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8B - The Michigan Daily - FACEOFF 2001 - Thursday, October 4, 2001
Thursday, October 4, 2001- FACEOI
Playin together for three years at
the Cube gives the freshmen from
Team USA additional experience
By Seth Klempner m Daily Sports Writer
Ht/wt: 5-8, 155
Former team: Sioux Falls
Stats: Recorded six goals
and 36 assists last season,
r c Werner
Stats: Posted six goals
and 28 assists in 60
games last season,
Making new friends, finding a niche
and adjusting to life away from home are
just some of the problems that await
most new students at Michigan. But for
freshmen Dwight Helminen, Eric
Nystrom and Jason Ryznar, these prob-
lems have already been taken care of.
As the three stood on the ice together
after last Friday's Blue-White Intrasquad
team scrimmage, they appeared to have
everything under control. Their arms
were draped around each other, and they
wore grins that could swallow the world.
No one could tell that their team had just
lost the scrimmage 2-1.
All one could see was their collective
excitement after finally playing in their
first collegiate game.
At first glance, the three appear to be
brothers. But Helminen is dwarfed by
the 6-4 and 6-1 Ryznar and Nystrom.
After watching the three fool around,
one quickly realizes that while they may
not be related by blood - they are clos-
er than most broth-
ers will ever get.
They have metA
each other's parents,
and each know all
that there is to know
about the others. - I WOI
Nothing is a secret myself a
between the three My StrOng
and all jokes are fair stone
game. skating and
Thp y evencom flying down 1
plete each other's 'UP ti
"We know how each other play so we
can rip on each other and it won't hurt
each others feelings," Helminen said.
Nystrom agreed that friendship eases
the communication between the three
"I think there is more of a trust
between the three of us because we've
earned it from the past two years,"
Nystrom said. "There's a lot of respect
between the three of us. That is some-
thing you have to earn."
The three played together at the Ann
Arbor Ice Cube on the U.S. National
Team Development Program for two
years. With everyone on the team spend-
ing time going to school, traveling and
playing hockey together, it is easy to
understand how they became so close.
Helminen, a speedy winger and scor-
er, and Nystrom, who likes to bang in
front of the net, played on the same line
last year and describe their relationship
on the ice as a sixth sense.
"We know where we are at all times
- kind of like (Mark) Mink and (John)
Shouneyia," Nystrom said. "You play
with someone for such a long time and
you just know where they are at all
Despite this fact, Nystrom ran head
into 5-9 Helminen late in the third peri-
od as he was carrying the puck into the
offensive zone. Later, Helminen
shrugged and said he hadn't gotten out
of the way fast enough - a credit to
Helminen, a quiet player who lets his
actions do the talking, led the U.S.
National Team in scoring last year with
64 points in 67
games. He also
ranks first in career
* games played for
Team with 81 and
d descri be third in assists with
a player: 44.
Stats: Tallied eight
goals and 22
assists in his final
year with the
Former team.: US.
Stats: Led under-
18Steam in scoring
with 21 goals and
43 assists in 67
assets are my Nystrom is a grit-
ty, physical player
speed. 1 like who prefers to work
he wings and down low near the
a ice. net. Last year he
scored 15 goals for
the Development Team while accumu-
lating 32 points.
He has also shown durability as he
only missed one game in his two years
with the Development Team.
Not only is he outspoken and quick
with a joke, Nystrom also has displayed
leadership skills serving as the alternate
captain last year. At 6-1, 194 pounds, it is
difficult to ignore him on the ice either.
Ryznar, a soft-spoken and introspec-
tive Alaskan, plays bigger than the state
he hails from. The 6-3, 204 pound for-
ward is the biggest freshman on the
team. Along with his mammoth num-
bers, Ryznar also has particularly soft
By J. Brady McColough
Daily Sports Writer
Freshmen prepared for the
challenges that await them.
When the Michigan hockey team takes the ice
Saturday night in East Lansing, it will do so with
10 players who have never played an official col-
lege hockey game. Ten freshmen will be counted
on to block out the 72,000 voices, to skip over the
nervous stage in their development and to play
like seniors for 60 minutes.
"This year, making up a majority of the team,
there's a whole lot of pressure for us to perform,"
freshman forward Michael Woodford said. "It'll
take us a little bit, but once that first game is
underneath our belts we'll be ready to go."
"We know we're a big class and we're going to
be a big part of this team:" freshman defenseman
Nick Martens said. "We've got a chance to break
into the lineup every night. We've got to show up
every day and work, and push the older guys.
We've got to try and learn from them. As a
group, we've all talked about having to come
ready to work every day and give it all we've
Not only do the Wolverine freshmen haie to
concentrate on hockey, but they also have the
extra pressure of classes. After practices during
the week, each player must attend a study table to
make sure that they are doing their work.
"It's definitely a shock:' Martens said.
