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March 10, 2000 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CCHA: Who plays who?
Check online for the matchups in the
first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Then, be sure to check out the Daily's
extended coverage in SportsMonday.


MARCH 10, 2000



.Icers host Western
tonight in playoffs
ByGeoff Gagnon
Daily Sports Writer
Their faces tell the story of a team in the midst of some
unfinished business.
As Michigan posed with the CCHA regular season champi-
onship trophy last week at Yost Arena, the Wolverines begrudg-
ngly grinned at the cameras - reserving smiles for hardware
they hope will come soon.
They'll take the first steps tonight when the intensity and
urgency of playoff hockey grabs center stage as Michigan wel-
comes Western Michigan to Yost for a first-round CCHA
Tournament battle. And for both teams, this weekend's matchup
marks the refreshing beginning of something new.
"This is the start of a new season and this is where things
matter more," Berenson said. "This is what you're remembered
for, what you do in the playoffs."
This theme of new opportunities is more than a refrain for



Who: Michigan (19-6-3
CCHA, 24-8-4 overall) vs.
Western Michigan (10-15-3,
When: 7:35p.m. tonight, 7:05
p.m. Saturday,7:05 p.m.
Sunday (if necessary).
TV. Friday and Sunday
Channel 22, Saturday Fox
Spots Detroit.
'Tickets: Still available at the
Michigan Ticket Office,or at
Yost prior to the game,
Broncos in several decisive

Broncos coach Jim Culhane,
who steers his 12-19 Western
Michigan squad into the playoffs
after a three year absence.
"We're excited to return after
being away for a while;" Culhane
said. "We're excited to get a
chance to play a team like
Michigan. They're a talented
team that can do many things."
For each program a sense of
familiarity extends beyond last
month's meeting that helps give
the plavoff reunion a deener
sense of history. The Wolverines
have crossed paths with the
playoff matchups dating back to

darker days in Berenson's tenure.
Twelve seasons ago, a Michigan squad captained by Todd
Brost squeaked its way to a 22-19 record; good enough for a
CCHA tournament bid and a trip to Kalamazoo. Michigan's
season ended there, after a 10-0 drubbing in the third game of
*hat series. But two seasons later Michigan met the Broncos
again in the first round of the playoffs - this time in Ann
Arbor, and this time Michigan came out on top.
Since then, the Wolverines have never relinquished home-ice
advantage in the conference tournament opener - and since
that win over Western, they've never lost a playoff opener.
Tonight, two teams in very different places this season find
themselves again standing between one another and a confer-
ence playoff title. For Michigan, the regular season conference
champion, a tournament title win would do more than lock up
a first-round NCAA tournament bye, it would provide the
Wolverines with a valuable tune-up for the national tournament.
But make no mistake, Berenson insists that Michigan would
never look past the conference tournament.
"We're playing the first week of the NCAA tournament,"
Berenson said. "(But) the only way any other team in this league
will be is if they win the league tournament. We're committed to
making a statement in the CCHA before we move on."
For Western Michigan, the fresh start will give Culhane and
his Broncos a shot at entering NCAA play despite a somewhat
rocky season that saw the team finish in a ninth-place confer-
ence tie with Miami.
"Obviously we would have liked to finish higher than we
did," Culhane said. "We set our goal at the beginning of the sea-
son to reach the NCAA tournament, and we're confident that if
we play well here, we can achieve that goal."
Michigan steamrolled past the Broncos less than a month
ago, and this weekend, looks to employ the same explosive
offense that scored 16 goals to Western's five. But Michigan
captain Sean Peach said his team can't take anything for grant-
ed against a team with something to prove.
"When you beat a team up pretty badly they're going to what
to get back at you," Peach said. "They have pride and they want
to redeem themselves. We know we'll have to play well."
"Particularly, Berenson is wary of the offensive prowess the
roncos showed as the regular season wound to a close.
"Western will throw everything it has at us, Berenson said.
"They scare you (because) they can score, they're also a team
whose power play can be a real factor in a game."
For Culhane, who questions how his team stacks up with
Michigan, this weekend offers his team a rare chance against a
very formidable opponent.
"Can we match their four lines and their strong defense?"
Culhane asked. "No. They're a Big Ten school with all of the
esources in the country. But can we compete with them?
ertainly. You have to remember that this is the playoffs."

