The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 6, 2001- 13
Senior star watching from afar
Michigan State goaltender Joe Blackburn takes backseat to phenom
By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
EAST LANSING - Imagine a sophomore
All-American, enjoying one of the most
remarkable seasons by a collegiate goaltender,
shattering CCHA records, posting the nation's
best goals-against average of 1.55 and leading
a team to the Frozen Four.
And then, two years later on his senior
night, the same netminder is sitting on the
bench, just like he did for all but two games
his final season, watching a upstart goalie and
teammate gain the acclaims of the record-set-
' This is the life of Michigan State's Joe
lackburn, probably the most talented backup
goaltender in the NCAA, who rarely performs
outside of practice while remaining deep in
the shadows of sophomore phenom Ryan
Now, the only chants of "BLACKBURN"
come from the Spartan faithful when they
have been heckling Michigan's netminder,
Josh Blackburn, who is no relation to Joe.
But he doesn't seem to mind a bit.
*"We're playing so well and Ryan's playing
.o well that it's kind of hard to complain,"
Just "playing well" is quite an understate-
ment. The Spartans have only lost four games
San Jose trades former
'N'goalie to Anahleim By Di
issoated Press Daily S
Teemu Selanne is moving up the Th
California coast to San Jose, where the four
Sharks hope his flashy offense will Begin
push them deep into the postseason. tourna
Selanne, the sharpshooting wing securi
who was the NHUs top goal-scorer two reachi
seasons ago with the Anaheim Mighty TH
Ducks, was traded yesterday to San State
Jose for former Michigan goalie Steve Big Ti
ields, wing Jeff Friesen and a condi- for a
t'onal draft pick. "TI
"Does this make us a better team? a one
Hopefully it does," Lombardi said. ment
"Sooner or later, if you keep getting think
better, you're going to be at the top." give t
The deal cost San Jose two, talented ting tv
players who struggled even as the No
Sharks surged into contention this sea- Rating
son. Shields lost his starting job, while Michi
Friesen struggled to score. RPI -
"Our objective is to improve the club Tourn
ediately and in the future, and we the m
eive the two players we obtained "I t
will make our team better now and as to adv
we go into the future," Mighty Ducks good
GM Pierre Gauthier said. Michi
The Ducks also announced plans to
trade Guy Hebert, their longtime start-
ing goalie and the only player remain-
ing from the franchise's first season.
The Sharks' goaltending is now the
sponsibility of two rookies: Evgeni
bokov, among the top contenders for
the Calder Trophy, and Miikka
Kiprusoff, having an outstanding sea-
son with the Sharks' top affiliate in
Cleaves caught driving
with suspended license
GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP
(AP) - Detroit Pistons rookie
Mateen Cleaves was ticketed this
*eekend for speeding and driving
with a suspended license.
The player was driving 85 mph in a
70 mph zone Sunday morning on an
interstate, and a routine check
showed his license was suspended,
police said. He is to appear in court in
Grand Blanc on March 26.
Last month, Cleaves' older brother, Since
Herbert Cleaves, was shot to death his fut
tsde a house in Flint, their home-
Cleaves' license was suspended
because of failure to pay two previ-
ous tickets, Michigan Secretary of
State spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.
The suspensions probably will be
lifted once the tickets are paid, but
Cleaves could face an additional 30-
day suspension under Michigan's LO
repeat-offender law, Boyd said. Louis)
The former Michigan State star terday
was alone when stopped Sunday. He search
Offreleased at the scene to another tion R
driver who picked him up, police Cru
all season and have held the No. 1 ranking for
the past 16 weeks.
Meanwhile Miller has grown to legendary
status in East Lansing. He has already broken
several NCAA records, including the record
for career shutouts with 17.
This has put Michigan State coach Ron
Mason in a position that any hockey coach
would drool over - having two All-American
goaltenders at his disposal in a sport where the
position has such a huge influence.
But Mason said that picking one over the
other last year when they both had nearly
identical statistics was difficult, especially
with Blackburn having such a stellar sopho-
more season the year before.
Last year, each goalie played nearly half the
games with each earning nine conference
wins, but Miller emerged late in the season to
tally a 1.53 GAA and notch eight shutouts -
which gave him the edge.
"I went in with the idea that Joe would be
the go-to-guy, and Ryan was going to fill in
where he could," Mason said. "As time went
along, Ryan proved he was having a better
year, so I had to give the team the best chance
to win. That's what happened."
