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March 09, 2000 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-09

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 9, 2000 -22



By Uma Subramanian - Daily Sports Writer

Date: April 9, 1997. The Place:
Omaha, Nebraska. The Event:
Game 5 of the semifinals of the
Hockey League Championship
. between the Lincoln Stars and the
haLancers. Lincoln leads the series
3-┬▒heading into the contest - this one's
fe 1h the glory.
ie Outcome: Scott Matzka's Lancers
teira 4-2 lead into the final stanza. But
t hometown team collapses in the third
as the Stars, led by Josh Langfeld's three
pdouts, stage an impressive comeback,
snng four goals to win 6-5 in overtime.
That victory was significant for USHL
kesonal glory, but perhaps more impor-
yt', it symbolized the end of a rivalry
for a year, had spanned the sparse
i*raska plains.
l.atzka and Langfeld, two of the
league's premier players, were both slated
to come to Michigan the following fall.
fThe funniest story is that (Langfeld)
wasn't doing anything, and I was playing
unreal in the first few games of the
seies, Matzka jokingly reflected. "I was
yelling at him telling him he was going to
tkO the practice squad here. But he real-
ly picked it up in the last two games, and
their team beat us out of the playoffs.
"After that I requested not to be put
(with Langfeld) in the dorms freshman
year because we didn't really get along
too well. As soon as I told the coaches
that, they probably figured we have to get
these guys together. But once we got here,
weworked everything out and had a good
time - we've lived together ever since."
,ius began a friendship that helped
sa national championship.

..r _ 2.

The Date: April 5, 1998. The Place:
Boston, Massachusetts. The Event: The
NCAA Championship game pitting
Michigan against Boston College.
The Improbable Outcome: With the
score tied 2-2 in sudden-death overtime,
Langfeld blasts the puck past Eagles
goalie Scott Clemmensen off a feed from
Matzka and Chris Fox.
The goal was the shot heard around
college hockey because it capped off a
near miraculous playoff run that saw
fourth-seeded Michigan overcome all
odds en route to winning the national title,
led by the largest freshman class in years.
"It was amazing, and it was crazy"
Langfeld said two years later, his eyes still
reflecting the joy of the memory.
"It was pretty exciting," Matzka said.
"It was a broken play -there wasn't any
great setup or anything. I was standing on
the point and I could see the net perfectly.
Langer was just kind of standing there.
"Then he shot it out of the corner and I
saw it go in. At first I thought they weren't
going to count it. It was crazy pandemo-
nium after that. Obviously it was unex-
pected for us to win it, and we just came
together and did it. It was awesome!"
Not to be forgotten in all the hullabaloo
surrounding the overtime goal was fresh-
man Mark Kosick, who had propelled
Michigan into the extra-period in the first
place. Even with prolific scorers Bill
Muckalt and Matt. Herr, it was Kosick
who scored both of the Wolverines' regu-
lation goals to keep them in the contest.
Kosick had a breakout season that year,

scoring 46 points including a team-high
four goals in the postseason.
"It was really amazing,' Kosick said of
winning the title. "It went by so fast and
we didn't think we were going to win. It
was definitely an experience none of us
will ever forget. And now, we know what
to expect when we get there."
Two years later, Michigan is again
poised to make a title run and once more
Matzka, Kosick and Langfeld find them-
selves at the forefront. Now the three
offensive forces have combined to give
Michigan a prolific offensive line.
Matzka and Langfeld have an interwo-
ven history that preceded college, while
Kosick, hailing from British Columbia,
didn't have much of a connection with the
rest of his class. Yet they all share a com-
mon link - a love for the game that was
so strong it drove all three to succeed.
A hockey line is an unusual element -
for it to function well, it requires a precise
combination of skill, coordination and
chemistry. And regardless of how well
players may get along, their effectiveness
on the ice requires a unity of purpose.
When successful, the perfect line can
have an almost magical effect on a player.
This season that has held true for
Kosick, Matzka and Langfeld. In early
December, all three were struggling when
Michigan coach Red Berenson put them
together. The result was immediate.
After a relatively unproductive fall, the
trio combined for 26 points in only a
month and a half and thus became one of
Michigan's top offensive machines.
"We know what the other person is
going to do," Langfeld said. "With Kosi
and Scotty, I can read them almost as well
as they can read me. You get a sensation
for what the other guy is going to do on
the ice. Everybody fits in differently with
everyone else.'
Yet, all good things had to come to an
end. A series of injuries first to Kosick,
then to Langfeld, split the group apart.
After that, their success was somewhat
stinted - except for Matzka who found
his offensive touch toward the end of the
regular season. Recently, to refuel the
offense, Berenson brought the three back
together again, which is fine with them.
"I just like playing with Josh and Scott,
and I hope we stay together," Kosick said.
"We just have to go out there and work
our hardest and play. If we stick together,
we're going to be successful. We get along
well and we play well together and just
complement each other"
That chemistry, Langfeld says, stems

