The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday. March 14, 1993 - 5
" Honeymoon is
over for defense
There was a time, not so long ago, when Michigan
was living in hockey wonderland.
It was a land where the goals looked wider
than the gap in David Letterman's front teeth.
The opposition's defensemen must have looked as
*mobile as ice-bound Chris Farleys. And it's goalie had all
the speed of a hungover mailcarrier.
And no one in wonderland asked if Michigan was
good enough to win a national title.
Everyone knew they were.
But the Wolverines, aren't in
wonderland anymore. Some might
say that Saturday's 10-3 win over
Kent State signaled their return.
While Michigan looked as
j impressive as it had earlier in the
season, drubbing a last place team
JAESON is what national championship
ROSENFELD contenders are supposed to do.
Feld of They aren't supposed to eke out
Dreams a 5-4 victory in overtime as
Michigan did Friday night.
And now everyone is asking, as they should be,
"Does Michigan have what it takes to win it all?"
The answer, as any good politician would tell you,
is an emphatic maybe.
The Wolverines' fate in the CCHA finals and
NCAA playoffs rests with the defense.
"Our efforts are going to be focused on playing good
defense," Michigan coach Red Berenson said before the
Kent series. "We have to do a better job of protecting our
goalie and not giving up unearned goals."
Friday night, the Wolverines did not protect Steve
Shields, resulting in four goals by a team that had won
one of its last 18.
"They had breakaways, two-on-ones, three-on-ones,
screened shots from the point," said Berenson Friday.
Had the Wolverines been playing a Lake Superior or
a Michigan State, the goal count would have surely
been much higher than four.
Earlier in the season, the offense often bailed out the
defense by putting the game away early. The blueliners
certainly never had to worry about shutting out the
other team, or even allowing just a goal or two.
And when the big guns of the CCHA showed up,
Shields usually caught fire, stopping everything in sight.
The defense could play decent hockey and the
" Wolverines would still win.
But during the pre-playoff slump, the nets no longer
sucked in Michigan shots, and Shields let a few get by.
And the Wolverines lost.
The Wolverines could win without defense, but they
couldn't win without offense.
The point of all this is that Michigan isn't going to score
five or six goals against a national championship contender.
Lake State goalie Blaine Lacher has held the opponent
scoreless in his last four starts. Michigan isn't going to
have a big lead to fall back on against a quality opponent.
The defense will have to play like it did Saturday
night, allowing only ten shots on goal. And every forward
will have to do his part getting back and helping. The
blueliners don't have to play mistake-free hockey for
Michigan to win - Shields will bail them out most of the
time. They do have to play very well, though.
Gone are the ten goal games. Gone is the land of
goalies with the reflexes of drunken mail carriers.
The Wolverines are no longer in wonderland.
, They are in the playoffs.
Lakers ready for
By PAUL BARGER
DAILY HOCKEY WRITER
Nov. 5, 1993 was the turning point of the season.
The Lake Superior State Lakers were the No.1 team in the
nation and were preparing to host the Michigan Wolverines
in an important early season contest. The Wolverines walked
out of Sault Ste. Marie with an impressive 4-2 victory and
began to roll towards a CCHA regular season title.
The Lakers were given two more opportunities to defeat
that their in the backW
the Wolverines, Jan. 7-8 in Ann Ar-
bor. In the first game Michigan's cap-
tain Brian Wiseman scored an over-
time goal that all but clinched first
place for the hosts. Michigan man-
aged a more decisive victory the next
night, winning by three goals.
Still, Lake State looms large in the
playoffs. The Lakers have ended
Michigan's hopes for a CCHA cham-
pionship three consecutive years and
the seniors are thinking of revenge.
"We've got to beat somebody
(winner of the Bowling Green-Mi-
ami game) to play them," senior
David Oliver said. "There's no doubt
of our minds, especially the seniors.
Junior forward Mike Knuble scores for the Wolverines in the third period of Michigan's 5-4 overtime victory Friday.
Continued from page 1.
on a positive note," Shields said. "It
doesn't seem real. It's been an unbe-
lievable four years. We're all really
sorry to see it go by.
"We all have to get on with the rest
of our lives, but this is four years of
my life that I'll never forget."
If Saturday's game belonged to
Michigan from the start, thenFriday's
series opener was a complete oppo-
site. The Golden Flashes outplayed
the Wolverines for most of the game,
leading at one point by two goals.
Oliver scored 31 seconds into the
overtime period after a giveaway to
end Kent's upset bid.
How the Wolverines got to over-
time was justias interesting as how
they finished it, though.
Michigan trailed 4-3 in the third
period until a Wiseman goal with 6:27
left knotted the game. Jason Botterill
fed Wiseman, who dove to get some
wood on the puck to get it past Shaw.
"He's the captain of our team,"
Oliver said. "He showed a lot of heart.
