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March 20, 2000 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-20

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4B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 20, 2000

Nebraska stuns conference
with storybook playoff run

B1Y Geoff Gammo
Daily Sports Writer
DETROIT -- They came from the
western banks of the Missouri River
where farm towns and sleepy rural ham-
lets dot the Nebraskan landscape and
where Omaha rises from the cornfields
and cattle farms of Douglas County.
And like the boys they came to cheer,
they brought with them a sense of hope
in a dream few could have expected.
They came from Nebraska dressed
like Rick Jefferies, the bellowing
Omaha backer with his face painted in
the crimson hue of his Mavericks hock-
ey jersey. Outfitted in swashbuckling
fashion with a painted eye patch and
bandanna, Jefferies's intimidating vis-
age had, by game's end, given way to a
face that couldn't hide his emotion.

advancing to the finals was astonishing.
"We all started with this goal in
mind," Sidoruk said. "To actually be
here, to be doing this is surreal. You
couldn't have written a better story."
But its not just the remarkable quali-
ties of a storied team built on a vision
that had critics and skeptics alike shak-
ing their heads last week- consider the
road the 16-19-7 Mavericks took the
reach the playoffs.
Forced to play four games in five
nights last week, the Mavericks snapped
a five game winless streak to shock No.
3 seed Northern Michigan ilk three
games on the road before earning a trip
to Detroit with a 3-I win over Bowling
Green last Tuesday night.
"We were picked to finish Ilth
before the season began and I think the

They came like John
Shrader, the Omaha
native and student who
has followed the team
since its inception three
seasons ago. With ban-
ners and commemora-
tive tee shirts printed
for the occasion, they
came to celebrate their
version of the Frozen
Four with enthusiasm
that comes only from
defying odds.
Ad they came like
Kendall Sidoruk, the
Omaha netminder from
S p i r i t w o o d,
Saskatchewan who
banked on a vision
three years earlier when
he helped form
Omaha's first college
hockey team from noth-
ing.
They came to be a
part of something
amazing while hoping
for the improbable -
what they left was an
impression of some-
thing great.
Together they came
with hundreds more to
Detroit, intent on more
than simply celebrating

The lowest seed ever to
advance to the CCHA,
Tournament 'finals,
Omaha's Cinderella run
browghtit one game within
the NCAA Tournament.
Here's a look at the memo-
rable run:'
Berry Events Center
3/10 N. Michigan W 4-2
3/11 N. Michigan L 1-5
3/12 N. Michigan W 2-1
Omaha Civic Auditorium
3/14 Bowling Green W 3-1

3/17
3/18

Joe Louis Arena
Michigan
Michigan St.

only thing that
kept out from
being picked 12th
was sympathy,"
Kemp said prior to
the weekend. "I
couldn't be proud-
er of this group of
young men."
And while
Kemp's troops saw
their season end on
Saturday night,
they also saw the
realization of the
conference's most
storied tale of suc-
cess. What the
Mavericks missed
with their 6-0 loss
Saturday to
Michigan State on
Friday may have
been an automatic
N C A A
Tournament bid,
but what it gained
is immeasurable.
By becoming the
lowest seed ever to
knock off the top
seed in the league
tournament, the
Mavericks did
more than rewrite

W7-4
L 6-0

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i
ai(6:
s <
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/ce
Nebraska-Omaha Athletics

