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MARCH 7, 2001
Jeff Jillson (No. 5) and Michigan figure to be in for a fight for the league title, with so many dangerous teams in the CCHA playoffs.
urprise'Haws flying *nto CCHAs
Parity thrives in
COUNTDOWN To ALBANY
By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
"The parity is scary," said Michigan coach Red Berenson,
whose team enters the first-round of the CCHA Tournament
against Ferris State this weekend.
Despite the fact that no team other than Michigan, Michigan
State and Lake Superior has taken the crown home from Joe
Louis Arena in the tournament's 18-year history, there could be
a new owner of the coveted trophy as this year's field includes
10 teams that are pretty evenly matched.
"Nobody's that good that they can take a night off and expect
to win - we've seen that before. We're a pretty good team, but
we're not good enough to have a bad night and win."
Berenson remembers Michigan's losses to three teams that
were in last place at the time.
The Wolverines fell to Alaska-Fairbanks and Ferris State
early on, along with a defeat to Lake Superior in the last few
weeks of the season - proving that statistics and standings are
not as indicative as one might think.
In fact, only three of the 10 playoff teams clinched their
spots prior to the final weekend of the season.
Many of the coaches have emphasized the importance of
three ingredients - good goaltending, efficient special teams
and balanced scoring. But old-fashioned intangibles and the
bounce of the puck may bring a few surprises into this week-
No. 1 MICHIGAN STATE (214-3 CCHA, 2844 OVERALL)
vs. No. 10 ALASKA-FAIRBANKS (7-14-7, 9-17-8)
Carrying the No. I ranking for over four straight months
now, there's no question that Michigan State has been a domi-
nant team this year. The reason?
The Spartans don't make mistakes.
And if they do by chance slip up, the Spartans carry the
deadly weapon of goaltender Ryan Miller -- with a stifling
goals against average of 1.33 - who can erase any wrongdoing.
"It's tough to lose with Ryan Miller in goal," Western
Michigan coach Jim Culhane said earlier this season.
But he's not a one-man show, as the Spartans boast the
nation's best defense, giving up just 37 goals in 28 league
games this year. They play a balanced, disciplined style of
hockey where every player on the team knows his role and
sticks to it.
But Michigan State coach Ron Mason feels the performance
of each team's stars is most important come playoff time.
"Most important thing is, are your best players going to be
your best players?"
While Alaska-Fairbanks pulled some amazing upsets over
some top teams this year, including Michigan and Miami, the
combination of the Nanooks winning only one game in their
last 10 and the Spartans impressive home record of 13-1-1 will
equal an early return flight for the Nanooks.
Prediction: Michigan State in two.
No. 2 MIAMI (17-10-1 CCHA, 20-14-2 OVERALL) vs. No. 9
BOWLING GREEN (8-15-5, 13-18-5)
While Miami is the hottest team in the CCHA, winning nine
of its last 12 games, Bowling Green coach Buddy Powers is
just as elated that his team is still playing.
"We're just happy as hell we made it' Powers said with a
Bowling Green has been settling near the conference cellar
all season. But with a few precious weeks remaining, a post-
season spot was still within reach, forcing the Falcons to play
playoff hockey for their final six games - and pull off a little
bit of magic in their final weekend of play against Ferris State.
"It's like playing game seven every night," Powers said.
This sense of desperation makes Bowling Green a confi-
dent team with nothing to lose - except a playoff series to
The RedHawks have too many weapons, including Jason
Deskins and Gregor Kranjc, to go along with one of the best
home-ice advantages in the league in a hostile Goggin Arena.
Miami has posted an 11-3-2 record there this season. While the
Falcons will turn some heads behind the impressive play of
goalie Tyler Masters, their lack of more than two consistent
scoring threats will be their downfall.
Prediction: Miami in three.
See CCHA, Page 10
By Ryan C. Moloney
Daily Sports Writer
An antagonistic relationship between the established coach
and his young upstart counterpart would make for better
But nothing could be further from the truth. When Miami,
under second-year coach Enrico Blasi, usurped Michigan for
the No. 2 seed, in the CCHA tournament, coach Red
erenson looked past the initial sting of it.
The legendary leader of the Wolverines was congratulato-
ry towards Blasi - in stride with the teacher-student rela-
tionship that's developed between the two.
"We've talked about how it was when he started," Blasi
said of his conversations with Berenson. "I've tried to do the
same things in the community that he did to try and make the
team and myself visible.
"Coach Berenson has always had good things to say -
when he says he likes what our team is doing it gives us con-
All that listening and learning has paid off for the 29-year-
ld Blasi - the young coach with a name straight out of The
Godfather is in a position few predicted at the start of the sea-
son. His team hosts ninth-seeded Bowling Green at home in
w Goggin Arena for the start of the league tourney and his
prospects for the CCHA Coach of the Year award remain
In the preseason CCHA polls, Miami was picked to finish
sixth by the league's coaches, ninth by the media.
"You never know what will happen in a year," Blasi said.
"We've had our share of ups and downs - I'm real proud of
the way we've played."
An ironic statement, considering Miami is just a year
removed from a season in which it went 13-20-3 and finished
tied for ninth in the CCHA.
This season, the RedHawks went 20-14-2 - the program's
first twenty-win season since it joined the CCHA in 1981-82
- and racked up a 17-10-2 record in the league.
Blasi, a forward on Miami's 1992-93 CCHA playoff title
team describes his freshman campaign behind the bench as a
transition period" - a stepping stone to this season's great-
"We've developed a good understanding between coaches
and players - we've enjoyed happy and disappointing times,
but at the end of the day we're a family. It's good that the
seniors have embraced that philosophy."
What Blasi failed to mention is that the RedHawks played
much of their season last year without two of their top play-
ers - seniors Jason Deskins and Gregor Kranje - both early
casualties to blown-out knees.