"Classes are starting to pick up nowadays, and
we're starting to get a taste of what it's going to
be like all year. We're here for hockey and to get
a great education. We know we have to balance it
out. We're going non-stop right now"
"That's probably been the hardest thing for
me," freshman forward Milan Gajic said. "I
haven't been in school for a year or two, so get-
ting back in the school thing - going to class,
going to the rink, then going home and studying.
I'm adjusting to it pretty quickly."
The Michigan upperclassmen have been there
before. They remember what it was like to put on
that maize and blue jersey for the first time and
to hear the pep band play "Hail to the Victors" as
the team skated onto the ice at Yost Arena.
"You just want to get out there and show them
why they brought you here:" senior forward
Craig Murray said. "You want to impress your
coaches, your teammates. It's a little nerve-
wracking being out there with the older guys try-
ing to make the right play. It's just a quicker game
than where they come from."
But don't think for a moment that this class
isn't prepared and talented enough to handle all
of these pressures.
"I think any class that comes in here you know
they're recruited for a reason," Murray said.
"They've got talent, they're good people. The
chemistry seems to be there right away. I look for
them tojump in early and make a big difference."
"They've got strength in numbers," Michigan
assistant coach Mel Pearson said. "This class is
big, and they all bring a little different skill to the
table. We're going to need some of these guys
right off the bat to score for us."
One of the keys to Michigan's success this fall
will be the leadership of its captains and upper-
classmen. While it will take some time for the
Wolverines' freshmen to gel together on the ice,
the chemistry-building has already begun off the
"This is the greatest group of older guys I've
played with on any team," Martens said. "They
really took to us, gave us that confidence, and
took us under their wings. We spend time with
everyone. We do a lot of team stuff together, go
to places together. Everything we've done, we've
done as a team."
Dwight Helminen (center), Eric Nystrom (right) and Jason Ryznar (left) are considered some of the top freshmen in the nation.
hands and strong puck handling ability.
"I like to get in front of the net and
work the corners," Ryznar said.
Then Nystrom loudly interjected,
"And fill up the water bottles. You like
doing that too,"
But Ryznar is not ashamed of his spe-
"Yeah, that has been my job for the
past two years" explained Ryznar in a
modest voice. "I have kind of gotten
used to it and I kind of like it."
The Development Team is considered
one of the top programs of its kind in the
nation and is known for producing intel-
ligent and mature players. Many of its
players are highly sought after by college
"Those National Team players come
into college hockey and they are pre-
pared to play at this level," Nebraska-
Omaha coach Mike Kemp said. "They
have shown that they can play at this
level playing against some college teams
a year ago. You list them among the elite
of the elite."
As members of the Development
Team, the three have played against
other top college programs even before
they got to Michigan - giving them
valuable experience over the other fresh-
"It is good to see what it's like,"
Helminen said of the 12 college teams
they played against last year. "Guys are
bigger, stronger, faster and smarter."
In some cases, the team even had suc-
cess against top college programs. It was
even able to upset Michigan State 6-4
last year. In that game, all three of the
Michigan freshmen scored at least one
point. Nystrom lead the team in scoring
that game with three points and a crucial
second period goal to tie the game at 3-
"You get out there and you realize -
these guys aren't that good," Ryznar
said. "I mean we've seen them on televi-
sion before. And once we scored that
first goal, we realized 'wow, we can
score on them.'
"It got chippy towards the end. We
thought we were going to
lose 10-0. But after the 2
second period it was a tie
game, 4-4, we were like, How I w
'we might as well walk myself
out of here and give it
what we've got."' Working,
How gdoesaonescore and in th
on Michigan State's
Hobey Baker Award- I think
winning goaltender Ryan good w
Miller? and Iax
"Shoot the puck and two wa
hope it goes in," wo wa
Nystrom said. "But you got to crash the
net, throw everything on net, get into
him early. He's a good goalie and it isn't
easy beating a good goalie."
Neither has it escaped these freshmen
what is expected of them or the similari-
ties to the 1998 Wolverines that claimed
the national title - a team that received
key contributions from several freshmen
"I think the supporters are some of the
ones we have to prove ourselves to most
too," Nystrom said. "Some people are
looking at this freshmen class and giving
us good press, and I think we have to live
up to that. The last time they won a
national championship, they had 10
freshmen and the Regionals were here.
So there is something eerie about that."
as a player:
How I would describe
myself as a player:
I am a pretty high energy
player who likes to get the
team up with a big hit or a
hard working shift. Any
time you can get the team
up and raise the intensity
level you can play a big
TOM FELDKAMP/Daily part.
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 183
Former tea r: Cedar
Stats: Led Roughriders
with 20 goals and 18
assists in 51 games
Ht/Wt: 6-, 194
Hometown: Syosset, N.Y.
For mer team: U.S. NTDP
Stats: Ninth on team with
15 goals and 17 assists in
21 Eric Nystrom
I have a
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