exuberance this Maverick team has cre-
ated in Omaha, the Mavericks filled the
43-year old Civic Auditorium to the
gills to down Bowling Green in dramat-
ic fashion in front of nearly 7,000
strong.
"I've been in coaching at the division
one level since 1981 and in that time I
have never been in a building as electric
and noisy as that place on Tuesday
night," Kemp said.
"They were going through the roof,
we had people packed to the rafters and
I'm sure the fire marshal looked the
other way."
And maybe Michigan looked the
other way as it fell behind to Omaha
Friday night before eventually losing 7-
4. But in the CCHA, just as in Omaha,
all eyes are now focussed on a program
that took a chance to make a statement
and instead made a declaration;
Nebraska-Omaha has arrived.
"This has been such a tremendous
opportunity for our team and our school
as an institution," Kemp said. "There's
not many people that had even heard of
our school before this team. Heck, for
most of our kids this is the first trip to
Detroit. It's a trip to the big city for a
bunch of them."
And it's a journey that has been filled
with stories of the triumph of athletes
and the enthusiasm of a city - a city
fittingly in the heart of America.
It's been a story of players like Jeff
Hoggan, the sophomore who tore the
anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in
December and shrugged off season end-
ing surgery. Instead the forward spear-
headed his team's charge into the play-
offs scoring three of four game-winning
goals, including two against Michigan.
All of this on a bum knee and all of this
from a kid that hails a tiny mining town
in Fraser Canyon, British Columbia -a
tiny mining town called Hope.
It's been a story filled with people
like Shrader, the Nebraska-Omaha stu-
dent and high school classmate of
Michigan's Jed Ortmeyer who decided
with a handful of friends to drive over
700 miles through the night to see his
team keep their NCAA Tournament
hopes alive.
"We knew we couldn't miss this,"
Shrader said Friday night. "Nobody
gave this team a shot, but back in
Omaha we all had faith. People may not
know who we are now, but next year
they will."
But in many ways they already do,
and if they don't they can at least appre-
ciate the story of a team that didn't exist
four years ago doing the unthinkable.
Surely they can appreciate the drama
and the dream that for a brief moment
this weekend shook hands in the mist of
college hockey.
While performances fade and heroes
blur in the mix of boxscores and broad-
casts, the story of Mike Kemp and his
band of orphans who put themselves
and a program on the map is one to
remember.;
Somewhere on that trip from
Marquette to Omaha and back to1
Detroit, the impossible gave way to the
improbable and as Mavericks fans
blinked back the tears of disbelief, they
watched as their infant team struck a
knockout blow to perennial power
Michigan.
And as Jefferies fought the choking
lump in his throat a chorus of chants
went up from the contingent of Omaha
fans that had gathered like a family
Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
"We believe. We believe. We believe."

an inconceiv-

DAVID KATZ/Daily
Geoff Koch and the rest of the Wolverines could do nothing to stop Nebraska-Omaha's Cinderella tournament run.
Mavericks deliver reality-check to 'M'

able first year in the CCHA. They came
to keep a season and an amazing tour-
nament run alive. And for Sidoruk and
his senior classmates who formed the
foundation of the program when they
signed on in 1996, they came to fulfill a
dream - one even they could have
hardly believed possible when they
arrived in Omaha without even a rink to
play on.
A rag-tag group of former junior
players, wandering college skaters and
dreamy eyed athletes looking for a place
to latch on to - coach Mike Kemp said
his team this season was a group of
orphans who saw the possibility of
something great.
"We're a collection of cast-offs and
misfits that nobody seemed to want,"
Kemp said.
"We sold a dream to our guys and
they came here believing something
would happen"
And something did happen: First in
Omaha where 6,300 season tickets sold
out two weeks after the school
announced the formation of a team in
1996, and then this spring when a lowly
seeded Mavericks squad debuted in the
conference playoffs in its first season in
the league. If making the playoffs was
amazing, Sidoruk said after Friday's
semi-final win over Michigan that

