signed Montoya. After working with the
Rangers' coaches and management this sum-
mer, Montoya felt that he was ready to move
on to the Rangers organization.
"I decided last year wasn't the time for me,
and that it would be best for me to come back
to school," Montoya said. "This summer I
realized that it was time for me to move on
to the next level, and that it would be best for
me to turn professional."
Most signs point to Montoya starting out his
professional career with the Hartford Wolf-
pack of the American Hockey League, but
Montoya has his sights locked on the big club.
He hopes to stand out from the crowd between
now and the start of the NHL season.
"I don't want to sell myself short," Mon-
toya said. "I'm going to go to training camp
and lay it all out there. I think that I'm defi-
nitely capable and that I have the talent to
play in the NHL. I'll keep giving it my best
as I train for the start of this NHL season.
Wherever I start out with the organization, it
will be good for my development."
Berenson, on the other hand, believes that
Montoya would have been better off suiting
up for the Wolverines next season.
"Like so many kids that I see leaving early,
I think (Montoya) still had some things to
prove at the college level this year," Berenson
said. "There's a laundry list of things that he
needs to work on."
As a part of the Rangers' organization,
Montoya will be training under the tutelage
of goaltender coach Benoit Allaire. Allaire
is best known for his work with the Phoenix
Coyotes, where he helped the likes of Sean
Burke, Brian Boucher and Nikolai Khabibu-
lin drastically improve their careers.

While Allaire must help Montoya fix
mechanical problems and adjust to the small-
er equipment required by the NHL's new col-
lective bargaining agreement, Montoya is
focused on becoming a more consistent goal-
tender. He believes that by facing more chal-
lenging opposition night in and night out, he
will begin to improve.
Montoya also relishes the stiff competition
he will face on his own team. His primary
opponent for the Rangers' starting job will be
Henrik Lundqvist -- the top goaltender in the
Swedish Elite League last year - who signed
with the Rangers on Friday.
"The competition will be great," Montoya
said. "I have always said to be the best, you
have to beat the best. The competition will
make me a better goalie."
Although Montoya's departure leaves a
gaping hole in Michigan's defense, Beren-
son had developed a contingency plan prior
to Montoya's signing. Michigan has its sights
set on several goaltending prospects in the
coming years and will accelerate the progress
of one of them. Berenson expects to secure a
replacement in the next week or two.
"That's why Michigan is a great program
- they're not about the individual," Montoya
said. "That's why they're always great and
they have a great young goalie coming in, and
that's Billy Sauer."
While Berenson cannot confirm which
prospect will join the Wolverines next year
until after he has signed, Montoya's indication
is likely accurate. The 17-year-old Sauer is a
member of the United States Hockey League's
Chicago Steel and has posted Montoya-esque
numbers throughout his junior career.
In addition to the Wolverines' signee,
Berenson has not ruled out senior Noah
Ruden as a possibility. Using the more expe-
rienced Ruden would help Berenson ease his
newest goaltender into the college game.
"I think Noah has a chance to compete for
that job," Berenson said. "If we end up with a
senior and a freshman that's a good situation."
Ruden has gone 2-3-0 with a 2.15 goals
against average in 18 appearances for Michi-
gan. Ruden performed well as the Wolver-
ines'. starter at the Great Lakes Invitational
last December, with the exception of a single
mistake in overtime of the championship
game. That weekend Montoya suited up for
the United States National Team at the World
Junior Championships.
It appears that Berenson will be able to
manage the loss of Montoya, but an addi-

Former Michigan goalie Al Montoya signed a contract with the New York Rangers last week, forgoing his
final year of college eligibility. Montoya posted a goals against average of 2.52 as a Wolverine last season.

tional concern is the possible departure of
other NHL draftees. In Saturday's NHL
Draft, two of Michigan's incoming freshmen
were selected in the first round. Jack Johnson
became Michigan's highest drafted player
ever, going to Carolina with the third pick,
and Andrew Cogliano went to the Edmonton
Oilers with the 25th selection. In addition,
freshman Jason Bailey was taken 36th by the
Anaheim Might Ducks and junior T.J. Hen-
sick was selected 88th overall by the Colo-
rado Avalanche.

At this point in time Berenson has had no
indication that any of these players will forgo
their college eligibility to sign professional con-
tracts. But their decisions are heavily dependent
on the individual team that owns their rights.
"I think that any time there are high draft
picks, there is a lot of pressure to sign them
like there was with Montoya and the Rang-
ers," Berenson said. "But it really depends on
the team, like Calgary was very patient with
(departed senior Eric) Nystrom and Los Ange-
les has been with (senior) Jeff Tambellini."

and 34 pass breakups - the second most
IN O TES in Michigan history. Jackson started 39 of
the 45 games during his four-year career
Jackson signs contract and has experience playing both cornerback
and safety. The Colts selected Jackson in
as NFL camps begin hopes that his physical nature, versatility
and ball-hawking skills will help shore up a
Former standout cornerback Marlin Jack- porous pass defense that has ranked near the
son signed a five-year contract with the bottom in the NFL for the past few seasons.
Indianapolis Colts worth almost $7 million Braylon Edwards - the third overall pick
last Wednesday. Jackson was the 29th pick in in the draft and last year's Biletnikoff award
the April draft after finishing his Wolverine winner - has yet to sign a contract with the
career with 195 tackles, nine interceptions Cleveland Browns.

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