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October 10, 1994 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-10-10

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6 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, October 10, 1994

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Defense intact while offense reloads in skate for title run
Wolverine youth and veteran experience combine in attempt for repeat performance

By BARRY SOLLENBERGER
Daly Hockey Writer
While nothing should ever 1
etched in stone in collegiate athleti
two things seem certain
about the 1994-95 Michi-
gan hockey team.j
It is very young. I
It could be very, very'

be
CS,

reVf

good.

P i

season title and its first-ever CCHA
playoff title.
Only a heartbreaking 5-4 over-
time loss to the eventual national
champion Lakers in the na-
tional quarterfinals -
Michigan's only loss in five
meetings with Lake Superior
$ State - prevented the Wol-
verines from making a third
consecutive appearance in the
NCAA Final Four.
While it might be a stretch to com-
pare this year's squad to the one that
ravaged the CCHA a year ago, the
goals of this team, ranked No. 8 in the
preseason Sporting News Hockey
Preview, remain the same.
"We feel that we're capable of win-

ning the national championship," team
captain Rick Willis said. "It would be
a disappointing season if we don't win
the national championship with the
caliber of team we have."
Offensively. Michigan must cover
for the losses of Brian Wiseman,
David Oliver and Mike Stone, who
accounted for more than 30 percent
of the Wolverine point production a
year ago, and the defection of Ryan
Sittler to the NHL.
Center Brendan Morrison and
right wings Mike Knuble and Jason
Botterill lead the list of returnees.
Knuble, a senior from Caledonia,
was an Ali-CCHA second-team se-
lection in 1993-94 and ranked fourth
in the CCHA in overall scoring last

Sound familiar ? It
should.
Last October, the Wolverines were
considered to be talented, yet too inex-
perienced to snatch the conference title
away from rival Lake Superior State.
All Michigan did was win 23 of its
first 25 games en route to a 33-7-1
record, including the CCHA regular

season. He also led the nation in power-
play goals, tallying 21.
The sophomores, Morrison and
Botterill, were two of the best rookies
in the league a year ago. Morrison was
the CCHA Rookie of the Year and
Botterill was a first round pick of the
Dallas Stars in the 1994 National
Hockey League draft.
Left wing Willis and center Ron
Sacka provide additional speed and
strength up front.
"In terms of our forwards, I like the
speed and I think we'll have some
scoring balance," said coach Red
Berenson, in his I11th year at the helm
of Michigan. "We'll have some size
and toughness, and I also think we
have a lot of skill."
Beyond these five, however, the
Wolverines' youth could be a weak link.
The emergence of three sophomores
- center/right wing Mike Legg, right
wing Warren Luhning and left wing/
center John Madden - is critical.
"We expect improvement from these
kids," Berenson said. "If they can all
improve, they will definitely add to the
depth and the balance of our forwards."
Two juniors, center Kevin Hilton
and right wing John Arnold, also
should make significant contributions.
Hilton, who was recently named to the
United States Junior National team, is
the probable starting left wing.
For the second year in a row, the
freshman class should make an imme-
diate impact on both ends of the ice.
"We are excited about the incom-
ing freshmen," Berenson said. "The
three kids that are all highly touted -
Matt Herr, Robb Gordon and Billy
Muckalt - all look like they are going
to do more than hold their own here."
While it appears that Michigan can
make up for the losses of Wiseman,
Oliverand Stone up front, it will be hard
pressed to fill the shoes of departed All-
American Steve Shields in goal.
"It's going to be a little different
not having Steve Shields back there,"
Willis said.
Indeed it will be.
The absence of Shields, who set
the NCAA record for career wins by a
goaltender (I11), leaves a gaping hole
between the pipes.
"If there's a question mark, you'd
have to say it's in goal because Shields
and (backup) Chris Gordon are gone,"
Berenson said.