conference history. They gave a city and
a tiny school on the plains something to
cheer about- and they gave the rest of
us a pretty good story. A story that cele-
brated a team's struggle over adversity
and inexperience, a story of a team
fighting for a shot to keep the wheels of
its season moving.
It was the journey itself though, and
the circumstances that surrounded the
run at the conference championship,
that had even the hardened Mavericks
believer wondering if theirs was truly a
team of destiny.
Coach Kemp's squad overcame a
snowstorm in Marquette that forced
them to fly to Green Bay where they
caught a three hour bus ride to Northern
Michigan before it took the ice last
weekend. Once there, the squad sur-
vived a 5-1 drubbing in the second
game and two disallowed goals in the
final game to win the series 2-1.
But at least they had ice.
After news of their upset over
Northern Michigan, rink managers in
Omaha, who had been preparing for a
farm implementation show, frantically
worked around the clock to re-install ice
at the Omaha Civic Auditorium for
Tuesday's play-in game.'
Kemp and his squad made sure their
efforts were not in vain.
In an atmosphere capturing the sheer

TOURNAMENT
Continued from Page 1B
The emotional disparity soon
became a tangible deficit as Dave Noel-
Bernier, on a breakaway, coasted up the
ice and launched the puck at Michigan
goalie Josh Blackburn. As Blackburn
moved to the right, the puck skipped
around him and landed in the net - I-
0 Nebraska-Omaha 7:18 into the first
period.
The Mavericks tallied another goal
before Michigan's Scott Matzka, strate-
gically placing himself in front of
Nebraska goalie, Kendall Sidoruk, redi-
rected a shot from Geoff Koch to pull
the Wolverines within one point as the
first stanza skidded to a close.
Matzka's tally, which extended his
six-game goal scoring streak, was the
only mildly bright element of the game
for Michigan.
But the 2-1 lead at the end of the first
didn't do the Mavericks' effort justice.
From the get-go, the Mavericks dom-
inated the ice, breaking up passes, fin-
ishing their hits and dominating the
puck - a habit usually reserved for
Michigan's traditionally powerful
offense.
"We got outplayed," Michigan junior
forward Josh Langfeld said. "They just
dominated us. I don't know what it was,
but we just didn't want it as bad as they
did - and it showed. They outplayed us
the whole first period and we let the
guys go by. It's frustrating."
Though Michigan had some momen-
tum of Matzka's goal at the start of the
second period, Nebraska-Omaha was
even more assertive. Eleven seconds

into the stanza, they regained a two-
goal lead when Jeff Hoggan notched his
15th goal of the season on a powerplay.
Hoggan scored again less than a
minute later, on another powerplay
assessed when Michigan star center
Mike Comrie took a cross-checking
penalty, putting Michigan away for
good.
After Nebraska-Omaha scored again
in Michigan's final conference stanza
of the 1999-2000 campaign, the
Wolverines finally started to get des-
perate.
And desperate times called for
unheralded measures. Down 5-2, with a
little over five minutes to play,
Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled
goalie Josh Blackburn and put six
attackers on the ice.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the
ploy worked but on both ends of the ice.
As Nebraska-Omaha fans chanted "We
Believe," the game ended putting the
Wolverines out of their misery.
Without a doubt, Nebraska-Omaha
earned their victory, just as they earned
the glory of playing in the CCHA
Tournament title game. Though they
lost to Michigan State, 6-0, in the
championship game, the Mavericks
made a statement in their first year of
CCHA play - they're for real.
For Nebraska-Omaha, their CCHA
Tournament success wasn't enough to
earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament
which begins next weekend.
Michigan, on the other hand, has a
chance to redeem itself. But because of
their miserable exit from the CCHA
Tournament, the Wolverines lost a first-
round bye and instead will have to

climb its way through the ranks in orde6
to reach the Frozen Four.
As the five-seed, they will face
Colgate on Saturday in Albany. The
winner of that contest will play top-
seeded Maine on Sunday.
For Michigan to have any success in
the NCAA Tournament, they must get
back to their game plan and play solid
defense. As for now, it will be crucial
for the Wolverines to put their CCHA
setbacks behind them in search C
greater glory.
"We're now in a situation where we
have our backs against the wall,"
Michigan freshman Mike Cammalleii
said. "You win or you lose and your
season's over or keeps going. We now
know what to expect and we'll learn
from our loss. The reality has definitely
set in."
Friday's semi-final game