skines bn
last kurali
CHICAGO - Was anyone else sur-
prised that gentle giant Peter Vignier
broke out of a season-long coma,
which had kept him on the Michigan
bench all year?
Not only did the big man nail an
unexpected dou-
ble-double net-
ting 16 points
and 1 Irebounds,
but Vignier actu-
ally exhibited
emotion on the
court after con-
verting a tough JACOB
basket in the post WHEELER
- quite unchar- Behind
acteristic of the the Wheel
studious English
The Vignier I know sits quietly on
the bench under his ten-gallon afro hair
and lets reporters chew on post-game
soundbites from Kevin Gaines,
Michigan's colorful point guard, while
the veteran wallows in the shadows.
The Vignier I know Wanders the
halls of East Quad, constantly ducking
under low ceilings in the residen.
hall's cramped basement on his way to
Vignier is a student in the
Residential College, the artistic, ultra-
creative branch of the University which
athletes rarely seem to join - much
less 6-foot-1 athletes.
I lived in East Quad the same year as
Pete, when we were both freshmen.
And whenever he walked down the
hall, people would marvel that the
backup center on the basketball team
was a student in the Residential,.
College, taking intensive French and
probably some pottery or paper mache
classes with all of us non-athletic hip-
Sometimes he seemed out of place.
But we consoled ourselves that he
rarely ever saw playing time that year,
on a team dominated by big men
Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor and
Macco Baston.
He was one of us, we said. And
when he did see action in the last
minute ofa Michigan blowout, we
whooped and hollered like we were try-
ing to start a drum circle in the Crisler
Arena stands.
Lately, Vignier's roll on the basket-
ball team has increased. He started
most of last season, and was chosen
often by Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe
to spell Josh Asselin earlier this season.
But then Ellerbe found confidence in
.hard-working sophomore Chris Young,
and thrust him into the starting lineup
over Asselin and Vignier.
Peter was one of us once again,
showing surprise whenever a reporter
sought him out after a game in Which
he hardly played.
So I squirmed in my seat yesterday
when Vignier, playing in place of an
See WHEELER, Page 15

Chris Young and LaVell Blanchard lament Michigan's early exit from the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines lost to Penn State, 76-66, in senior
center Peter Vignier's finest career game.
Blue bows out early in Big Ten Tourney
Possible National Invitational Tournament with home game likely next for 'M'

By David Den Herder
Daily Sports editor
CHICAGO - On the billboard of a road-
side restaurant, it's a good thing. In the Big
Ten Tournament, not so much.
Easy in, easy out.
That was the theme of the Wolverines'
short-lived trip
to the Windy P FENN STATE 76
City yesterday. ,
Needing no \M4i( AN 66
credentials to
qualify for the tournament - save member-
ship in the Big Ten - Michigan dropped
out just as effortlessly.
The eighth-seeded Wolverines fell to
ninth-seeded Penn State in the tourney's
first game, 76-66.
While much of the team still seemed to
be recovering from Spartan shell shock - a
result of Michigan's record-setting loss a
week ago - senior center Peter Vignier
emerged for a career game.
The senior posted his way to a team-high
16 points and II rebounds, but perhaps
more importantly held Penn State's Jarrett
Stephens to only 10 points in the game.

When these teams last met, Stephens
schooled the Wolverines for 33, albeit in a
losing effort. Yesterday, Vignier kept him in
check, and collected only one personal foul
"We weren't getting the post play from
Chris (Young) and Josh (Asselin) today, so
we went with Pete," Michigan coach Brian
Ellerbe said. "But the game plan didn't
.Vignier's teammates were not so lucky in
the foul department. Brandon Smith, Chris
Young and Gavin Groninger each had four
So did Kevin Gaines with more than 17
minutes left in the second half, forcing
Ellerbe to keep him on the bench.
LaVell Blanchard, who finished with 14
points, fouled out.
"We played hard," said Blanchard, the
Big Ten freshman of the year. "Just not
good enough."
The Wolverines kept the game close most
of the way, and though they never led,
Vignier tied it up at 48 and again at 50 with
10:39 remaining.
With Gaines on reserve, Groninger and
Leon Jones orchestrated the backcourt.

Despite Groninger's 13-point perfor-
mance, the Nittany Lions began to walk
away with the game.
"It came down to the fact that we didn't
make good plays and didn't get the job
done," Groninger said.
With five rminutes to play, Gaines
returned, but the bleeding had already
The final minutes were like watching a
mystery movie when everyone has already
figured out the ending.
"I'm upset that Peter lost here in the first
round in his senior year," Ellerbe said. "We
played hard, but we just didn't make enough
So rang the thesis of yesterday's perfor-
At 15-13, big-name Michigan has an
almost automatic shot at making the NIT
and perhaps hosting a game.
"It would be an honor if we got the
opportunity to continue," said Ellerbe.
But from the looks on some of the faces
of the Wolverines in the lockerroom yes-
terday, it's not evident which is being more
highly anticipated - the NIT or the off-


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