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September 08, 1999 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-08

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4E - New Student Edition - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 1999


True Michigan hockey fans see bigger picture in tourney exit

ORCESTER, Mass. - It's
a tired statement to make,
but an appropriate one:
What Michigan lacked in talent this
season, it made up for in character.
Granted, this doesn't change the
bontt line.
Michigan will not be playing in
the Frozen Four for the first time
sirie 1994 - the end of a brilliant
string of appearances that put this
protram on the national map. And
the final NCAA showing for this
year's senior class was its roughest.
But if those are the only memo-
ries that fans and University stu-
denis will take from this season,
end care

than they have been spoiled with

success these
past few years.
They forget the
zearly years of
the Red
Berenson era,
when winning
was a struggle
and the NCAA
Tournament was
a long-distance
They weren't
outside the lock-
erroom after
Saturday night's4


didn't see the pain on the faces of
the Michigan seniors.
They didn't see assistant captain
Bobby Hayes choke back tears as he
was talking to reporters. Those
events took place after the television
and radio broadcasts were over,
while the rest of the world's people
went on with their lives.
This year's team was made of
winners top to bottom, who never
settled for what fate tried to hand it.
Even qualifying for the tournament
was an accomplishment, given the
Wolverines' position in mid-
Yet Michigan was never "just

happy to be there," as tournament
teams sometimes profess. It was
there to win a championship, even if
it had to advance through the brack-
et without the benefit of a first-
round bye. And though the
Wolverines fell short of that goal, it
can never be said that they failed
this season - because they didn't.
As little consolation as it may be
for anyone involved, Michigan's
seniors helped give the freshman
class a valuable experience that
weekend. Berenson said before the
tournament that going to NCAAs
and losing in the first round might
not do much for his program.

Certainly, winning a tournament
game one night and losing one the
next will prepare the freshmen well
for the three seasons to come.
The seniors have been an integral
part of this program, and whether or
not postseason awards like the All-
CCHA team recognize this is imma-
terial. The class of 1999 was a
group of winners - two national
championships and three CCHA
Tournament prove this. They've
raised the bar by which Michigan
teams will forever be judged, all
while mentoring the future of the
program. Those seven careers
weren't put to waste, that's for sure,

They did it professionally, without
acting like robotic, uncaring "pro-
fessionals." The seniors invested
their emotions in this team, and in
this program. They didn't just do
their job and go home; they weren't
at Michigan to mess around.
They stepped on the ice every
time with the unflappable goal of
winning, and most often they did.
The outcome of their final game
shouldn't be their defining moment.'
And for true Michigan hockey
fans, it won't be.
- Chris Duprey is a sports editor
of the Daily. He can be reached via
e-mail at cdupre@),utich edu

overtime loss. They

For a member of the Michigan hockey team, departinag as a senior usually means being able to say ...