Filling the void is the duo of senior
Al Loges and freshman Marty Turco.
Loges, who has only seen action in
I I career games, has the chance to
emerge from the shadow of Shields
and the also-departed Gordon. Turco
was a fifth-round pick of the Dallas
Stars and played in the Ontario Mid-
western Junior 'B' League a year ago.
"I think that young Turco is going
to be a good goalie and I think Loges
is going to merit some playing time,"
Berenson said. "I'd like to see both of
them play."
A deep Michigan defense that re-
turns nine letterwinners and lost no
one to graduation must cover for the
inexperience in goal.
Steven Halko, an alternate cap-
tain, spearheads the defensive corps.
The junior from Bolton, Ont., was an
Ali-CCHA Honorable Mention se-
lection a year ago.
Seniors Tim Hogan, Al Sinclair
and Mark Sakala will see consider-
able action and will provide depth
behind the blue line.
Joining Halko and the seniors are
a pair of CCHA All-Rookie team re-
turnees, Blake Sloan and Harold
Schock - along with sophomores
Chris Frescoln and Peter Bourke.
"Our defense should be a strength
of our team because we are intact,"
Berenson said. "We'll have nine
defensemen who can all play."
To contend for the national cham-
pionship, the Wolverines mustget solid
leadership from more than just the
marquee players.
"I think you'll see it from several
areas," Berenson said. "I think that
you'll see a sense of leadership and
momentum in (the sophomore) class.
It's not just the captains that lead the
team."
While much is expected of Michi-
gan - it is the coaches' preseason
pick to win the CCHA - the Wolver-
ines are intent on not letting these
expectations become a distraction.
"We're going to take one step at a
time and not get too far ahead of
ourselves," Knuble said,
He wasn't pessimistic, however,
by any means.
"We were first place last year and
have a great nucleus back with some
new talent," Knuble said. "We expect
the best.
"We're Michigan."

The '94-'
Wolverin
Roster.4
The lines denoted
predictions of the [
hockey writers.

Chri
Chri
\.

JONATHAN LURIE/Daily
Senior Mark Sakala raised the CCHA trophy in honor of his championship team at Joe Louis Arena last April. The

Wolverines are looking for a repeat performance of last season, only this time,

they want the NCAA trophy as well.

KNUBLE
Continued from page 1
Last season, Knuble tallied 32 goals
and 26 assists. He led the nation in
power play goals with 21, an effort
which contributed to his second-team
All-CCHA selection. So what's left?
Why stay? Why risk injury? Why risk
disappointment?
Knuble wanted a memorable senior
year - with friends and a
championship team.
Parts of his game still
need improvement.
He has something to
prove. F09
And then there are the
intangibles.
"What (the Red Wings) were offer-
ing me - if I was playing at a school
where I didn't like the coaches and I
didn't like the program and we were
kind of a middle-of-the-road team -
then it would have been the best situ-
ation for me to leave," Knuble admit-
ted. "But being at Michigan, they had
to make it worth a lot more."
Knublejokes that he needed a beeper
to keep track of negotiations between
his traveling and the Red Wings' per-
sonnel changes.
"For the year I wanted to leave, the
GM gets fired, new people come in and
there's a lockout. Somebody is trying
to tell me something. The situation isn't
right."
In the NHL, a business just like any
nther_ nannl e nme and g!o n enonal

al

Knuble's game takes a backseat to
his power, though. While he doesn't
mind scoring goals, the hitting is
what he likes to do best and what the
Red Wings noticed most.
"He had some natural attributes -
size and strength - with which to start
with," Detroit assistant general man-
ager Ken Holland said. "When we
drafted him, he enjoyed the physical
part of the game. We had just lost out to
Chicago that year and we felt that we
needed to get bigger and stron-
ger on the wings."
Although Knuble says he
was told he would go straight
to the minors, Holland insists
he would have had a fair shot
in training camp to knock off
one of Detroit's many right wings.
Regardlessit is apparent to Knuble
that the current NHL lockout would not
have affected his strides into the pros,
because he believes he would be in
Adirondack right now.
The Red Wings support Knuble's
decision, and more specifically they
advocate the fact that he has returned to
his comfort zone at Michigan where he
can continue to develop.
The coaching staff, the players with
which he can practice and the overall
quality of a Michigan hockey pro-
gram provides Knuble the constant
challenge he might not have found at
a school like Western Michigan, an-
other one of his choices coming out of
high school.
"The one thing he has to do this year
forhi wn gnd is t ch allenoehimsel f

