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FEBRUARY 20, 2001
Sbid Yost adieu
Parents, players reflect
By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
In a conversation between proud fathers of Michigan hockey
players just four years ago, Vince Turco shook his head and told
Dick Matzka, "Have a good time, Dick, because it will be over
before you know it."
Little did Matzka realize how rapidly these emotions would
run full circle, as he watched his son, Scott, play his final reg-
ular season game at Yost Ice Arena this past Friday night.
"The four years went by extremely quickly," said the elder
Matzka from the corridor of the rafters in between periods. "It
was a blink of an eye"
Ask any Michigan senior, and he'll echo the same feelings as
he remembers his fairy-tale freshman year that was capped off
by a national title - setting a standard for a class that would be
nearly impossible to top.
"As a freshman, you kind of take it for granted and don't real-
ize how hard it is to get to that point," said senior Bill Trainor.
But what many of the players' parents didn't take for grant-
ed was the chance to come watch their sons on senior night,
with many making trips from Minnesota, New Hampshire and
Ontario to be there for the special night.
Whereas out-of-state parents usually listen to the games on
radio or via the Internet, Friday night brought a time for this
close-knit group to get together.
"There's a real strong chemistry," Dick Matzka said. "All the
senior parents are all good friends, we all know each other and
at some times we make business deals with each other. It's dis-
appointing that it's almost over, but it's bound to happen."
More disappointing than the end was how it ended - a 4-4
tie with then-last place Notre Dame. The outcome of the game
seemed to put a slight damper on the evening, but the seniors
will still not forget the post-game ceremony in which they took
their "final lap" around the ice with a Michigan flag in hand.
"It was definitely a surreal feeling," Trainor said. "It went by
so fast. I'm not sure it'll hit me for a few days yet."
But the finality of the season and college careers have
already entered the minds of a few seniors, who hope to take
advantage of every moment they have left in Ann Arbor.
Michigan seniors Bob Gassoff (left) and Josh Langfeld pose for a picture the post-game ceremony at this past Friday's senior
night. Both Wolverines plan to pursue professional hockey after their days in Ann Arbor are done.
"I want to play all 12 of those games and make this as long
of a seasoneas we can make it," said Scott Matzka, calculating
the amount of possible remaining games it would take to reach
the main goal that has eluded him the past two years - anoth-
er trip to the national title game. "Just thinking about the end of
the season, it will have me trying to put my best foot forward
and play the best hockey of my career."
Senior leadership becomes even more important this late in
the season. That's especially true for the Wolverines, who must
find a way to come together as a group, as Matzka put it, in
order to reach the promised land.
With three regular season games remaining and the CCHA
almost definitely out of reach, Michigan is focusing on a strong
finish in the CCHA Tournament and a possible NCAA first -
"We tasted it our freshman year, and we know what it takes to
get there," Trainor said. "We haven't gotten that far the past few
years, so we know how hard it is. We're striving, trying to get
back to that."
As of Feb. 19, 2001
Team Record PVS PTS
1. Michigan State (32) 25-4-4 1 574
2. Boston College (2) 23-8-1 2 515
3. North Dakota (4) 20-5-7 3 511
4. Minnesota (1) 24-7-2 4 503
5. Michigan 21-9-5 5 393
should be loyalty
o part of Brian Ellerbe's Weidenbach Hall
office is left undecorated. Of course, the;
1998 Big Ten Tournament championship
apparel stands out the furthest, but other treasures
line the walls and cover his desk.
My favorite: A simple framed photo of the '98-'99
team, dressed in beach gear at the Maui Invitational
in Hawaii. (Especially amusing is Ron Oliver, clad in
an NIT sleeveless shirt, but we'll let that go for the
This photo is all you need to know about Brian
Ellerbe. He's only had one real winner in four sea-
sons, and the '98-'99 squad, at 12-19, was no jugger-
Some coaches would bury that photo deep in their
desk drawer and never bring it out. Maybe they'd
have their wives conveniently misplace it.-
But not Ellerbe. He knows what that particular
group faced in terms of adversity, and he respects
them as students and as athletes for giving it their.
best shot. He wants to remember them as a group of
hard workers that were fun to be around. 12-19 or 7-
24 - no losing record could spur him to put that
H e's a coach who's fiercely loyal to his guys. He
may get on a player during a film session, only to,
shield him from a media member who lobs the samne
criticism just an hour later.
Ellerbe has been remarkably consistent in this
approach throughout his Michigan tenure. Releasing
some frustrations, as he did after Saturday's home*1oss
to Minnesota, is a rarity. He's made a commitment tt
avoid placing blame on his "kids" - and he'll stick to
it, regardless of the consequences to him personally:
Bill Martin's "at the end of the season" pro--
nouncement means Ellerbe's fate will be decided
fairly soon. The Big Ten Tournament is three weeks
in the distance, and with no postseason forthcorttitig,
the day will arrive even faster.
If Martin decides that a new coach is the prescrip-
tion for the program, then so be it. No one will ague
with him. Wins and losses have been more than a
struggle. Even the most fervent Ellerbe supporte'r
realize the end might be near.
Whatever decision Martin makes, the Universiy
community must afford Ellerbe respect over these
final three games of the season. Ellerbe is owed -'
respect because he has conducted himself in such a
manner for four years here.
The "Fire Ellerbe" chants resonating through Yost
and Crisler Arenas this past weekend represent a -
sickening freedom of expression.-
You don't have to applaud when the Crisler pueic-
address announcer says "And your coach, in his
fourth season ... Brian Ellerbe!" You do, howevet,
owe it to the man - and his family, which sits in the
Blue seats, game after game - not to boo.
