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October 13, 1997 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-13

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MKOW 61i ti

The 1996-97 Wolverines

Uncertainty should provide exciting a

By Sharat Raju
Daily Sports Writer
Western Michigan coach Bill
Wilkinson said it best: "I'd like to wel-
come Michigan back to the CCHA."'
In recent seasons, the Wolverines did
not play in the CCHA, metaphorically
speaking. They were in a conference all
their own, with an occasional Michigan
State or Miami (Ohio) intruding on
their record-breaking streaks and
Michigan hockey was a refreshing
program, probably more so than any
other at the University. The Wolverines
had a team with the top talent in the
nation, and they played up to that stan-
dard of excellence.
With only rare.
exceptions -
last season's

departure in the f
NCAA semifi-
nals being the
most noteworthy
- the-
Wolverines did
not let down their
faithful Yost Ice Arena following. The
Wolverines' march to CCHA champi-
onships and one NCAA title rewarded
Michigan hockey fans for their sup-
Every other season, greatness was
expected demanded and delivered.
But this season isn't any other sea-


Those who get an opportunity to
watch this season may see the begin-
ning of the next great class of hockey
Perhaps one of the freshmen will be
the next Brendan Morrison, John
Madden or Jason Botterill. But perhaps
one of them will emerge as his own
self, and years down the line, we'll be
wondering if someone will be the next
Mike Van Ryn, Josh Langfeld, Scott
Matzka or ...
This season could be characterized
by growing pains as the old guard of
seniors Marty Turco, Bill Muckalt and
Matt Herr try to guide the new
Wolverines. Maybe these freshmen will
take Michigan back to the promised
land, ahead of schedule. It's hard to say.
Of all the teams and programs at the
University that have questions sur-
rounding them, the hockey program
would seem like the last that needs to
defend itself. A strong coach, champi-
onship-tested veterans, successful his-
tory and a clean program hasn't
deterred the naysayers.
How good of a goalie is Turco with-
out an all-world team on the ice in
front of him?
Can Muckalt maintain his NCAA
scoring lead without a Morrison or
Botterill behind him?
What about the abundance of fresh-
men, especially on the blue line?
No one can answer these questions;
that's why they play the games.
Still, the biggest question might be:
How long will it take the new guys to
gel as a team?
Berenson's coaching prowess -
which will be tested for the first time
in a while - is what it will take. As he
has said, probably by the second half of
the season, they should know what
each player is capable of.
And as the season progresses. an
interesting subplot should emerge at
playoff time. The NCAA West
Regional is hosted at Yost this year. The
regional in Ann Arbor will provide an
unfair advantage for Michigan, and
might just be enough to propel the
Wolverines to a championship.
Assuming they qualify for regional
Assuming they win some games
here and there.
But we're getting way ahead of our-
selves. For now: Welcome back,


"It was exciting last year, because
we were expected to win," Michigan
coach Red Berenson said. "It's exciting
now, it's challenging, but we expect this
to be a good team.
"We just don't know where the goals
are going to come from, who is going
to surface and play really well on
defense, we don't know our lines, our
power play - there's a lot of
For the first time in God-knows-
how-long, Michigan games will be
interesting, and maddeningly so. The
flurry of goals that characterized most
Michigan victories may not appear
with the regularity of clockwork. The
Wolverines might not blow out teams
by scores of 12-1 or 10-0 anymore.
But they just might. Nobody knows,
and that's what will make this season
exciting to watch - the uncertainty of
it all.


The departure of Jason Botterill and last year's graduating class - considered one of the g
created a feeling of uncertainty in Ann Arbor this season. The Wolverines have 10 incoming
Ann Arbor's Largest & Newest F
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// ,
All eyes will be on Michigan goaltender Marty Turco this year. The senior netmin-
der will have a daunting task this season without last year's storied nine seniors.

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