Since then, Mason's confidence hasn't
wavered, as Blackburn has only seen action in
two games this season, leading the Spartans to
a shutout of Yale and a 5-2 win over Ohio
But Blackburn's lack of playing time hasn't
caused any dissension in the ranks. More
importantly, it hasn't created a negative envi-
ronment around the team - something Miller
said has been so important in the success of
"He's just a great character person," said
Miller, who is Blackburn's roommate on all
roadtrips. "He's just a standup guy, and I can't
say enough about him. Nothing about him is
fake. He's one of the most real people I know."
Blackburn said that being a goaltender is
like playing a different sport when compared
to other hockey positions, and that helped
them grow a special bond. The two grow clos-
er by both chatting and even competing
against the forwards in practice each day in a
In fact, Miller admits that he's learned a
great deal from Blackburn in the Spartans'
two goalie practices each week and from
watching him play in the past.
"He's seen a lot and is always offering
advice," Miller said. "He's seen a lot of things
- how players shoot, how power plays are
working out there for another team."
This type of guidance could be common-
place next year, as Blackburn is undecided
about his future in hockey, and might become
a graduate assistant at Michigan State along as
Falling from glory
From a sophomo
records to a sen
two games, Mic
career has taker
Check out Blackb
Ryan Miller, whoi
> < 1999-00
Joe BlackburnJoe Blackburn
Courtesy Michigan State Athletics Ryan Miller
well as a goalie coach. That means that by next
year, Blackburn could be Miller's coach.
"Right now I just want to finish up this sea- As
son and hopefully hang up a couple more ban-
ners," Blackburn said. Tea
Mason says that despite his lack of playing 1. P
time, Blackburn will never be forgotten for his 2. E
contributions to the program - on and off the 3.P
"Face it, it's not easy for anybody" Mason 5. P
said. "And I think he's handled it better than 6. P
anybody could. He's been one of the reasons 7. P
Ryan has done so well. He's done a lot for 8.
Michigan State hockey and he'll always be 9.
remembered here too," 10.
re year in which he shattered NCAA
ior year where he has only seen action in
higan State goaltender Joe Blackburn's
n an interesting turn.
burn's stats in comparison to his successor,
came on the scene his sophomore year.
GP GAA SV% Record
33 1.55 .928 21-5-7
GP GAA SV% Record
18 2.17 .907 11-6-1
26 1.53 .932 16-5-3
GP GAA SV% Record
2 1.00 .966 2-0-0
34 1.32 .949 26-4-4
USCHO TOP 10
of March 6, 2001, from www.uscho.com
m Record PVS
Michigan State 28.44 1
Boston College 26-&2 3
North Dakota 24-5-9 2
St. Cloud 27-8-1 5
Minnesota 25-10-2 4
Michigan 22-11-5 6
New Hampshire 20-106 7
Colorado College 22-11-1 9
Clarkson 20-9-3 10
. Maine 17-10-7 12
Continued from Page 11
to the All-Big Ten second team, reward-
ing the sophomore for averaging 17.7
points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
"He's had a good year. He got better
on offense. He got better on the defen-
sive end. He got better at rebounding,"
Ellerbe said. "Not many sophomores
can say they put up those numbers."
Blanchard struggled in Saturday's
game against Michigan State, shooting
just 2-of-11 from the field. Ellerbe has
said all season that the going has been
doubly tough for Blanchard, who is the
focal point of everyone else's defense.,"
"What I would like for him to do is to
not get so caught up when he doesn't
score," Ellerbe said.
SEARIGHT STILL BENCHED: Ellerbe
said nothing yesterday to indicate that
freshman Maurice Searight will finally
return to game action in the Big Ten
"He's had a tough time adjusting to
college and college basketball," Ellerbe
Searight has found his coach's bad
side all season for missing practice time
among other things. He has not played
in a game since Feb. 3 against
)st(season) positioning in the BTT
e Big Ten can be categorized into
distinct groupings in basketball.
ning Thursday in the conference
ament, teams' goals will vary from
ng an NCAA Tournament seed to
ing far-fetched postseason dreams.
E HEAVYwEIGHTs - Michigan
and Illinois, the co-regular season
en champions, are likely battling
No. i seed in the NCAAs.
he only way that I think we will get
(seed) is if they win the tourna-
Illinois coach Bill Self said. "I
there are too many scenarios to
oo much stock in the Big Ten get-
wo (number one seeds)"
. 4 Illinois is 23-6, and sixth in the
gs Percentage Index while No. 2
gan State is 24-3 and second in the
- a tool used by the NCAA
ament committee to help decide
akeup of the Tournament bracket.
think if both us and Illinois were able
vance to the finals, we'd both have a
chance of being a No. 1 seed,"
gan State coach Tom Izzo said.
The Spartans have won the past two
conference titles, and the Fighting Illini
finished runnerup both times.