He was determined to get that puck in
The Wolverines fell behind in the
game, 1-0, in the first period. Michi-
gan failed to convert on four straight
power play opportunities and man-
aged only five shots for the period.
"The first period might have been
our worst period all year," Berenson
said. "I don't what it was, but I can't
believe how poorly we played in the
"I'm happy we won. I feel very
lucky because it could have been the
Kent led 2-0 before the Wolverines
could even get on the board. Back-to-
back goals by Wiseman and Oliver tied
the game, but the Flashes retook the
lead going into the third period.
Knuble scored to tie the game
MICHIGAN 5, KENT STATE 4 (OT)
Kent State 1 2 I O-4
Michigan 0 2 2 1-5
RirstPeriod - 1, KSU, Thornbury 8
(Fair), 2:14. Penalties - Mainhardt, KSU
(tripping), 3:49; Sabo, KSU (cross-check-
ing), 5:24; Mischke, KSU (holding), 6:50;
KSU bench, served by Drouin (too many
men), 9:13; Knuble, UM (hooking), 10:45;
Willis, UM (roughing), 12:36; Gunderson,
KSU (cross-checking), 18:28; Mischke, KSU
(roughing), 18:28; Legg, UM (roughing),
18:28; Madden, UM (roughing), 18:28.
Second Period - 2, KSU, Sabo 3,
1:47. 3, UM, Wiseman 16 (Oliver), 3:09.
4, UM, Oliver 25 (Wiseman), 13:18 (pp).
5, KSU, Pain 1 (Drouin, Sabo), 18:19.
Penalties - Thornbury, KSU (holding),
12:54; Stone, UM (hooking), 13:30;
Schock, UM (checking from behind),
Third Period - 6, UM, Knuble 30
(Morrison, Schock), 1:01.7, KSU, Raygor9
(Muldoon, Mitchell), 2:32.8, UM, Wiseman
17 (Botterill), 13:33. Penalties - Krosky,
KSU (roughing), 4:55.
Overtime -9, UM, Oliver 26, :31. Pen-:
alties - None.
Shots on goal - KSU 10-10-0-28.
Power plays - KSUO of 4, UM 1 of 6.
Goalie saves - KSU, Shaw 5-9-15-0-
29. UM, Shields 9-8-7-0-24.
Referees - John Dovrzelewski, Jeff
Unesman - John Haneberg.
At: Yost Ice Arena. A: 4,462.
again, but Kent's Erik Raygor an-
swered a minute and a half later to
give the Flashes a 4-3 and set up the
Michigan receives a bye for the
next round of the playoffs. The Wol-
verines will face the Western Michi-
gan-Miami winner in Saturday's
MICHIGAN 10, KENT STATE 3
Kent State 1 1 1-3
Michigan 4 4 2-10
First Period -1, UM, Knuble 31 (Morrison).
:34. 2, UM, Luhning 11(Halko, Sittler), 3:29 (pp).
3, UM, Luhning 12 (Halko, Legg), 4:44 (pp). 4,
KSU, Kotary 19 (Sabo, Thombury), 6:35 (pp). 5,
UM, Oliver 27 (Knuble, Morrison), 12:06 (pp).
Penalties- Kotary, KSU (slashing), 2:09; Kotary,
KSU (holding). 4:38; Knuble, UM (tripping), 5:04;
Mischke, KSU (interference), 12:00; Sinclair, UM
(interference), 12:41; Mitchell, KSU (high-stick-
ing), 13:00; Sloan, UM (cross-checking), 13:00;
Sakala, UM (high-sticking). 17:14; Mitchell, KSU
(roughing), 17:14; Drouin, KSU (high-sticking),
17:24; Sabo, KSU (cross-checking), 19:31.
Second Period - 6, UM, Hilton 11 (Sittler,
Shields), 1:35. 7, KSU, D. Sylvester 22 (Kotary,
Morin),8:02 (pp). 8, UM, Wiseman 18(Halko),14:06.
9, UM, Willis 8 (Luhning, Schock), 14:44. 10, UM
Sittler 7 (Legg, Stone), 18:08. Penalties - Dartsch,
KSU (roughing), 2:08; Luhning, UM (roughing), 2:08;
Mainhardt, KSU (slashing), 4:56; [egg, UM (interfer-
ence), 7:25; Krosky, KSU (holding), 9:04; Mainhardt,
KSU (crosschecking), 14:44; Fair, KSU (slashing),
16:03; Watt, KSU (roughing), 18:57.
