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The Michigan Daily - FACEOFF 2001 -
6B - The Michigan Daily - FACEOFF 2001 -Thursday, October 4, 2001
Blue goaltending traditon
continues with Blackburn
Losses may leave 2001 Wolverines
inexperienced, but not without depth
By Steve Jackson
Daily Sports Writer
Defense wins championships.
It's as old an adage as there is in
sports. But with all the offensive
questions surrounding the Michigan
hockey team, a strong defensive core
has never been more important to
coach Red Berenson and his staff.
"Don't let your
get ahead of
615 E. LIBERTY OFF STATE
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Whenever doubters try to question
the strength of coach Red Berenson's
young and inexperienced squad, one
name always surfaces quickly.
J o s h "
"You need a
great goalie if Height - 6'1"
you want to go Weight - 195 lbs.
far, if you want Gr. - Senior
to win champi- Pos. - Goalie
o n s h i ps," From the Coach:
s o p h o m o r e "From all the under-
d e fe ns em an
M i k e standings and indi-
K o m i s a r c k cations that I've hear
s a i d be the best of the last
"Blackburn is had in here," MatwijikA
that kind of that is a far stretch b
goalie." - - goalie
as Michigan's starting netminder,
Blackburn carries a quiet confidence
that should help to settle the minds of
a team that lost its top scoring threat
(Andy lHilbert), its best defensive
player (Jeff JilIson) and nine graduat-
"He is a great guy to have in net,"
Komisarek said. "Hockey is a game
of mistakes, and we are going to
make them sometimes. So knowing
By Seth Klempner
Iaily Sports Writer
you have a guy like
Blackie to save
- that's a good
despite the ques-
tion marks and
despite the youth
him, last sea-
isn't going to
feel much dif-
f e r e n t,
y any means.
C('ach Stian Mat wvjiw
Michigan hockey players choose to
attend the University fior two reasons.
They are able to withstand the acade-
mic rigors of one of the nation's top
universities and are among the best
young hockey players in the nation.
F:or these reasons, it comes as no
surprise that standout players like
Mike Vain Ryn or Mike Comrie opt to
pursue their prolLssional dreams prior
to graduating oftien leaving a hole
in the fbIlowing year's teant where an
All-America caliber player once stood.
With this new precedent being set at
Michigan for top players to leave early,
it was not unexpected this summer
when two of Michigan's lefti for the
N Ill. This year, it was senior defense-
man Jel' Jillson, who left for the San
Jose Sharks in early May.
This loss was compounded by the
departure of Ilobey Baker finalist
Andy I lilbert.
.J illson was a first team Ali-America
and No. 14 pick overall in the NITIl.
draft in 1999 and had led the team in
defensive scoring the previous two
seasons. fIast season he scored 10
goals and 30 points carning him sec-
ond in the CCIlA in d(Ifnseman scor-
ime.'.These nurmbers placed Jills In fifth
on the team for scoring last year.
In addition to bemg a defensive
scoring threat, Jillson w as a solid
defenseman, accumulating a plus-
minus rating of plus-47 over his career
I filbert, the 37th overall pick in the
2000 NI1 Draft, waited until the mid-
dIe of July to announce his departure
for the Boston Bruins. Hilbert, a fel-
low first team All-America selection,
was a big, physical forward and an
offensive leader of the team last year
along with linemate Mike Camnalleri.
Ililbert led the team in scoring (64
points,) assists (38,) winning goals (7,)
shots (210,) short-handed goals (2,)
and was second in goals with 26 last
year. In fact, the only other major sta-
tistical categories in which he was not
the team leader was plus-minus rating
(he was second, behind ( 'ammal len,
with plus- 27) and penalty minutes.
"The opportunity is there in Boston
and that's what I've been working
toward my entire life an opportuni-
ty to play in the NIIL," Ililbert said at
his press conference this summer. "It's
been my lifelong dream. I've sacri-
ficed many things in my life and I
think it's time for me to move on and
take advantage of this opportunity.'
lIe finished the year second in the
('I IA in total points, behind Western
Michigom's \Mike ishmi and placed
sevcuthI in the nat ion in points per
gine (1.32). L.ast years leading scorer
cited frieiidship as the uain deterrent
from gotGini g pro..
"I f'elt like I was going to stay
behind because of my friends, but I'm
going to be friends with these guys
I've played with for the rest of' my
lif'e," !ilbert said. "I've made some of'
the best friends I could ever make
Despite the loss, team leaders have
remained positive calling on the
freshmen and upperclassmen to assert
themselves. They have emphasized the
need for everybody to step up and take
on new roles to replace the departed
"Andy and Jef were both great
hockey players and you don't want to
lose players like that. IBut at the same
time we brought in guys who are just
as qualified to do the job that they
did," C'ammalleri said. "I think you are
going to see a team effort to step it up."
In addition to the early departures of'
Jillson and IlIilbert was the graduation
of a large senior class that was
Michigan's only remaining link from
the 1998 National Championship team.
This leaves the team, at first glance,
with less depth six of the top eight
scorers ftom last season have departed.