with a thud
By ;osh Kleinbaum
DaiW' Sports Editor
CHICAGO - Louis Bullock sat on the bench, his big,
puppy-dog eyes wet with tears. A few seats down,
Robbie Reid held a towel, wiping his own moist eyes.
the two seniors, the heart and soul of the Michigan
memo's basketball team all season, watched helplessly as
the clock ticked down, ending Michigan's worst season
in 17 years with one of its worst games of the season.
When the dust cleared, Michigan suffered an 87-69
defeat to No. 10 Ohio State in the quartcfinals of the
Big Ten Tournament last March.
Justlan hour and a half earlier, Michigan's outlook was
peachy. Using a simple game plan, Michigan had built an
early nine-point lead.
Each possession, the Wolverines looked to get one of
their big men, forward Josh Asselin or center Pete
Vignier, a touch. The post player would try to exploit his
size advantage over a small Ohio State front line, or draw
defenders to the paint then kick the ball out to an open
guard for a jump shot.
And it worked. With just over nine minutes to play in
the first half, Michigan had developed a formidable
inside-outside attack. The frontcourt had nine points, the
backcourt had 13 and Michigan had a 22-13 lead.
But the lead was fragile. Despite the Wolverines'
strong shooting and pesky defense, it was the Buckeyes
who were doing the little things -- forcing turnovers
with a stingy press and dominating the boards.
Midway through the first half, Michigan had outshot
Ohio State, 51 percent to 25, but the Wolverines had
taken just 15 shots to Ohio State's 28. Second-chance
opportunities prevented Michigan from building a big
"The big turning point was us not being able to
rebound the basketball," said Michigan coach Brian
Lllerbe. "They were quicker to the ball and had too much
depth and athleticism for us."
With about nine minutes to play in the half, Ohio State
switched from man defense to a zone, mostly due to foul
But it was far more effective.
Ohio State was able to cut off the passing lanes to the.
post players, forcing a handful of turnovers. Michigan's
shooters went cold just as the Buckeyes' started to heat
up;In the last 9:05 of the first half, Michigan did not hit
a shot from the field, and Ohio State turned the nine-
point deficit to a three-point halftime lead.
Michigan kept the game close for the first four min-
utes of the second half, but Vignier picked up his fourth
foul early in the half and Michigan completely aban-
doned its early inside-outside strategy.
Frustration crept through.
Bullock and Reid were trying to do too much, taking a
handful of ill-advised shots instead of being patient and
getting the ball inside.
Ellerbe and Asselin both picked up technical fouls.
"Maybe it was my fault," Asselin said, showing his
frustration. "Maybe I didn't work hard enough."
The Buckeyes got contributions from everyone. Guard
Michael Redd led them with 19 points, but seven players
scored eight or more. And as Ohio State's lead grew,
Michigan's poise deteriorated. Playing with tired legs
from an overtime game the day before, Michigan seemed
daller in every category - rebounding, shooting, hustle,
even heart.
The Buckeyes outscored Michigan 53-38 in the second
half. In the opening-round game against Purdue on
Thursday, Bullock scored Michigan's last 10 points in
regulation then tipped in his own missed layup with just
ovt& 30 seconds left in overtime to lift the Wolverines to
a 79-73 victory.
But despite Bullock's heroics - he had 26 points,
seven rebounds, three assists and three steals - it was
Michigan's other captain, Rei, who sank the key shot.
With 1:59 to play in the extra stanza, Reid took a pass
from-Bullock to the left of the basket and drained a 22-
foot jumper, pushing Michigan's lead to a 'mildly impos-
ing four. And the Wolverines would not relinquish this
"These two guys just didn't want to end their season,"
Ellerbe said of Bullock and Reid.
But early in the first half, it looked like that was exact-
ly what was going to happen.
Behind strong play by forward Brian Cardinal - the
junior had a career-high 33 points - the Boilermakers.
went for the haymaker, exploding with a 20-2 run to take
a 14-point lead with just over six minutes to play in the
first half.

The Wolverines staggered, but did not fall, and spent
the rest of the half cutting into Purdue's lead.
When Reid hit a 3-pointer to close out the half,
...«. , - ,IT -,,, r - ni adhnk t he

