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-- Faceoff 98- Thursday, qooer 315,h1998
Blue defense should anchor team
By Chris Duprey
Daily Sports Writer
Last season, the Michigan hockey
team had a young defensive corps -
one that Michigan coach Red Berenson
hoped wouldn't be responsible for losing
many games because of its inexperience.
This season, the Wolverines' defense
should be its best weapon - an arsenal
of blueliners that can win games on its
own with its punishing, physical style.
"We've got good size," sophomore
Mike Van Ryn said. "I think we'll be able
to dominate physically in our own end."
The defense will have to play well in
front of freshman goaltender Josh
Blackburn. As highly touted as
Blackburn may be, he will need help get-
ting used to the rugged CCHA style.
Michigan's defense is just the tool that
can help him make his rookie season a
memorable and successful one.
Last season, Berenson said that over
time, then-freshmen defensemen Van
Ryn and Dave Huntzicker "could even-
tually be good players for us."
Well, they're a year or two ahead of
schedule. Both Van Ryn and former
walk-on Huntzicker were key cogs in the
1997-98 national title team, combining
for 26 unexpected points, and both will
be looked to this season for leadership.
Leadership? From sophomores?
"I think we learned a lot last year
from the upperclassmen," Van Ryn said.
"We're just hoping to bring the
younger defensemen along this year."
Captain Bubba Berenzweig, one of
many team comedians, should step up
and provide guidance, as well as jokes.
And after watching past defensemen
such as recently graduated Chris Fox
take center stage, it is finally
The election of a defenseman as cap-
tain shows that, while goal-scoring may
come from different places this season,
the defense has a solid foundation to
Only six defensemen of the nine on
the roster generally dress for games, so
there will be intense competition for the
Berenson said deciding on a six-man
defensive rotation will be an ongoing
process that lasts all season.
Sean Peach may have the best chance
to nab one of those remaining spots. The
junior is solid on the ice - when he's on
Injury has proven to be Peach's
biggest nemesis. Peach has fought nag-
ging ailments before, but has been ham-
pered early this season with a bad case of
"lace bite" on both feet. His new skates
have caused soreness, limiting his
mobility on the ice.
If Peach can stay healthy, he should be
on the dress list most of the season.
Another role player from last sea-
son's national title team returns on
defense - sophomore Scott Crawford.
Despite his youth, Crawford appeared in
all eight of Michigan's postseason con-
tests in '98, providing solid minutes.
One highly rated freshman is Jeff
"/ didn't think
But he proved
Jillson, a young defenseman with a
bulky frame, standing 6-3 and weighing
220 pounds. Jillson's dimensions may be
his best attribute, as he is listed as the
biggest player on the roster.
Berenson likely will put Jillson's
physical abilities to good use at some
point during the grinding conference
season, if not on a frequent basis.
Recognized by Old Spice as its ath-
lete of the month in Sports Illustrated,
Jillson is no stranger to honors. Then
again, every player at Michigan joins the
team with a mile-long list of credentials.
Only his on-ice play will dictate whether
Jillson becomes a regular.
"I didn't think Jillson could play
defense," Berenzweig said jokingly. "I
thought he was more of an offensive
defenseman, but he proved me wrong.
"He knows how to play positional
defense, and he can stop the one-on-one,
so he'll do real well this year."
With the competition for the starting
spots well underway, versatile players
such as Bob Gassoff should make
Berenson's job much easier this season.
Gassoff has already shown his abili-
ty to adapt, playing forward in an exhibi-
tion contest against Guelph on Oct. 3 to
replace the loss of assistant captain Dale
Rominski, who sat out the home opener
to resolve an academic problem.
Whether or not he makes it into the
regular lineup, the sophomore should
contribute in some way.
Kevin Magnuson and freshman Jay
Vancik will also make the competition
on defense more interesting. Magnuson.
a junior, saw spare time last season, play-
ing 15 games.
Both will be ready to go, whether or
not they actually play.
Most of Michigan's blueliners would
likely be starters for other schools, but
they have come to play for the
Wolverines. The ability to attract top
players who are willing to accept
reduced roles may be the secret to
"You can't go wrong playing any of
the nine of us out there," Van Ryn said.
"I think the coaches have been real
impressed so far."
If the defensemen are impressing the
Michigan coaching staff this early in the
season, then they'll likely be depressing
opposing forwards as well.
902 S. State " 734-668-72
10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.i
Football Saturdays, open at
1 Block North of Yc
At The Corner Of Packar
or and K~Z ichigan tr
I *~ -~
-- ~A. .-~7 '? ~ W
Since 1915 a great Ann Arbi
401 E. Huron 9t. (walking distance
from campus) :0 769-05601_
mt. Wt. Yr. Player
6-1 212 Sr.
6-0' 186 So.
5-11 195 So.
6-3 200 So.
6-3 220 Fr.
Mike Van Ryn
Ht. Wt. Yr.
6.1 195 So.
6-1 195 Jr.
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6-2 212 Fr.
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