Nebraska-Omaha 7, Michigan 4
Neb.-Omaha 2 2 3 -7
Michigan 1 0 3 - 4
First perod -1. UNO, Noel-Bernier 8(Brisson),
7:18: 2. UNO, Fohr 9) Cart), 13:58: 1. UM, Matzka
15 (Koch. Jillson), 19:12. Penalties - UNO, Zanon
(hooking),.3:18: UM, Ortmeyer (cross-checking),
19:28.
Second period -3. UNO, Hoggan 15 (Brisson,
Zanon), 0:11 (pp); 4. UNO, Hoggan 16 (Brisson,
Zanon), 1:47 (pp). Penalties- UM, Comrie (cross-
checking). 1:06: UNO, Cart (tripping). 7:58.
Third period - 5. UNO, Chalmers 5 (unassisted),
:31; 2. UM, Peach 7 (Shouneyia, Jillson), 2:52; 6.
UNO, Brisson 17 ;Cupp, Virecko), 17:07 (en); 3.
UM, Comrie 21 (Koch). 17:39: 4. UM, Kosick 18
(Cornrie. Langfeld). 19:15 (ex); 7. UNO, Noel-Bernier
9 (unassisted), 19:42 (en).
Shots on goal - UNO 95.6 - 20; UM 8-6-22 - 36
Power Plays - UNO, 2 of 2; UM, 0 of 2.
Saves - UNO. Sidoruk 7-6-19 - 32; Blackburn 7-3
3-13.
Referee - Matt Shegos.
Linesmen - Kevin Langseth, Butch Friedman
At: Joe Louis Arena.
Attendance: Not Available.

p

0

f

Hobey Hopefuls
On Thursday the Hobey Baker Award
Committee announced ten finalists for the
award chosen by the ballot of all 60 division I
coaches and a fan vote. From these, a winner
will be selected by a 20-member panel and
announced April 7 at the Frozen Four.
Among those being considered is Michigan's
Mike Comrie.

Mike Comrie

Class
Position
Ht.
Wt.
Born
Home

Sophomore
Center
5-10
172
9/11/80
Edmonton

Ty Conklin
New Hampshire's junior goaltender notched 20 wins in
33 games averging 2.53 goals against.
Jeff Farkas
The senior forward from New Hampshire led Hockey
East with 53 points and had three hat tricks.
Brian Gionta
The Boston College junior forward was second in
nation with 29 goals.
Shawn Horcoff
Michigan State's senior forward led the CCHA in scor-
ing with 56 points and the nation in assists with 45. 4
Joel Laing
The senior netminder out of Rensselaer had six shutouts
and a 1.85 goals against average.
Andy McDonald
Colgate's senior forward led the ECAC with 52 points
averaging 1.68 ppg.
Mike Mottaue
The Boston College senior defenseman was Hockey East
defensive defenseman of the year and tallied 35 points.
Jeff Panzer
The North Dakota junior forward led the WCHA in I
scoring with 44 points and was named one of North
Dakota's top 50 athletes of the century by Sports
Illustrated.
Steve Reinprecht
Wisconsin's senior forward was the WCHA Player of the Year
after leading the nation in scoring with 63 points averaging
1.85 ppg.

® Second player in the history of the pro-
gram to lead the team in scoring his fresh-
man and sophomore seasons.
Tallied 20 goals and 33 assists to finish
with 53 points.
First player in the nation to reach double
digits in scoring after tallying 10 goals and
10 assists in the first nine games of the sea-
son.
SMichigran's seventh Hobey Baker finalist
since 1991.

DAVID KATZ/Daily
Andy Hilbert is foiled in his attempts to put the puck in the net. Hilbert and the Wolverines would only convert on four of their
36 shots against Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Kendall Sidoruk.

AdL

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East Regional

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