By Mark Francescutti
Daily Sports Writer
As Darren Haydar slapped the puck
past Josh Blackburn last March 27, an
era of Michigan hockey came to a close.
The last senior class to play entirely in
the 1990's would no longer grace the col-
lege hockey ice.
Just minutes before the overtime goal
put Michigan's hopes of a repeat champi-
onship in its grave, the Wolverines
looked like they were going to pull out
another nail-biter in their favor.
But it didn't happen that way, and the
seniors left the ice for the final time,
ending a season in which the puck didn't
always go Michigan's way.
"I think that's why it's so hard right
now," said senior Sean Ritchlin. "But
looking back on it, I'm sure we'll sit
down in two weeks and say that we had a
good season."
This year's Michigan campaign includ-
ed its third CCHA championship in four
years, a second-place CCHA regular sea-
son finish and runner-up finish at the
And for the teams that Michigan
'owed' according the walls inside of the
Michigan lockerroom - Miami,
Michigan State and Ohio State - the
Wolverine exacted revenge against all of
them at points throughout the season.
But two items stick out for this senior
class and makes leaving so difficult-
two championship trophies.
"One's unbelievable but two is great,"
Ritchlin said. "I'll never put on a jersey
with these guys again, that's the hardest
Ritchlin had a difficult four-year
Michigan journey. The winger fell to a
career-threatening injury at the end of his
freshman year. But as a sophomore, he
fought back, playing hurt at times.
Last season, he missed the playoffs
with an injury.
Putting the past behind him, Ritchlin
soared in this season's playoffs, netting
two goals and two assists in the CCHA
Tournament along with a spot on the
CCHA All-Tournament Team. His
aggressiveness on the ice helped
Michigan's third line become the force
Michigan needed in the extra season.
"It was really tough for me," an emo-
tional Ritchlin said. "I had three tough
years, I've been injured quite a bit. The
last couple weeks I thought I played real-
ly hard. I just tried to do the best I
Ritchlin's efforts were echoed by all
the seniors from his linemate, Greg
Crozier, to assistant captain Bobby
Hayes was the difference in Michigan's
series sweep of Bowling Green. All sea-
son long he's had to play head-to-head
with the league's top centers.
Against New Hampshire, he had the
difficult task of containing Hobey Baker
candidate Jason Krog.
And when it came down to one simple
faceoff, Hayes beat Krog, ripped a slap-
per past New Hampshire goaltender Ty
Conklin and gave Michigan the tying





Maybe when sophomore Mike Comrie is a senior, he can say he's "seen it all," the way Dale
ended before the NCAA semifinals - the Frozen Four - for the first time since 1994.

"Jason and I were battling pretty hard
for the draws," Hayes said. "He seemed
vulnerable and so I went for it and
caught the goalie off guard. It was then
anybody's game from there. Michigan's
never down, there's always a chance to
come back."
Hayes was also emotional after this
game, grateful for his four years.
"It's been an unbelievable experience,"
Hayes said of his time as a Wolverine. "If

I could play here for the rest of my life, I
would, But they only give you four years.
I'm so proud of my class, we did every-
thing we could we gave everything we
had for this team And we'll continue to
keep on giving as much as possible in the
"Once a Michigan man always a
Michigan man."
Dale Rominski greeted reporters with
an air of happiness. He tried to look at
Saturday's loss on another level.

Rominski could after Michigan's season
"Maybe it's good that (this overtime
loss) happened in a way too, because
there were so many times we were on the
other end and won that game." Rominski
said. "Now we understand what it is like
to be on the other side.
And when you look at the checklist of
accomplishments for a hockey team
,whether it's championships or team
unity, the Michigan departing seniors
Rominski might have said it best.
"I think we've seen it all."

New goalie, but old results

- lots of saves

By David Den Herder
Daily Sports Writer
WORCESTER, Mass. - There was a general consensus
here among New Hampshire fans before the March 27 game
at the Centrum Center.
"Boy, are we glad Marty Turco graduated," said many of
the Wildcat fans.
After that game, it was different. Something more along
the lines of- "Oh, my. Is this guy better?"
This guy - Michigan sophomore goaltender Josh
Blackburn, a mere frosh at the time - might very well be. Or
so buzzed the Centrum.

As if the Pioneers were on a 28-minute power play, the
puck rarely left the Michigan zone - but it rarely left the
sight of the young goaltender, who saved 12 of 13 in the first
period (compared to the one and only shot that Denver goalie
Stephen Wagner faced in the first).
Were it not for Blackburn's extraordinary play in the first,
Michigan's five-goal tear in the second half of the game may
not even have been enough to allow it to advance.
"The guy who really made the difference in the game was
Josh Blackburn," said Berenson after one of the most exhila-
rating offensive surges in Michigan's history.

° _

r U . ________ .77i "'s

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