Third Period-11, KSU, Thombury 9 (Drouin,
Kotar), 11:34. 12, UM. Morrison 19 (Stone),
12:41. 13, UIM, Knuble 32 (Sloan), 13:35. Penal-
ties - Raygor, KSU (roughing), 7:52; Dartsch,
KSU, double minor (checking from behind, rough-
ing), 14:19; Luhning, UM (roughing), 14:19;
Schock, UM (holding stick), 15:10; Sabo, KSU
(interference), 16:09: Morrison, UIM (roughing),
16:39; Botterill, UM, double minor (roughing), 10
minute misconduct, 16:39; Kotary, KSU (rough-
ing), 16:39; Krosky, KSU, double minor (rough-
ing), 10 minute misconduct, 16:39; Sabo, KSU
Shots on goal-KSU 5-4-1-10. UM 17-22-
Power plays.- KSU 2 of 3, UM 3 of 14.
Goalie saves - KSU, Shaw 13-18-18--49.
UM, Shields 4-3-X-7, Gordon (:00 third) X-X-O-
Referees - Perry Petterle, Jim Breach.
Unesman - John Nowosatka.
At: Yost Ice Arena. A: 5,456
They've knocked us out three years in a row."
The Lakers have relied on goaltender Blaine Lacher
for most of the season. The junior led the.CCHA in goals
against average (1.91) and save percentage (.919) and is a
prime candidate for All-American honors. Lacher is the
hottest player in the league registering four straight shut-
outs, including two in the first round of the CCHA play-
offs. Lacher was recognized as the CCHA defensive
player of the week, for the second time this year, after his
performance against Kent, March 4-5.
Lake State's offense has picked up the pace as well and
finished the season with a 4.27 goals per game average.
Senior Clayton Beddoes leads the squad with 19 goals and
22 assists in league play. Sophomore Sean Tallaire has
picked up where he left off last year, scoring 35 points in
the regular season.
"Obviously they are playing well," Michigan coach Red
Berenson said. "They look like the team to beat right now.
Their style of play is more conducive to playoff hockey."
Their recent history speaks for itself: three consecu-
tive CCHA titles, two straight Final Fours, national cham-
pionships in 1988 and 1992. The confidence that this
success has produced gives them a psychological edge.
They may be going into the playoffs in second place, but
they are still kings of the mountain.
Conventional wisdom points to a Lake Superior-Michi-
gan showdown Sunday. The Wolverines will then have one
more chance to knock the Lakers from their perch and bring
home their first ever CCHA post season title.
-The Daily will preview the teams remaining in the
CCHA title hunt all this week.
ICCHA~ FIRST~ ~ ROUN RIi I'N1
Fiday's games: Saturday's game:
Mich 5, Kent 4 (OT) Mich. 10, Kent 4
Lake St. 5, Ohio St. 0 Lake St,8, Ohio St. 0
UIC 4, Michigan St. 3 W. Mich. 7, Notre Dame 1
W. Mich. 6, Notre Dame 3 8. Green 3, Ferris 2 (OT)
Miami 5, Ak.-Fairbanks 3 AK-Fairbanks 6, Miami 1
Bowling Green 3, Ferris 0 Mich. St. 2, UIC 1 (OT)
Miami 4, Alaska-Fairbanks 3
Michigan St. 8, Illinois-Chicago 3
Continued from page 1
infraction, and awards Willis a
"He said to me before the shot,
'Now you're sure you want to
score,"' Willis said. "I said, 'Yeah.'
"So Coach said, 'Then go in
there and bury it."'
Willis grabs the puck at center
ice, skates in close to Gordon and
rifles a shot into his midsection.
"I tried to put it through his
stomach," Willis said with a grin on
"Afterwards, (Berenson) caught
ip with me and said, 'Now I know
you want to score. Now I am going to
;how you how to score," Willis said
going into full-fledged laughter.
Willis' laughter didn't last long
hough, as Berenson's instructions
Iopped into his head.
"He told me Gordon is a
,utterfly goalie, so right away
you've got to be going upstairs,"
Nillis said. "And if you're going to
;hoot you've got to shoot from at
s east the hash marks. And if he
omes out too far, fake the shot and
o around him."
Contained in this incident is
verything you need to know about
On the ice he is a fierce competitor
nd hard-worker who absorbs
verything the coaches tell him.
Off the ice he is laid back, and not
*.fraid to laugh at himself or others.
Often people laugh at Willis'
1oston accent, which he takes in
"When I get in front of my
e lucation class and teach a skill or
S +mething, I try to over-pronounce
ny r's (pronounced ahhh's) and it
start playing said, 'I've never seen a
pair of feet like that in my life,"'
Rick's mother Annette said. "He
was just a good skater."
Willis developed his hard-nosed
playing style at a young age.
"He was always the one to stick
his nose in the corner and dig the
puck out," said Jim Fullerton, who
coached Willis from age five until
As a youngster, Willis displayed
intensity uncharacteristic of kids his
age, according to his father.
"We went to go buy Ricky a pair
of skates when he was 12 years old,"
Rick Willis, Sr. recounts, "and there
was a (high school) hockey game
going on. He didn't even care about
the skates, didn't care abou the new
toys or sticks like most kids would.