But ('animalleri sees the energy of the
10 freshmen as being able to comipen-
sate for the loss of dept h.
"Last year's senior class you could
argue hothi ways, ( am mallen said.
"'hey added depth, but at the same
time, were a little inconsistent. I think
the youth will add depth to this team
The 10 incoming freshmen have five
crucial roster spots to fill.
Hilbert, a first team All-American from
last season, left the Wolverines this
past summer to pursue his dream of
playing in the NHL. Drafted by the
Boston Bruins in 2000, the forward
takes an impressive resume of stats
with him to the pros. A 2001 Hobey
Baker finalist, Hilbert had 64 points on
26 goals and 38 assists. seven game-
winning goals, and a plus-27 rating.
Another first team All-American, Jillson
provided an offensive spark as a
defenseman as he led all defenseman
scoring the previous two seasons.
Although drafted 14th in the 1999 draft
by the San Jose Sharks. Jillson remained
with the team until early May of 2001.
Jiltson's numbers will make him hard to
replace as he produced 10 goals -- six
on the poweralay - and 20 assists to
go with his plus 15 rating last season.
Blackburn said. "We have a lot of'
young players, but they had 10 new
guys in 1998 when they won the titkC.
I try not to think about that stuf'. I
need to just concentrate on playi n
my game and havingI a great season.
Blackburn is the latest in a strong
line of Michigan goaltenders. The
Wolverines' last two netminders,
Steve Shields and Marty 'lurnCo, have
enjoyed solid N1ll. careers.
"I didn't get all the records that
those guys got," Blackburn said. "It's
kind of sad when you think that it is
One mark that is certainly within
reach for the Choctaw, Okla. Native
is Turco's school-record of' I
Blackburn enters this season with
nine, after posting a career-high five
goose eggs a year ago. I)uring the
2000-01 campaign, Blackburn earned
career-bests in %vins (26) and goals-
against average (2.27). His goals-
against average in Central C'ollegiate
Hockey Association games was a
One mark that is certainly out of
reach for Blackburn is Turco's NCAA
win record of 127. Turco bested the
total of his predecessor, Shields, who
held the record at Il1.
Blackburn enters his final season
with just 65 wins, thanks in part to a
foot injury suffered during his sopho-
Weather or not lie sets any more
Michigan will count on Blackburn to stay+
records, Michigan goalie coach Stan
Matwijiw is convinced that
Blackburn is among the best
Wolverines to play the position.
"F rom all the understandings and
indications that I've heard, he could
potentially be the best of the last
three guys that we've had in here,
Matwijiw said. "I don't think that is a
far stretch by any means.,,
The idea of such a positive con-
parisoii never seemed possible to
Blackburn when he was in high
"It was awesome," Blackburn said.
"I never considered myself' to be that
caliber of player to play here. When
the coaches called and told me that
Michigan was asking about me and
calling to check up on me, I was real-
ly excited and surprised. They were
my first choice right away."
When Blackburn arrived in Ann
Arbor, he was quickly thrown into the
mix for the Wolverines.
"I felt a lot of pressure because of'
the guys who had gone through the
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IBRLNDAN o'[XNN /D
close in some tough early season games.
pletely different player,' Matwijw
said. "The reasoii for that is he has such
an open mind. lIe doesn't mind trying
new things to make hinself better.'
B3lackburn has a very low-key and
relaxed mindset when he goes into a
Whether he is pitted agaiinst list
year's I lobey Baker Award winder
from Michigan State, Ryan Miller, or
his own teammates in the Blue-W hite
exhibition game, his mental approach
stays the satiic.
"We talked a lot about keeping the
game simple. We do a lot of' thinking
and analyzing during practice that
is the place to think," Matwijiw said.
"During the games we want it to just
be habit and reaction."
In two or three years, Matwijiw
expects to see Bslackburn starring on
the next level.
"Ile is an excellent student of the
game, lie is a ffabulous athlete, he reads
the ice very well there aren't a lot of
holes in Josh Blackburn's came."
In addition to Blackburn, the
Wolxernnes can also count on senior
backup Kevin O'Malley if'something
should happen to their star.
"We've got two veteran senior
goaltenders," Ilerenson said. "Not
iany tcams can say that."
O'Malley went 8-4 in relief when
Blackburn was injured two years ago.
The Wolverines also added a third
goalie this week.
Former club teamn member Justin
Spurlock will be skating with the
team as the No. 3 man.
"This has always been my dream," a
tired and bruised Spurlock said after
practice. "If they said 'fourth string"
that's fine I'd do anything. I'im just hon-
ored that they decided to let tme play."
Here is how the colege stats or Micnigan s best compare
with Josh Blackburn's during their first three seasons.
W L T Win% GAA SO
prograi and I
Was just thrown in
the fire there," he
'he tension foI-
lowing his inutia-
tion quickly faded
improve his game.
"If you look at
Josh's game tape
from his freshman
year and compare
it to say his game at
the Final Four last
year, he is a com-
Andy Hilbert took one final look at the ice in Yost Arena before announcing his
decision to forego his final years of eligibility as a Wolverine.