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October 21, 1991 - Image 13

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-21

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The Michigan Daily-Sports Monday- October 21, 1991 -Page 5
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Feisner is all action, not talk
Quiet 'M' captain brings Blue to national prominence
by Ken Sugiura

# !4^'

x ec dominance,
not championships
by Josh Dubow
Daily Hockey Writer
Last season, the Michigan hockey team won a record-setting 34 games
and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament before falling
to Boston University. The Wolverines lost only four players from that
squad - forwards Jim Ballantine, Kent Brothers, and Don Stone, and de-
fenseman Mark Sorensen - and with the addition of a solid recruiting
class, expectations for this year's team are even higher.
Michigan has improved its record in each of the last five years under the
tutelage of eighth-year coach Red Berenson. Is it fair to assume that this
year will bring similar results? Berenson thinks it is.
"I think the team will be improved, and our results will be improved,"
he said. "We did play really well last year, but there were still some games
where we didn't play well. We have to play at our top level all the time."
However, Berenson also realizes that improving on a No. 4 national
ranking and a second-place finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Associ-
ation will not be as easy as improving on some of the Wolverines' past sea-
sons.
How much does Michigan need to improve in order to win the confer-
ence or the NCAA Tournament? Last season, the Wolverines were good
enough to win both the CCHA and NCAA tournaments. Only an overtime
goal in the CCHA finals against Lake Superior State kept Michigan from
skating home with the conference trophy.
And with that trophy probably would have come a bye in the first
round of the NCAA tournament. This would have kept the Wolverines at
home for the quarterfinals rather than traveling to Boston. After that, who
knows what might have happened?
The problem is that improving from last year also does not guarantee
either a CCHA or NCAA Championship. The expectations that some fans
and experts have placed on Michigan are unreasonable.
So much of sports is left out of the hands of the participants. Whether it
is injuries, officiating calls, lucky bounces, or a hot opponent, something
will go against a team. This misfoitune can cripple a mediocre team, possi-
bly stop a good team, and sometimes keep a great team from achieving its
goal.
Last season's Michigan team was not a great team, and it ran headlong
into misfortune. The Wolverines were without one of their top penalty
killers - Jim Ballantine - and they had just finished a grueling three-
game series with Cornell while BU was resting at home.

Daily Hockey Writer
If actions truly do speak louder
than words, then Michigan center
Denny Felsner must wonder why
the media must harass him so much.
Haven't his scorching speed and sin-
ister shooting touch provided
enough quotes to fill column upon
column, he must question. Why
can't they be happy with the elo-
quent orations of dazzling assists
and goals he provides, he wants to
know.
"He is not real open with his
hockey abilities because it's kind of
a hard thing to do when every time
you have to talk about yourself,
you're asked questions like, 'How
does it feel to be number one?'
'How does it feel to be the best?"'
fellow senior Mike Helber noted.
"And I think he's very reserved
about that."
Such questioning has led Felsner
to scurry out of the locker room af-
ter games, the better to avoid writ-
ers who all want to know the an-
swers.
"If he could leave (the locker
room) by jumping out the window,
he would," equipment manager Ian
Hume half-jokingly observed.
"I think, in essence, he's more or
less, just real modest about his abil-
ities," Helber concluded.
While Felsner may remain quiet
about himself, that doesn't mean
there isn't much to say. Just don't
ask him about it. For instance, ask
coach Red Berenson.
"The good thing about Denny is
he's not a prima donna; he's a good
kid," he said.
Or defenseman Doug Evans, one
of Felsner's closest friends on the
team.
"He's just a good all-around cit-
izen. I mean, walking down the
street, if he sees an old lady with a
flat tire, he'll offer to help her
out," Doug Evans confirmed. "He's
just an all-around good kid."
Furthermore, there is his elec-
tion by teammates as an alternate
captain to junior David Harlock.
While the image of a team cap-
tain might conjure up ideas of a
loud, rah-rah type personality,
Felsner doesn't quite match the
stereotype, not surprisingly.
"He's not necessarily the most
vocal captain. He definitely leads by
example and works hard," Evans
said. "He's always in the front of
the lines in practice and he's just
always working his butt off."
Lest we forget, though, the rea-
son for all the attention given
Felsner is his exceptional talent. A
talent which has made him nothing
short of the cornerstone from which
Berenson has built an NCAA title
contender. And of course, a talent
about which Felsner won't divulge
too much.
With each passing season,
Felsner's progression has been in
step with the rise of the hockey pro-
gram.
"He's been a top player from day
one, since he came to Michigan,"
Berenson said. "His first game for
Michigan you could see he was go-
ing to be one of the best players in
the league."
In the 1988-89 season, his rookie