The rest of the conference's coaches
are looking at a different trend, the fact
that the top-two ranked teams have never
both made the championship game.
"Certainly (a major upset) could hap-
pen this week because there are a lot of
teams playing good right now," Purdue
coach Gene Keady said. "I'm not sure
what happens to kids minds about keep-
ing focused or looking ahead."
THE TOURNAMENT CLIMBERS - With
such a muddied Big Ten picture this year,
Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana took
the bull by the horns and finished over
.500 in conference. This all but guaran-
tees the three teams a berth in the NCAA
This weekend will simply be a chance
for them to rise in the seedings.
Ohio State rode the experience of Big
Ten coach of the year Jim O'Brien and
two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of
the Year Ken Johnson. Wisconsin over-
came the early-season loss of coach
Dick Bennett, with interim coach Brad
Soderberg adopting a similar system.
Indiana may have survived the most
adversity - even interim coach Mike
Davis was questioning his own ability
during the pre-conference season.
"I think we've come to a point this sea-
son where we've overcome so much,"
Davis said. "I think the tournament is a
good opportunity to show the country that
we can play basketball."
THE BUBBLE BOBBERS - Penn State
heads into Thursday's contest with
Michigan needing a victory. The Nittany
Lions finished 7-9 in the conference (17-
10 overall), and are ranked No. 31 in the
RPI. Iowa is in a similar situation, with a
7-9 conference record (18-11 overall)
and a No. 37 RPI ranking.
"We have not finished the season the
way we wanted," Iowa coach Steve
Alford said. "Now we start a new sea-
son. If we don't perform well and don't
get a win or two, it could be difficult."
It's very likely that the two teams are
competing for one NCAA slot.
THE CINDERELLAS - Purdue,
Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern
would most likely have to make a shock-
ing run and win the Big Ten Tournament
to make the field of 65.
Big Ten honors
The Big Ten handed out its all-con-
ference honors yesterday. Here's
who the media selected as its top
C - Ken Johnson (Ohio State)
F - Kirk Haston (Indiana)
F - Jason Richardson (Michigan State)
G - Frank Williams (Illinois)
G - Charlie Bell (Michigan State)
C - Brian Cook (Illinois)
F - Andre Hutson (Michigan State)
F - LaVell Blanchard (Michigan)
F - Reggie Evans (Iowa)
G - Joe Crispin (Penn State)
F - Brian Brown (Ohio State)
F - Gyasi Cline-Heard (Penn State)
F - Jared Jefferies (Indiana)
G - Dean Oliver (Iowa)
G - Titus Ivory (Penn State)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Frank Williams (Illinois)
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:
Jared Jefferies (Indiana)
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Jim O'Brien (Ohio State)
resigning from the NBA's Boston Celtics, Rick Pitino has denying rumors of
ture left and right. Yesterday, he denied that he had spoken with Louisville.
tino quells e rUors
)Out Louisvie, UL
Missouri Valley Conference:
Indiana State 69, BRAoUNY 63
Colonial Athletic Association:
A rwge Mason 35, NC W~uwroN33
Wetro Atlantic Athletic Conference:
logN 74, Canisius 67
Monmouth NJ at St. Francis NY, inc.
No.1 NGME DAME 67, Virginia Tech 49
UISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Retiring
ville coach Denny Crum said yes-
'"nothing has happened" in the
for his successor, despite specula-
ick Pitino was interested in the job.
um retired last Friday, ending a 30-
Hall of Fame career. Pitino, who
ed Kentucky to the 1996 national
pionship, withdrew his name from
deration for the UNLV job.
no told ESPN.com yesterday he
ot been contacted by anyone at
ville. His agent, Rick Avare, who
n Lexington, did not immediately
a phone message.
um said at his retirement announce-
he wanted to help in the search for
placement, but Louisville athletic
or Tom Jurich said minutes later
e would act as a "one-man search
nittee." The two have developed an
lationshin since January.
Sunday, UNLV posted a statement on
its website saying the former Boston
Celtics coach won't be working there.
"While speaking with Rick Pitino ear-
lier this evening, he expressed to me the
fact that he didn't feel he was a good fit
for the UNLV men's basketball pro-
gram;' UNLV athletics director Charles
Cavagnaro said. "Obviously, we are dis-
appointed that Coach Pitino has reached
this decision, but we are moving forward
with our continued search for a basket-
ball coach that will benefit both JNLV
and the Las Vegas community."
He had been involved in a long court-
ing process with the president and ath-
letic director at the Las Vegas school.
Most recently, his wife visited the city,
and Pitino said she enjoyed the trip.
He said he was interested in the job,
but was worried about whether he could
recruit well enough from the iunior col-
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