If '
WH F' t y

Josh Langfeld, Mark Kosick and Scott Matzka combine to form one of Michigan's most pro

Playoff promise: How the trio fared M the post--season
Josh Langfeld:
USHL- 8 goals; 13 assiss
1997-9: 3 goals; 2 assists
199&99. 2 goafs; 2 asit

from friendships off the ice.
"It was fun because Scotty and I were
roommates freshman year and Kosi and I
had a lot of success," Langfeld said. "We
just gelled and had fun going out together.
We'd have fun with each other - that's a
big part of it. A lot of people miss that and
think it's just hockey. But the friendships
you develop away from the rink are what
makes it special and makes who you are."
But there's more to a successful line
than friendship. Each player must be able
to contribute an element of his game that
makes him a unique asset.
"Langfeld gives the line size; Kosick
gives the line finesse; Matzka gives the
line speed," Berenson said. "They have a
work ethic and a chemistry. You like to
have a guy who can make plays, score
goals and check well. They all have expe-
rience and there's a mutual respect."
On this line, each player's unique abili-
ty stems in part from his hockey history.
Kosick is the quintessential Canadian
hockey player, who had the rare privilege
of meeting his boyhood idol, Wayne
Gretzky, on a fishing trip.
"Just growing up, every Canadian idol-
izes Gretzky," Kosick said. "I did espe-
cially. When I was growing up, I'd just
watch him and not even pay attention to
the game."
Perhaps that extra attention to Gretzky's
game influenced Kosick's playing style.
Just like his hero, Kosick is a playmaker
who can gracefully bypass defensemen to
find the back of the net.
But for the centerman, it's especially
important to have wingers who he can
create with.

Matzka and Langfeld satisfy that crite-
ria. Matzka is quite possibly the fastest
player on the Michigan team. He devel-
oped his skill and precision skating while
growing up in Port Huron. As a child, he
would make a morning trip to Samia once
a week to take lessons from a figure skat-
ing coach who wore a big white fur coat
- quite different from most of his team-
mates' instructors.
"You look at almost any figure skater
and they're a better skater than a hockey
player," Matzka said. "I went over there
for five years, and I'd go for an hour and
just skate and work on my stride. It's a
huge advantage to be able to pick it up
another notch when I have to."
Recently Matzka's speed has become
an important factor for the Wolverines.
He has been able to blast past opposing
players, making him a valuable asset on
the penalty kill.
"Matzka might be the hottest player on
our team right now," Berenson said. "He's
always had speed. But when he has confi-
dence and gets in gear, he can put it into
overdrive. He seems to be that much bet-
ter when he's confident. Last weekend,
against Bowling Green, he was flying."
Langfeld, for his part, lends the size the
trio needs to matchup with any other in
the country.
Langfeld, like many of his teammates
was a two-sport athlete growing up, play-
ing hockey and football. But after high
school, he decided to stick with hockey,
knowing it would take less of a toll on his
body in years to come. And after gradua-
tion, Langfeld packed his bags and head-
ed for the junior hockey leagues.