Knuble for support both on and off the
ice; he is one of the alternate captains,
along with junior Steven Halko.
Besides leadership duties. Knuble
is out to prove he is worthy of respect.
He is never satisfied, no matter how
many observers commend him for his
hard work. He projects this could be
his best year, solely because his colle-
giate career is winding down.
"There's not one iota of question
that (staying at Michigan) was the
right thing to do," Berenson said.
"This was the right thing for Mike
Knuble. And now he's got to do it. If
he can't do it here than he wouldn't
have done it (in the pros)."
Berenson's opinion is one
Knuble respects. Talking with
someone who has had such a lengthy
career coaching and playing helped
Knuble make his decision.
Berenson was the first player to go

been had he left."
Now that the immediate benefits of
having a good year are on the table,
priorities are being dictated. Hockey
must come first.
Consistency is what the pros want,
and Knuble must make strides to-
wards that this season. He hopes to
improve on each aspect of his game
throughout the 94-95 campaign even
though come next year, his produc-
tion may dwindle.
"If you can walk around the rink
every night and say that Knuble is a
helluva player, then he has had a good
year, regardless of what the stats say,"
Berenson said.
At the same time, had Knuble left, it
not only would have been difficult to
replace the offensive guns who gradu-
ated, but also a rising leader who can
notch 60-plus points in a season.
"He can score a lot more goals,"
Berenson said. "The record on this team
is 43 goals set by his coach, and he's a
better player than his coach was."
Although statistics are not the end-
all, be-all factor, he notched a some-
what disappointing one assist in Friday's
Blue-White scrimmage; a fact he
chooses not to dwell on.
"It's hard to go out there and not
want to kill. You kind of have to tone it
down a bit," said Knuble about the
intrasquad scrimmage. "You don't want
to hurt anybody and still you have to do
what makes you a good player... for me
that's hitting and that'll come."
Knuble's presence cannot be men-
tioned without discussion of the ab-

gan after the 92-93 season in what for
him was an ideal situation with a solid
contract offer. Since then he has seen
action for the Boston Bruins and their
AHL affiliate, Providence.
'The record on this
team is 43 goals set by
his coach, and he's a
better player than his
coach was.'
-Red Berenson
Michigan hockey coach
"Mike didn't get the money he
deserves for a player of his type. It
was wise for him to stay," said cen-
ter Ron Sacka, one of Knuble's
roommates. "Ryan wasn't in that
same boat. He had a lot of pressures
from his parents and from the pro
team to leave, because they felt he
might not have been progressing the
way he wanted to be."
Sittler's external pressures elude
Knuble. His family supported either
choice and the Red Wings did not force
him to compromise, Knuble stayed at
Michigan in good conscience.
"Mike did not get market value for
his worth. He's a much better player
than what they were offering him
money-wise," said Rick Willis, who
is captain of the Wolverines and one
of Knuble's roommates. A close
friend, Willis believes that Knuble

comparison, Murray compares K.D
to Mike Gartner, one of six 6{
goal scorers in the NHL, because o
speed and ability.
Knuble has used that talent to cl
from the basement of the depth cha
fourth-line dweller with Willis
Kevin Hilton his freshman season,
now at the top in the CCHA.
"I told Mike last year that I tho
it was time for him to move on,
out and turn pro," said Murra'
was an active negotiator on be ha
the Red Wings. "I would have
inclined to give him a real shot to
in the NHL this year."
Although the style of play di
Knuble is aware of the hierarchy he
face in the pros. Even though h
essentially starting over, Knuble
build on previous success as he
each season.
"A player of his type and st4
adjust easier to the pro game becau
his size and his strength," Willis s
Knuble has no second thou
about coming back to Michigan
postponing his transition to the j
After debating all summer, he ha
to feel like he made a mistake.
"I wasn't scared to be a pro
sional hockey player," Knuble s
"That's something I've always
to be. It's hard to say no becaus
a lifelong dream."
His dream surfaced around s<
unusual circumstances. If not foi
year in juniors, he may not h
been recruited by a league pov
house like Michigan. He didn't e

NM

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