"I picked that team to finish in the top-five," Berenson
said. "Their top scorers were injured for the entire second
half of last season. When I talked to (Blasi) this summer he
seemed pretty optimistic and I was too -they had their
defense and their top scorers back.
"If they stayed healthy they were going to have a good
team and they have had a good team."
Current captain Deskins restored his scoring touch of two
seasons ago with 39 points in 36 games, while Kranjc and
senior Pat Leahy complemented Deskins by each finishing in
the top 15 in scoring in the CCHA.
Miami started slowly, going 3-5-2 out of the gate including
two losses to Michigan at Yost. The RedHawks then swept
Nebraska-Omaha and played .500 hockey for the next two
months until Feb., in which the team went 6-3 en route to
nine wins in their last 12 games. Miami eventually tied a fal-
tering Michigan team for second place on the last day of the
regular season, then won the tiebreaker with more league
A product of bad circumstances in the PairWise Rankings
-Miami currently holds 14th place.
"I don't know of any team that had to play Michigan and
Michigan State in their own arenas without the benefit of a
home rematch," Blasi said. "Some of the teams ahead of us
don't play in great conferences or against top-ten teams - it
makes no sense. Our opponents' records are good, our RPI
is good, we've been penalized for playing good, quality
A stellar showing in the CCHA tournament could change
all of that - a possibility Berensen believes is well within
"There's a lot less pressure, their expectations are not as
high as we're talking about at Michigan - they've done a
great job (so far)."
The women's gymnastics team will go head-over-
heels if it can knock off No.1 UCLA Friday night.
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Writer
Friday night, Crisler Arena will do its best imita-
tion of an Olympic venue.
The No. 8 Michigan women's gymnastics team,
paced by 2000 U.S. Olympic team captain Elise
Ray, will host No. 1 UCLA.
The runs boast four 2000 Olympians of thiir
own - Kristen Maloney, Alyssa Beckerman and
Jamie Dantzscher of the U.S. and Yvonne Tousek
Earlier this year, when Ray made her debut for
the Wolverines, a crowd of 2,143 packed into Cliff
Keen Arena and its 1,800-seat capacity.
With four more Olympians on display for this
meet, the Wolverines will be shooting for their
largest crowd ever.
"Hopefully having all these Olympians compet-
ing will bring a level of excitement to the meet,"
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. "We're hopingall
the hype is going to lead to a bigger attendance
because when the crowd gets into the meet, the ath-
letes really feed off that."
The Wolverines will later host the Big Ten and
Regional championships at Crisler, which holds
several thousand more people than Cliff Keen.
"It's an advantage for us in the long run," said
Plocki of competing in Crisler. "Cliff Keen really
doesn't prepare us for bigger arenas, and this will
give us more of a feel that we have home-court
advantage at the important competitions later."
Michigan has posted its top-three team scores of
the year in its past three meets. Those meets
included taking No. 3 Utah and No. 4 Georgia to
the wire on the road before losing tight competi-
The meet against Utah concluded a tiring ruin of
four meets out of five away from Ann Arbor that
required over 7,000 miles of travel. The Utes held
off Michigan 197.425-196.675, but Ray managed
to capture her third all-around victory of the year.
"She's close to where we need her to be," said
Plocki about Ray. "We still want to upgrade, her
vault - she's at a 9.9 start value and we eventual-
ly need to get her up to a 10."
While most of the attention focused on UCLA
this season has centered around their national stars,
two of their top three all-around averages for the
year belong to non-Olympians -- Mohini
Bhardwaj and Onnie Willis.
The powerful UCLA team has been ranked No.
I since Jan. 22, and has shown no signs of slowing
"I doubt many people would have any opirion
about UCLA other than that they are the team to
beat," Plocki said. "If we could pull off the upset it
would be huge for us and our confidence for the
rest of the year."
Urueling regimen for prospects at Combine
NFL hopefuls must withstand both physical and psychological tests
By Seth Klempner
Daily Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS - When the lights
turned on, the cameras are rolling
and the players step out in their neon red
three-piece suits on draft day, they will
look calm and collected - showing no
glimpses of the endless interviews and
twice-a-day training sessions that have
filled their lives since the end of the
months of preparation for the draft.
In an effort to increase the value of
their product, many agents send their
clients down to training camps to work
on their speed, strength and general
preparation for the higher level of play in
"Every little thing you can do to add
value to the player," representative Vince
Larmier said. "That has become the new
trend on the agents' side as far as prepar-
in +hem fer n + hi-,_ _nst the fact that a
under scrutiny for being in trouble with
the law, poorly answered questions and
past transgressions can be as detrimental
as a slow time in the 40-yard dash.
Once at the combine, players go
through a rigorous schedule of inter-
views, drill work and meetings with doc-
tors from every team - each of whom
performs a separate checkup. Most
nights end with little sleep.
On day one, the players woke up early
in the Crown Plai hotel and headed to
the players performed strength tests that
measure how many bench press repeti-
tions they can do at 225 pounds. Once
they were done with these, the players
went back to the hotel to continue inter-
viewing with teams and taking psycho-
"You're up at 6:30 - running around
and talking to everybody," Dyson said.
"It is exhausting. They want to know
everything about you and how you do
eveivthing because they are going to put
NFL Draft 2001
Draft Order Eligible Michigan Players
1. San Diego WR David Terrel
2. Arizona RB Anthony Thomas
3. Cleveland OG Steve Hutchinson
4. Cincinnati OT Maurice Williams
5. Atlanta OT Jeff Backus
6. New England C David Brandt
7. Seattle (from Dallas)
8. Chicago SS DeWayne Patmon
9. San Fransisco CB James Whitley
10. Seattle DT Eric Wilson
B U U U W'