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PASSING THE TORCH
1 Expectations bac
By T. Berka
Daily Sports Writer
Last year was supposed to be the year of lowered
expectations for the Michigan hockey team. The
Wolverines were supposed to finish third in the
CCHA, put up a good fight at regionals, and use that
experience to contend for the national title this year.
Way to screw things up, guys.
Instead of bowing out quietly in the regionals, the
Wolverines made a trip that they weren't supposed
In going to Boston. they Hockey
missed classes that their pro-
fessors and GSIs had counted CommentaTv
on them to attend, because--------------
when the svllabi came out in Januar. Michigan's
season Was supposed to be over by early April. There
was talk about not letting the players make up their
work unless they won the national championship.
Let's iust say that the players got extensions.
The national title is all well and good, but it
makes for even more expectations this year, which
was not the method that everyone --- with the
exception of coach Red Berenson, the players, and
a few die-hard Yost junkies - had devised.
This year the nine-person sophomore class was
supposed to learn from the freshman-year regional
experience and return Michigan to the hockey elite
with a vengenance.
Nuh-uh. Too late. Already happened.
This year was supposed to be the year when new
goalie Josh Blackburn was supposed to take the
reins with limited expectations. Blackburn wasn't
supposed to have to do much to exceed Turco's final
Better get cracking Blackburn. The course
description has just changed.
Blackburn and the rest of the Wolverines are
going to be thrown into the fire once again this year,
as every team they face is going to want to throw
their surprise national championship right back in
It could have been so much easier for the
Wolverines. Considering that Michigan is hated by
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Last year's title a surprise
LOOK FOR TIPOFF '98.
for every touchdown
up to 2
By Chris Duprey
Daily Sports Writer
Rebuilding is a horrible, overused word.
Any time a team replaces talented graduated
seniors with hopeful new freshmen, it's called a
When the rest of the league is threatening to
make things tough for a young, traditionally upper-
echelon team, it's called rebuilding.
It's an ugly label, one that the Michigan hockey
team has been able to dodge ever since the arrival of
Steve Shields in 1991 and one--------------
that his successor, Marty Hockey
Turco, mostly stayed away
Rebuilding is like the com---.------------
mon cold - even if you manage to stay away from
it for what seems like forever, it will catch up with
And it caught up to Michigan in 1997. Turco did-
n't have the strong all-CCHA supporting cast he'd
envisioned four years earlier.
lHe had 10 freshmen along for the ride, looking
for leadership. Of the newcomers, two of them -
Mike Van Rvn and Dave Huntzicker - would end
up playing critical roles on defense.
Everyone called Michigan's '97 hockey season a
rebuilding year. But Turco, fellow senior Bill
Muckalt and the rest of the Wolverines knew that
rebuilding was just a code word, which meant that
losing was acceptable.
But losing wasn't something to be accepted. It
never has been at the University of Michigan.
So the Wolverines worked furiously to build con-
fidence, to beat the doubts of the so-called experts
who counted them out. They compiled a neat 14-3-
1 record by Christmas, despite winning seven of
those games by one goal, the slimmest of margins.
No, this wasn't the dominant Michigan team that
earned fans many Yost pizza promotions by hitting
seemingly unreachable marks of 10 and 12 goals in
games against weak, outmatched CCHA foes.
Yet these Wolverines showed the same winning
flair, the uncanny ability to step up their play when
it mattered most.
An early 4-2 loss at home to Michigan State was
Could the Wolverines make a 12-hour flight to
Alaska-Fairbanks and beat the Nanooks in a pair of
games in their own igloo? No problem for
Michigan. Yet no one remembers those victories.
Could they win the College Hockey Showcase
over WCHA powers Minnesota and Wisconsin in
one weekend? Not a big deal, Michigan said, as it
nipped both teams by a goal apiece. Nobody
remembers those wins, either.
But just as Michigan State dropped the first
bombshell on the Wolverines, it would drop a sec-
ond. And a third. And a fourth.
If they weren't before, the Spartans quickly
became Michigan's nemesis. Michigan State was
the Wolverines' Rubik's Cube, the team that just
couldn't be figured out.
The Spartans took no notice of Michigan's past
success at the Great Lakes Invitational, knocking
off the Wolverines 5-3. It was the first time since
1986 that the GLI crown wasn't packed up and sent
to Ann Arbor.
Again, when Michigan seemed poised to start a
winning streak, its arch-rival got in the way.
The venue didn't matter. The Wolverines failed to
beat Michigan State at Yost in October, at Munn Ice
Arena in East Lansing in February, and on two
occasions at Joe Louis Arena.
The obstacle was becoming mental for Michigan.
It dragged down the team's momentum, and the
Wolverines stumbled through the remaining part of
They were in a funk, and after a disappointing
loss to Ohio State in the CCHA semifinals, it
looked like the Michigan gas tank had hit empty.
Sure, the Wolverines had earned an NCAA tour-
nament berth, but they were limping into a demand-
ing gauntlet that chewed up the unprepared.
And, of course, we all know the rest. Maybe
Michigan coach Red Berenson called the Brothers
Grimm and asked them to write a fairy tale ending
to the Wolverines' tumultuous season.
Either way, just two weeks after the most depress-
ing moment of Michigan's season came its happiest
- Muckalt, Turco and Matt Herr raising their arms
in celebration in Boston after an improbable NCAA
So when everyone looks back at that '97-'98 sea-
son, it will be remembered as the year of the nation-
al championship, not a season of rebuilding that saw
the Wolverines drop four games to Michigan State.
Thank goodness for short-term memories.
on all U of M gifts and clothing
BOOK & SUPPLY
317 SOUTH STATE STREET
The Michigan hockey team bettered expectations last season by'
With a No. 2 preseason ranking, a national championship this sea
Corner of N. Universitv
Sunday after game only
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