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Collegiate Trio to Wear the 'A' in 2004-05

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Three New York Rangers prospects have recently been selected as alternate captains of their respective NCAA Division I hockey programs for the 2004-05 season - Nate Guenin (Ohio State University), Al Montoya (University of Michigan) and Mike Walsh (right, University of Notre Dame).

Guenin, a 6-2, 199-pound defenseman entering his junior season, skated in 29 matches with Ohio State Buckeyes of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) in 2003-04, registering two goals and 15 assists for 17 points, along with 92 penalty minutes. The blueliner received honorable mention All-CCHA and was named to the 2004 CCHA All-Academic Team, becoming the first sophomore to be honored since Bowling Green's Brian Holzinger in 1993. He was also recognized as the CCHA Defensive Player of the Week for the period ending October 6, 2003.

This is the second consecutive season that Guenin has served as an alternate captain for the Buckeyes, as selected by his teammates.

"Nate and Rod (Pelley) have the respect from their teammates," said Ohio State head coach John Markell. "The team has put the job of leadership for the squad in their hands. To be a team captain a student-athlete has to be a quality person with strong character. The squad expects (Ohio State captain) J.B. (Bittner), Nate and Rod to lead them both on the ice and in the dressing room throughout this entire season."

The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native was New York's fourth round selection, 127th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Goaltender Al Montoya, returning for his junior season at the University of Michigan, is coming off a superb season between the pipes for the Wolverines, posting a 26-12-2 record, along with a 2.23 goals against average and .917 save percentage in 40 games.

Montoya will be joined by Los Angeles Kings draft choice Jeff Tambellini and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim draft choice Brandon Rogers as alternate captains, with Calgary Flames pick Eric Nystrom serving as Michigan's captain for the 2004-05 season.

"I think with Al coming back, that is a big piece and there are no holes in this team," said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. "This will be a team that has to come together, work together, and play good hockey, because we will be a favorite team. For Al, he's got a big challenge ahead of him, he's got something to prove, why he was a first-round pick."

Montoya, the recipient of numerous honors following the 2003-04 season, including: 2003-04 Jofa/AHCA All-America West Second Team selection (the first University of Michigan All-American since the 2001-02 season), 2003-04 All-CCHA Second Team, a finalist for 2003-04 CCHA Goaltender of the Year and 2003-04 CCHA All-Academic honorable mention, also backstopped the United States to its first-ever gold medal finish at the 2004 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championship in Finland. The netminder started all six games for Team USA, posting a 1.33 goals against average, a .944 save percentage and two shutouts en route to earning the Directorate Award as the top goaltender at the tournament.

The Glenview, Illinois native was New York's first round selection, sixth overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Mike Walsh, a 6-2, 218-pound left wing, returns to the University of Notre Dame for his junior season. Walsh is Notre Dame's top returning scorer as he ranked third on the team with 12 goals and 25 points in 2003-04 and second on the club with 46 penalty minutes. Walsh overcame an injury-filled freshman season to become one of the CCHA's top power forwards as a sophomore last season.

"(Captain) Cory (McLean), Mike (Walsh) and Jason (Paige) give us a nice mix of leadership skills," said Fighting Irish head coach Dave Poulin in making the announcement. "Our captains play key roles not only on the ice but also off ice for our program. They set the tone for what we expect from the entire team all season long. All three are well respected by their teammates."

"Mike is the vocal leader of this team and he's a player who backs it up with his play on the ice," Poulin added. "He's really become one of the top power forwards in the league. He's a clutch player who scored some big goals for us last season. I thought he bounced back well from his freshman year when he had a broken jaw and mononucleosis. He's got strong leadership skills."

The Royal Oak, Michigan native was New York's fifth round draft choice, 143rd overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
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