FILE PHOTO/Daily
Michigan senior center Denny Felsner hopes to defend his CCHA scoring title this season. Felsner is also a
candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the nation's top collegiate hockey player.

campaign, Michigan's fourth-place
conference finish marked the highest
for the Wolverines since 1982.
Felsner played in each contest
and contributed 30 goals and 19 as-
sists, earning him a spot on the
Cooper CCHA all-rookie roster.
In the next season, while again
finishing fourth in the CCHA,
Michigan advanced past the opening
round for the first time ever in the
CCHA playoffs, gaining third place
in the consolation match over
Bowling Green.
Felsner sat out nine games due to
injury yet still managed to lead the
Wolverines in scoring again, with
27 goals to go along with 16 assists.
For his efforts, he was an all-
CCHA honorable mention selec-
tion.
However, last season proved
most monumental for both the team
and Felsner. On the strength of a 16-
game unbeaten streak and the high-
est victory total ever by a Michigan
squad (34), the Wolverines entered
NCAA tournament play for the
first time since 1977. The Maize and
Blue dispatched Cornell, two games
to one, before falling to Boston
University in the round of eight.
Felsner similarly posted re-
markable numbers, leading the
CCHA with 75 points (40 goals, 35
assists) in becoming the fifth
Wolverine to reach the 40-goal
plateau. Felsner earned first-team
all-CCHA and second-team, all-
American status.
Yet for all the glory the
Wolverines and Felsner have
achieved thus far, keep in mind the
final chapter has only begun. And
according to Berenson, "the good
thing about Denny is he's still get-
ting better."
And so are the Wolverines.
Many experts have already conceded
the CCHA title to the Wolverines
and have touted them as a definite
contender to reach the national
semifinals next April in Albany,
N.Y.
Of course, any team success will
probably accompany new accolades
for Felsner. After being a finalist
for the Hobey Baker Award last

year, Felsner has a great chance to
claim hockey's version of the
Heisman Trophy.
"I think Denny's a shoo-in for
the Hobey," Evans said.
Also, many school marks are
well within range of Felsner's
long-ranging grasp. His first
CCHA goal will establish him as
the Wolverines' leading career
CCHA scorer, and should he main-
tain his average of 42.6 points per
year in conference play, he would
become by one point Michigan's
CCHA career point leader as well.
Sixteen goals would make
Felsner the all-time leading scorer,
and 44 goals would give Felsner
ownership of Michigan's season
mark- currentlv heldbirlave D nhA1

played on the wings at Michigan and
will have to readjust himself to the
position. Furthermore, Felsner and
new linemates Helber and rookie
Mike Knuble will have to adapt to
each other's styles.
"He and I laugh a lot about it be-
'I give the kid credit.
He made the decision
that he wanted to stay
and graduate'
- Red Berenson
Michigan hockey coach
cause we were playing together and
we kind of looked at each other a
couple times and didn't know who
was going what way," left winger
Helber said of their ice time to-
gether in Friday's Blue-White game.
"But he's so talented he'll be able
to learn very quickly and by next
week he'll look like he's played cen-
ter for his entire life."
The fact that Felsner's consider-
able reputation will precede him
with the certainty of summer pre-
ceding autumn won't make playing
any easier.
"He'll get a lot of attention, be-
cause he was a dominant player last
year in many games. The other teams
know it," Berenson said. "They've
got to distract him, check him. He's
going to take a lot of abuse over the
course of the season or in a game."
It is abuse that Felsner could
have easily avoided, yet has come
back to take. Following last season,
conventional wisdom held Felsner
would leave school to cash in on his
talent and sign with the St. Louis
Blues of the National Hockey
League. Playing for the Olympic
team in the upcoming Winter Games
was another possibility.
Yet, despite the temptations,
Felsner has remained.
"All he had to do was to say
yes," Berenson said. "And I give the
kid credit. He made the decision on,
his own, that he wanted to stay and
graduate, and have a great senior
year, and be part of a championship
team."
Indeed, give the kid credit. Just
don't expect him to talk about it.

