-.Wednesday, September 6, 2000 - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition- 5E
Young icers learn quickly,
high expectations set this fall
By Stephanie Offen
Daily Sports Editor
On Saturday, March 26, 2000, the
Wolverines witnessed the longest
hockey game tn NCAA playoff histo-
ry. Six periods and seven hours they
waited for the start to their game, as
St. Lawrence and Boston University
went at it - almost forever.
"We kept running back and forth to
see what was going on (in Boston's
eventual overtime victory over the
Saints)," said junior goaltender Josh
Blackburn after the Wolverines ended
their season with a 5-2 loss to Maine
in their second game of the NCAA
east regional. "Everytime we would
hear a oooh' or an 'aaahh,' we would
open the door to see if it was over. It
seemed to go on forever."
But finally at 7:05 p.m., three-and-
a-half hours after the scheduled start-
ing time, Michigan skated onto the ice
against the Black Bears, the defending
The Wolverines were without star
defenseman David Huntzicker, who
exited the previous day's overtime vic-
tory over Colgate three minutes into
the first period with a knee sprain.
And Huntzicker's injury only aggra-
vated the already depleted defense,
which had been a concern all season
The biggest worry coming into last
season for Michigan coach Red
Berenson was how to replace three
defensemen he lost just before the
season began. These three included
would-be assistant captain Mike Van
Ryn who joined the professional ranks
instead of coming back for his junior
But the answer to this concern
seemed to come in the form of an
unprecedented move by the Wolver-
ines when they added a freshman
defenseman to the team in the middle
of the season. Mike Roemensky gave
up a semester of eligibility to save
Michigan from its defensive woes.
But come playoff time, the team's
biggest concern had now turned to
one of inexperience, as Roemensky
joined six other freshmen on the
Five reasons why Michigan will win it all
1. Everyone's back: Minus defenseman and cap-
tain Sean Peach, the Wolverines have every key
player back for another year. No one left for the
pros, no one got arrested, and no NCAA violations
- now how many college programs can say that?
2. It's been awhile: The Wolverines have gone a
WHOLE two straight seasons without a national
championship. Things are a little empty at Yost.
Besides, what other Michigan team can we countx
on to win one?
3. Comrie, Jillson and Hilbert: The big three will all
have breakout seasons. Mike Comrie will fight for
Hobey, Jeff Jillson will make San Jose watch
intensely and Andy Hilbert will embarrass oppo-
nents with his quickly developing skills.v
4. Toughman competition: With two extra tourna-
ments, all with the toughest competition in the
nation, a grueling schedule will make Michigan post- °ANa
season ready. Hey, Michigan State basketball did it,
why can't Michigan hockey?
5. Yost yahoos: Any team that has fans who are encouraged to swear at and
make fun of the opponents deserves to win. The Yost fans are the best fans
in college hockey and rival the Cameron Crazies as the best fans in college
sports. Get season tickets in September.
The freshmen, led by Andy Hilbert,
who finished third on the team in
scoring, looked strong in the playoff
Only a year after All-Americans
Jeff Jillson and Mike Comrie and star
goaltender Blackburn led their team to
the second round of the tournament,
the new batch of rookies did the same.
But just like the previous year,
things finally caught up to the
Wolverines. With just ten minutes left
in the game, the culmination of
fatigue, inexperience and a well-rest-
ed, healthy Maine team were too much
for Michigan to handle.
But this season, the worries of inex-
perience and lack of defense will no
longer plague the Wolverines. All
seven freshmen received ample play-
ing time last season and provided over
one-third of the team's goals.
Michigan also adds three freshmen
defensemen. The Wolverines lose
defenseman and captain Sean Peach,
but he is the only senior that saw a
great deal of playing time last season.
Defensemen Andy Burnes, Michael
Komisarek and Reilly Olson will try
to fill his shoes.
