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September 05, 2001 - Image 67

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-09-05

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Wednesday, September 5, 2001- The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition- 7E

an hoc
jcreate
fom '9:
AI4

Friday

key
scenario

Night Lights
Hockey ends season at Frozen
Four, Eagles get revenge

8 with

By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Fditor

recruits a-plenty?
Swith
sports Writer
i-ebuilding year for the Michigan hockey team?
Har4 to see it that way.
At least the Michigan coaching staff doesn't, who still
seems pretty excited for a staff that lost a huge chunk of the
core of a team that advanced to the Frozen Four this past sea-
son.
Nine seniors were lost to graduation, along with All-
American defenseman Jeff Jillson, who decided to forego his
senior season to sign with the San Jose Sharks of the NHL.
So why such optimism?
{eloading with a 10-member freshman class, Michigan
will have plenty of new blood tearing up the ice at Yost for
this upcoming season.
'But for those skeptics who expect growing pains should
take a trip down memory lane, to the last time the Wolver-
ines had such a big recruiting class.
Just four years ago, 10 freshmen came on the scene and
played an integral role in Michigan's 1998 national title run.
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. But the comparisons
don't end there. If these newcomers are to repeat the feat,
they won't have to do it alone.
But then again, neither did the 1998 Wolverines.
1998, All-American netminder Marty Turco, who now
ys for the NHL's Dallas Stars, stayed his senior year for
one last shot at the title. This year, the Wolverines will still
bast one of the best goalies in the nation in senior Josh
Blackburn. Michigan's MVP from last season kept the
Wolerines close in every game and made the difference
down the stretch in their surprising run through the postsea-
son. It appears that Blackburn will keep the Phoenix Coyotes
waiting one more year, so he can get one more crack at it.
"Another similarity is both Michigan teams had a tough
'der with "NHL" written all over them, which gave them
ability to dominate the college hockey world. Barring a
late summer decision to play Major Juniors or sign with the
Fronton Bruins, junior Hobey Baker Finalist Andy Hilbert
will lead the charge on offense. Having a knack for the net
and a "heavy" wrist shot, Hilbert will remind Michigan fans
of Bill Muckult's hard slapper of four years ago.
tThe status of a Michigan offense that averaged 3.71 goals
per game a year ago could return to one of the nation's best,
depending on the fate of Hilbert.
But even if Hilbert decides to leave, which would make it
the second year in a row Michigan has lost its leading scorer
before the season, crafty junior playmakers Mike Cam-
alleri, John Shouneyia and Mark Mink will look to pick up
the slack. Plus, the coaching staff believes that many of the
six incoming freshman forwards can make a similar mark as

ALBANY, N.Y. - It looked like a
desolate situation.
With the season, and eight seniors'
careers on the line, the Wolverines des-
perately battled back from a 3-0 deficit
to within a goal halfway through the
third period of last night's semifinal loss
to Boston College. But every heart on.
the Michigan bench stopped for a split
second with just over nine minutes to
go.
Three-time All-American and Hobey
Baker Award finalist Brian Gionta was
in on a clean breakaway for Boston Col-
lege. Nothing separated the prolific
scorer and Boston College's best player
from ending Michigan's season except
goalie Josh Blackburn.
Even Blackburn didn't like the possi-
bilities.
"I knew it was Gionta coming down,
so I was just wondering what he was

going to pull out on me," Blackburn
said with a chuckle. "I didn't know if he
was going to do a back flip and choke
me or something."
But just like he's done time and time
again - and all season long - Black-
burn kept the Wolverines in the game
with a big save. He stood his ground
when Gionta deked, and steered aside
his biggest save of the game with ease.
"Gionta had his chances, but Blackie
stoned him tonight," Michigan associate
coach Mel Pearson said. "It kept us in
the game - it's one of those big saves
you need to keep you in the game to
give us at least a chance to win the
game."
And this performance wasn't a one-
time thing, as Blackburn has continued
to come up big when it counts the most.
"Josh, in his three-year career here,
has been nothing less but a money
goalie," said Michigan volunteer goalie
coach Stan Matwijiw, who joined the
program last season. "He's always given