"He just stood in the bleachers,
hands in his pockets, pacing back-
and-forth, and watched the game.
All by himself. He was always in
It's this type of intensity that
turned Willis into a fierce hitter as a
high school player. He started off his
prep career at the Pingree School of
South Hamilton, Mass., where he
both scored and bodied opponents.
His sophomore year, Willis tallied
22 goals and added 28 assists,
including a goal in a 4-2 loss in the
New England Prep School finals to
the Gunnery School. That year, Willis
also become known for his trademark
"One time I had a coach come
down and start yelling, 'Get that kid
off the ice! He's nuts! Get him off
the ice! "' Willis said.
Willis, though, was hard to slow
"(Pingree) was beating them like
6-3, and Ricky was just totally intense
that game," Rick, Sr. recalled. "I
school. The decision to change
schools, according to Willis, was a
"It was (hard) to leave," Willis
said. "Academically, it helped me,
and I needed to find out what it was
like to get away. It was a great
Because of his year at
Northwood, Willis had an easier
time choosing Michigan over
eastern schools. The CCHA's
physical nature convinced Willis
that he belonged in Maize and Blue.
"He enjoyed the CCHA's style
of play. We saw them play Lake
Superior (when we visited)," Rick,
Sr. "We were sitting in the stands
and he said to me, 'Dad, I can play
It's Friday night and Willis is
ready to rumble. He has completed
his pre-game ritual - a nap
followed by an hour of pumping up
to the music of Van Halen and
Metallica - and he's wound up.
It's midway through the first period,
and the crowd sits lethargically in
the stands of Yost, waiting for
someone or something to get them
on its feet.
When Kent State scores an early
goal, Yost turns into a moratorium.
That is, until Willis bursts onto
He comes on for his first shift
and skates like a juggernaut across
the ice belting a pair of Kent
players into the board with one
check. The crowd goes nuts.
But Willis isn't done yet.
He hustles down to the Kent end
and nails another Golden Flash on
the forecheck. Next Willis skates
across center ice and throws another
check, and then proceeds down to
the corner and hits his fifth Kent
(the crowd) could get you going
during the game, how they can
motivate you," Willis said.
The following night, the crowd
spurs Willis again, this time talking
him into checking a Kent player and
a referee in close proximity. Both
end up sitting on the ice.
It's when a Michigan player sits in
the penalty box, though, that Willis
shows his true strength. He and Mike
Stone are the core of college hockey's
third-best penalty killing unit, and the
unit's success owes much to their
"(Willis) and Mike Stone set the
standard (for work ethic) on this
team," Wolverine assistant Pearson
said. "When the younger guys see
how hard (Willis) works, shift after
shift, it definitely rubs off."
Willis roams the middle in man-
down situations, using his strength
to tie-up skaters and his speed to
forecheck after Michigan clears the
puck. The forward relishes this role.
"(The penalty killing) gives me a
lot of ice time and gets me into the
game," Willis said. "I enjoy defensive
hockey. There's a lot of room to skate
and it gives me a good chance to
wheel and hit some people."
Willis' penchant for hitting also
comes in handy when the Wolverines
need a little more room to work. For
that reason, Coach Berenson skated
him on the first line, with Wiseman
and David Oliver, against Miami two
"For skill players to have
space, they need other players
who are strong, physical players,"
Lake Superior coach Jeff Jackson
said. "He's as good a checking
forward, and I think more than
that at times, as there is in our
Willis will have a chance to
continue his career after college.
Attracted by Willis' quick feet and
body work, the New York Rangers
selected Willis in the fourth round
of the 1990 Entry Draft.
"When we drafted him, we felt
he was a very good skater,"
Rangers assistant general manager/
player development Larry Pleau
said. "He was a feisty kid in high
school. The biggest thing was he
was an aggressive, hard-nosed
winger with good skating ability.
"By the looks of it, if he's going
to play in the NHL, he'd have to
play the role of a fourth-line type
player. Is he good enough? That's
only going to be known in time."
Willis looks forward to having a
shot at the NHL, but also knows
that when hockey is over, he has a
Michigan education to fall back on.
kid. They love him."
As a part of their curriculum,
Willis and Knuble also "observe"
gym classes at the Abbott school.
"We're supposed to be taking
notes, but we're in there doing stuff
with the kids. It's fun," Willis said.
"And once they find out we're
hockey players, we have to go
around to all the classes and sign
So does Willis ever throw a little
check into the youngsters?
"Oh, yeah," Willis said with a
But at this moment, Willis' mind
is far from teaching kids or the
National Hockey League. NCAAs are
approaching, and the junior aspires to
something that has eluded him twice
before: a national championship.
"We believe it can happen," said
Willis of the team's chances. "We
ran An 4 ",