"We had a good early signing peri-
od," Berenson said after he signed the
three recruits. "We weren't looking to
sign a lot of players because we had a
small senior class, but we did want to
get some defensemen and we did
The Wolverines begin the season
earlier than usual this year as they
host the Ice Breaker Cup preseason
hockey tournament. The tournament
will take place October 6-7. In late
January, Berenson said that he was
trying to entice last season's NCAA
tournament members Colgate, New
Hampshire and National Champion
North Dakota to compete along with
the Wolverines in the tournament.
"It will be a tough schedule, but one
we want to play," Comrie said. "I also
like starting the season early because
it gets us out on the ice practicing ear-
lier in the year. We are all used to
starting that early because that is
when we used to start in juniors."
The Wolverines may have hung
their heads for a moment after the
loss to Maine, but those heads were
quickly raised again in eager anticipa-
tion of the potential of this year's
team. With a competitive schedule
and a more experienced, well-bal-
anced squad, the team has only the
highest hopes, those of a national
"We're still a young, young team,"
said Blackburn, after Michigan's loss
"We're going to work hard and
come back next year with a little more
The recent story Of
Far from the clatter of dishes and the din of lunchroom chatter at
Cottage Inn Pizza, Red Berenson and his Michigan hockey team
have used the last 10 years to fulfill a prediction made years ago
in the Ann Arbor pizzeria.
And along the way they've staked their claim as one of the coun-
try's most dominant programs. But SportsCenter anchor (and former
Daily scribe), Rich Eisen remembers when that notion seemed laugh-
Long before Michigan hockey became Ann Arbor's hottest ticket,
and long before Eisen became one of ESPN's biggest names, the
amber-haired skipper with the NHL resume and the New York kid with
the smirk met for lunch along with Eisen's fellow hockey writers from
The Daily. The slumping Wolverines had spent the previous years
crawling from the doldrums of the conference cellar where Berenson
found the program when he was hired in 1984.
Under light as dim as Michigan's on-ice outlook, the former Wolver-
ines star leaned forward over his salad and offered a prophetic vision of
Michigan's rise to national prominence. The preposterous nature of
Berenson's bold predictions that Michigan would someday be a confer-
ence leader (gasp) or a national contender (unthinkable) had Eisen near
laughter as he choked on his pizza.
In the decade that has followed, Berenson's program has grown from
relative obscurity to national respect-just like the grinning writer
who laughed at its chances.
These days the walls of Yost Ice Arena rattle with the unbridled fer
vor that is born out of success. In the process of making his Michigan
squad the winningest program in college hockey in the last 10 years,
Berenson has rekindled an excitement and redefined an energy unlike
any in Michigan athletics. Marshalling its way into the NCAA tourna-
ment in each of the last 10 seasons, Michigan has ignited a program
that once seemed dormant while restoring its name to the ranks of the
country's dominant after winning both the 1996 and 1998 NCAA
These days as the winter winds whip up the hopes and spirits of
Michigan's hockey faithful, the ghosts of the Wolverines' dreary days
of yester-year are but memories for the vocal contingent of followers
who've witnessed the turn around.
These days unbridled passion and unlimited potential meet in an old
brick fortress on State Street - in a building never short on legend,
always full of emotion and ever-charged with an electric brand of
These days, the future is now for Michigan hockey as it reloads for
another run at the national title. After bolstering its defense with a solid
core of recruits tojoin veterans like Jeff Jillson and Dave Huntzicker,
Michigan will welcome back an offensivejuggernaut that featured
some of the conferences most potent scorers including Hobey Baker
Award finalist Mike Comrie. And with one of the nation's most feared
netminders in Josh Blackburn, Michigan is once again poised for
And as the predictions of over a decade ago have become the banners
that line the musty rafters of Yost, the disbelief of a young writer has
been replaced by the pride of an alumnus who's come to know a thing
or two about sports.
- Geoff Gagnon can be rached at ggagnon~tttich.edu.
Michigan forward Scott Matzka broke out last season, with a few bumps in the road. The
senior will help guide the Wolverines this year in their quest for a national championship.
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