I would consider it a black mark on the face-of-
this University if outsiders described Ellerbe's fiial
days as shameful, or if it were said that Ellerbe left
Ann Arbor on his hands and knees, dodging the dirt
that fans were throwing at him.
We all fail at something. We've all taken on a
challenge at one point or another, failing to produce
the desired, required results.
And we've all been thankful for the opportunity to
leave gracefully, without malice, to retain our self-
respect. We've graciously accepted second chances
to prove ourselves.
Brian Ellerbe deserves a second chance. Maybe
here, maybe not, but that's not my decision and I
don't want any part of it.
Some will remember him as a Michigan coach
with a 62-56 record. I'll remember him by the pic-
ture he keeps: Exemplary of a respectable man, loyal
to those who were loyal to him.
Chris Duprey can be reached at
Injuries hamper conference
By Michael Kern
Daily Sports Fditor
BIG TEN STANDINGS
The Michigan wrestling team will need to utilize its depth at all weight classes In
order to beat the best the Big Ten has to offer on March 34.
Big Tens to showcase
While major conferences like the ACC and Big
East have excelled this season - both have five
teams currently in the top 25 - the Big Ten has
struggled to keep up.
The year began well for the conference with
four teams in the top 25 entering Big Ten play.
But a series of key injuries have left a number of
teams depleted and the conference with just two
teams that are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
The biggest dropoff has probably come from
Iowa since the loss of leading-scorer Luke
Before he broke his knee and went down for
the season, the junior guard was averaging 18
points per game and the Hawkeyes were 16-4.
Since then, Iowa is 1-4, including losses to Big
Ten cellar-dwellers Northwestern and
Tonight, the Hawkeyes face another team
racked with injuries in Purdue, which has lost
leading scorer Rodney Smith and leading
rebounder John Allison for the season. The
Boilermakers are losers of five straight after
starting the season 13-6 and positioning them-
selves for a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Now, both teams need a win tonight to try to
secure their postseason hopes.
"I don't know if it is a panic button, but there
is a pressure button," Iowa coach Steve Alford
said. "I think the loser of this game really hurts
their postseason chances greatly. There is going
to be a lot of pressure applied to this game."
Due largely to season-ending injuries to John-
Blair Bickerstaff and Mike Bauer, Minnesota fell
off the Big Ten map halfway through the confer-
Illinois 11 2
Michigan State 9 3
Ohio State 8 5
Wisconsin 7 5
Indiana 7 5
Penn State 6 6
Iowa 6 6
Minnesota 5 8
Purdue 5 8
Michigan 4 9
Northwestern 1 12
Indiana at MICHIGAN STATE, 7 p.m.
Purdue at Iowa, 7 p.m.
MARCH 3-4 - EVANSTON
By Nathan Linsley
Daily Sports Writer
In mid-January, Michigan's 133-
0pounder Foley Dowd was asked what he
thought about the upcoming weekend.
"It all comes down to what is going on
'i March," Dowd said. "Rankings go up
and down. To me every match is presea-
son until the tournaments."
The season is about to begin.
On March 3, the Wolverines will join
a Big Ten Tournament field that features
10 of the top 25 teams in the country,
and 65 ranked wrestlers.
"In order for us to have a good Big
Ten and a good NCAA, we're going to
have to have everybody in there winning
matches;' coach Joe McFarland said.
"And not just some of the guys - we're
going to need everybody in there firing."
125 POUNDS: Nine ranked wrestlers
will be fighting for the crown. Iowa's
Jody Strittmatter was the favorite until
he lost in double-overtime to Leroy Vega
of Minnesota this weekend. Michigan's
A.J. Grant, ranked No 4 in the nation,
should qualify for nationals but will face
stiff competition in every match.
133 POUNDS: Iowa's Eric Juergens, the
defending national champion, emerged
from the Big Ten season undefeated.
This class could offer upsets from Dowd
or Wisconsin's Kevin Black. Both Dowd
State in a crucial weight class for the
157 POUNDS: Iowa's T.J. Williams is
undefeated and Minnesota, Michigan
State and Illinois should vie for second.
Though Michigan's Pat Owen has been
wrestling well in the month of February,
he will be the only unranked Wolverine
in the tournament.
165 POUNDS: Wisconsin's Donny
Pritzlaff, the defending national champi-
on, is undefeated in the Big Ten. At 174
pounds last season, Michigan's Charles
Martelli had a fantastic Big Ten
Tournament, finishing sixth and qualify-
ing for nationals. Look for him to move
up from his seed again this season.
174 POUNDs: The health of
Michigan's Otto Olson improves every
day after knee and shoulder problems -
that means trouble for everyone else.
Iowa and Minnesota will fight for sec-
ond in another weight class that could
determine the tournament's outcome.
184 POUNDS: This weight class boasts
five wrestlers ranked in the top ten.
Illinois will need Nate Patrick to contin-
ue his success, as he will probably enter
as the top seed. Andy Hrovat of
Michigan lost close matches to Indiana's
Victor Sveda and Minnesota's Damion
Hahn, but has been wrestling well lately.
197 POUNDS: Owen Elzen will be the
only Minnesota wrestler with a No. I
ence slate, losing six of seven games from Jan.
24 to Feb. 14.
The injuries have forced the Gophers to play
an extremely undersized starting lineup that goes
no larger 6-foot-7. Minnesota coach Dan
Monson has tried to spread the floor on offense
and create matchup problems against larger post-
"We've gone to the rope-a-dope, try and
spread the court don't touch us, play zone type of
game plan," Monson said.
The change has had mixed results. The
Gophers fell by 20 to Penn State at home last
Wednesday when their 3-point shooting went
cold, but blew out Michigan three days later, 93-
See BIG TEN, Page 10
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