)Ilfic lines.
"I went to Montana first after high
school," Langfeld said. "That was a crazy
experinpce, playing against guys who
were older. It was different, they would
fight and stuff and I wasn't used to it. I
lost a few fights, but I got to see how it
worked. I wouldn't trade those days for
Perhaps it was that experience in
juniors that has made Langfeld a force to
contend with. Opponents realize that he
will not back away - giving his line a
strength advantage few others have.
This season, the three players took the
fourth through sixth spots on Michigan's
regular-season points list. But, none of
them have had as prolific of a season as
they did their previous two years.
Yet all is not lost. Matzka, Kosick and
Langfeld compose one of the most offen-
sively potent playoff units. In previous
seasons, each player has peaked at exact-
ly the right moment to help his team when
it has counted the most - regardless of
how they've done in the regular season.
Kosick, for example, struggled somewhat
last season, but he came through in the
CCHA tournament, scoring seven points
and earning MVP honors for his efforts.
The playoffs are on the horizon, and it's
go time for Michigan. And being success-
ful will require the services of all the
Wolverines - especially the guys who
stunned the world and did it all when they
weren't expected to.
"Success before only helps us,"
Langfeld said. "We know what wc can
"We've been there before.'

No. 1 gymnasts
Ijome for last time

By Uhawd Haddad
Davy Sports Writer
Entering the final regular season meet
of the year, the Michigan women's gym-
nastics teamis ranked No. 1 in the nation
for the first time this season. The hard
part will be maintaining that position
through the postseason.
But before that rolls around, Florida
a4Bowling Green still need to be reck-
oned with. The No. 13 Gators (11-9) and
the Falcons (9-8) visit Crisler Arena this
Saturday to close out the 2000 campaign.
After a road trip in which the
Wolverines recorded the scores to ascend
to their perch atop the rest of the country,
they are peaking at just the right time,
and coach Bev Plocki happily acknowl-
edges that fact.
r ere isn't much more to be learned
in 's last meet," Plocki said. "At this
point, either we've got it or we don't, and
it loks like we do. We just want to have
a great final meet for senior night."
Ihe meet will mark the last appear-
anp in front of the home crowd for
seniors Sarah Cain, Sarah-Elizabeth
Latgford and Kate Nellans. A tribute
will be held before the competition to
conmemorate the trio's illustrious
in hopes to duplicate her most
rest performances, in which she
recorded consecutive 10's on the vault.
T -eontinue the theme of rocketing up
ihjells, Cain is now the No. 2 gymnast
In-he nation. On the other side of the
TitFlorida boasts the No. 6 individual
gyrnnastin Chrissy Van Fleet, so the all-
arpid competition between the two
.shuld be a battle.
Florida and Michigan share the mat
fohe second time this year. The
Wolverines prevailed in the season-open-
ing Super Six Challenge, 194.925-
193.225, to take third to Florida's sixth.

'M' vaults to No. 1
"I'm very pleased about being No. 1, and
I hope to maintain it throughout the Big
Ten championships to get a top seed for
regionals. But once you get to the
regional championships, it all starts over.
Ranking doe'tmean a thingany
more." -- Coach Bev PlockI

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1. Michigan
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Nebraska
6. LSU
7. Utah
& Stanford
9. West Virginia
10, Iowa State

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Saturday also represents Michigan's
second appearance in Crisler Arena this
year. The team had mixed reactions to the
larger venue's effects against Georgia last
month, but Plocki noted that several
changes have been made. The seats will
be pulled in to bring the crowd closer to
the action and create a more intimate and
energetic atmosphere.
All in all, the meet should serve as a
tune-up, a final opportunity to tweak
things before the results become crucial.
"I would not say that we have any
weaknesses to be addressed," Plocki said.
"But there are always improvements to
be made. No team is perfect, and we
aren't an exception. The focus will be on
getting the details right, hitting every
handstand and every dismount"
Plocki responded to the release of the
latest polls with guarded enthusiasm.
"I'm very pleased about being No. 1,
and I hope to maintain it throughout the
Big Ten championships to get a good
seed for the regionals," Plocki said. But
she noted "once you get to the regional
championships, it all starts over."

The No.1 MIchigan women's gymnastics team will host its final regular season meet of
the year this Saturday when Florida and Bowling Green Invade Crlsler Arena.
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