BRENDAN O'DONNELL/Daily
Will forward Craig Murray help lead the Wolverines back to
the Frozen Four in 2002?
the six forwards brought in before the 1998 campaign -
three of which are local USNDP products that can make
names for themselves right away. Jason Ryznar (TEAM
USA) and Dave Moss (Livonia) will use their big frames to
bang bodies in front of the net and win battles in the corner,
reminiscent of '98 freshmen Josh Langfeld and Geoff Koch.
Dwight Helminen (TEAM USA), who's expected to take
graduating senior Scott Matzka's No. 10, will show resem-
blances of his speed and playmaking ability at the center
position.
Another USNDP player, Eric Nystrom (TEAM USA),
along with Milan Gijac (British Columbia) and Mike Wood-
ford (Westfield, Mass.) are expected to be able to produce
right away as forwards taking the focus off of Hilbert and
Cammalleri.
One of the main differences may be the young, yet very
deep defensive corps.
Nine men will guard the front line, including key
returnees Mike Komisarek, Andy Burnes and lone senior at
the blueline, Jay Vancik. But the more bodies, the merrier for
the Wolverines, as injuries depleted the defensive corps
throughout most of last season.
Before everyone starts making travel plans in St. Paul for
the Frozen Four, fans must realize one thing - they may
be able to see all the drama unfold before their very eyes,
as Michigan is hosting the NCAA West Regionals once
again.
Just like it was in 1998.
Coincidence? Maybe so, but it will sure be interesting to
find out.
See ya at Yost.

Changing of the guard
The Michigan hockey team is losing a senior class that played a critical role
in winning the team's last national title 1998. They were freshman then, and
while they will be sorely missed, a new freshman class will come in, knowing
they too can be key contributors in the following year.

us a chance, and that's all you can ask
for."
Matwijiw spends vast amounts of
time helping to develop the three Michi-
gan goalies in practice. He uses his pre-
vious experience as a NHL goaltender
to work on specific aspects of goalkeep-
ing, both mental and physical, in prac-
tice on a daily basis. But Matwijiw has
tried a different approach at the end of
the season in an attempt to implore his
philosophy on Blackburn for his perfor-
mance in important games: "You never
make one game any bigger than anoth-
er.:
"We stopped coaching with two
weeks left in the season and just let him
play," Matwijiw said. "We weren't
going to teach him anymore, we just let
him play in his comfort zone."
Blackburn's "comfort zone" 'was
challenged viciously, early and often,;
last night. Boston College had five glo-
rious scoring chances on the doorstep of
the goal, but Blackburn steered them all
aside and gave the rest of the Wolver-
ines confidence at the same time.
"He's been our rock all season long,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
"When our team was faltering, Josh
Blackburn was there to make the differ-
ence.
"He gives our defense confidence. He
gives our whole team confidence'.
Especially when goalies are often put
in the pressure-cooker because they're
the last line of defense. When a team
wins, they're praised. While after aloss,
the netminders are easily made a scape-
goat. But it's what is inside Blackburn
that keeps him confident about himself
in tight situations.
"I don't like being nervous when I
play, so I try to trick myself and pretend
it's just like any other game," Blackburn
said. "I just take a couple deep breaths
and tell myself it's another ho-lcey
game. Hockey is just a game, afterball
- and I have to remember to have fun"
With, the question still remaining
whether Blackburn, a 1999 draft choice
of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, vill
return to Michigan for his seniof ear,
there's one thing that Berenson knows
for certain.
"I'll put Blackburn up against any
goalie," he added. "And you saw why in
tonight's game."

RETURNING:
Pos. PTs.
Blackburn, Josh G 0
Burns, Andy D 4
Cammalleri, Mike C 61
Fraser, Brad D 0
Hilbert, Andy C 64
Kautz, Joe RW 9
Komisarek, Mike D 16
Mink, Mark LW 22
Murray, Craig LW 17
Ortmeyer, Jed RW 21
Roemensky, Mike D 10
Shouneyia, John C 35
Swistak,J.J. RW 1
Vancik, Jay D 9
DEPARTING:
Huntzicker, Dave D 5

ENTERING:

Gajic, Milan
Melminen, Dwight
Nystrom, Eric
Reilly, Olson
Rogers, Brandon
Ryznar, Jason
Werner, Eric
Woodford, Michael

Pos.
F
F
F
D
D
F
D
F
BRAD
QUINN/Daily
Andy
Hilbert

Jillson, Jeff
Koch, Geoff
Kohen, Robbie
Kosick, Mark
Langfeld, Josh
Matzka, Scott
Scarpace, LJ.
Trainor, Bill

D
LW
C
C
RW
RW
G
LW

30
26
0
31
28
27
0
12

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