- ; BRIAN CANTONI/Daily
Junior David Harlock captains Michigan for the second straight season.
"Going into the series (against BU), maybe we weren't fully recovered
from the mental highs and lows of the previous two weeks," Berenson said.
"They were rested and healthy while we were tired and hurt."
While this year's Michigan squad may be good enough to overcome ad-
versity in the postseason, it is unfair to place those expectations on the
team. People are expecting nothing less than National and CCHA Champi-
onships. The success of a team should not be gauged over a short-term pe-
riod such as a tournament format, but rather it should be measured over the
whole season.
Too many outside factors are necessary in order to win championships.
Therefore, failure to achieve these goals should not be considered a disaster.
While most fans would rather hear a team talk about objectives such as
championships, intangible goals are much more important, especially in the
collegiate game. The goal of collegiate athletics is to learn, grow, and im-
prove yourself as a person. Thus, if each player finishes the season better
than he started the season, that should be considered a successful season. If
the team improves as a whole, that should be considered an outstanding sea-
son. Championships should not be the only measure of success.

and a fellow by the name of Red
Berenson.
"He's one of the best players to
ever play at Michigan. He's proven
it," Berenson said. "It's not like
he's got a lot of cheap points or
goals in games that we're routing
other teams. He's had to work hard
for his goals and his points."
It will inevitably become even
more difficult this season, as
Berenson has switched Felsner to
center from right wing, where he
will be called upon to create scoring
opportunities for his linemates
rather than have shots set up for
him.
While he was originally re-
cruited as a center, Felsner has

1991-92 MICHIGAN HOCKEY

NCAA regionalizes hockey tourney

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LINEUP

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LEFT WING
Cam Stewart (So.)
David Roberts (Jr.)
Mike Knuble (Fr.)
Mike Stone (So.)
Anton Fiodorov (Fr.)

CENTER
Brian Wiseman (So.)
Mark Ouimet (Jr.)
Denny Felsner (Sr.)
Ron Sacka (Fr.)
Vaclav Nedomansky (Sr.)

RIGHT WING
David Oliver (So.)
Dan Stiver (Jr.)
Mike Helber (Sr.)
Ted Kramer (Sr.)
David Wright (So.)

by Josh Dubow
Daily Hockey Writer
The NCAA Hockey Tournament format has
changed this year in order to resemble the successful
college basketball tournament. Unlike previous years,
when the first two rounds of the 12-team tournament
were played at campus sites, this year's tournament
will be played at regional sites - the west bracket in
Detroit, and the east bracket in Providence.
Another change is that the first two rounds will no
longer be best-of-three series, but instead it will be a
single-game format. But like last season, the top four
teams will receive byes in the first round. Michigan
coach Red Berenson is not in favor of the changes for
this year.
"I'm not a fan of it," he said. "I'd like to keep the
first round on campus. It was great for Michigan to
play Cornell at home. To take college teams off cam-
nus for NCAA nurnoses is not fair to fans.

CCHA for the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons before re-
turning to independent status.
This would leave only four independents left in the
country - Air Force, Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-
Fairbanks, and Alaska-Anchorage. Both of the Alaska
schools are looking to join either the CCHA or the
Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The CCHA
will discuss expansion at its January meeting.
"The time and distance have been a real issue,"
Berenson said. "Considering school and our schedule, it
will be difficult to fit them in. Also, some programs
may not be able to handle the additional expense."
INJURIES: Rookie left wing Rick Willis who
missed Friday's Blue-White game because of a strain in
his medial collateral ligament of his right knee is ex-
pected to start skating again Wednesday and may be
available for Friday's contest against Michigan State.

LEFT DEFENSE
Patrick Neaton (Jr.)
Chris Tamer (Jr.)

RIGHT DEFENSE
David Harlock (Jr.)
Aaron Ward (So.)

,... r r

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