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January 09, 2002 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-09

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10 - The Michigan Daily- Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Blackburn's legacy will depend
on his late-season performance

By J. Brady McCollough
Daily Sports Writer

The trademark of the Michigan
hockey program over the years has
been the success of its seniors during
each season's stretch run -- on and off
the ice.
With just four seniors returning to
this season's team,
everyone expected HOCKEY
goalie Josh Black-
burn - the starter Commentary
for each of his first
three seasons - to emerge as the team
leader, a player the Wolverines could
count on during the season's grind.
After playing his best hockey at the end
of last season and guiding his team to
the 2001 Frozen Four, Blackburn was
named Michigan's Most Valuable Play-
er.
In the Wolverines' 4-3 victory over
St. Cloud in the NCAA West Regional
USCHO top 15
Team Record Points
1. St. Cloud 18:2-1 593
2. Denver 18-2-0 566
3. New Hampshire 15-3-2 508
4. Minnesota 15-3-3 462
5. Mass.-Lowell 14-3-0 454
6. Michigan State 15-4-2 416
7. Boston University 12-5-1 326
8. Michigan 12-6-4 269
9. Northern Michigan 12-6-2 258
10. Boston College 11-6-2 223
11. Maine 11-6-3 221
12. Colorado College 11-7-2 175
13. Cornell 8-4-1 159
14. Ohio State 12-7-1 57
15. Alaska-Fairbanks 12-7-1 47

Final, he made save after save, keeping
his team ahead. To fully take the wind
out of the Huskies' sails, Blackburn
lunged across the net, saving a point-
blank scoring opportunity that would
have tied the game in the final five
minutes and could have kept the
Wolverines out of the Frozen Four.
But clutch stops such as this have
been missing from Blackburn's game
thus far in his senior season.
In the "Cold War" game at Michigan
State, Michigan was in position for a
monumental upset over the top-ranked
Spartans in front of 74,000 fans, lead-
ing 3-2 with less than one minute left
in regulation. But with 47 seconds
remaining, Michigan State's Jim Slater
tied the game at three, sending a bullet
top shelf past Blackburn.
When Northern Michigan beat the
Wolverines 1-0 in the first game of the
teams' October series, Michigan des-
perately needed another big perform-
ance from the Oklahoma native. The
Wildcats ended up tallying five goals .
on Blackburn the next night, clinching
their sweep at Yost Arena.
Against then-No. 1 Minnesota in the
College Hockey Showcase, the Golden
Gophers ripped the Wolverines for
three goals in the first eight minutes,
assuring a victory before Michigan
even had a chance to get into a rhythm.
The climax of Blackburn's troubles
came against a struggling North Dako-
ta team during winter break in the
Great Lakes Invitational. He gave up
five goals for the third time this season,
and Michigan was forced out of the
championship game for the second
straight year.
Michigan coach Red Berenson, obvi-

ously disappointed in his netminder's
performance, pulled Blackburn for the
second game of the GLI against Michi-
gan Tech and fellow senior Kevin
O'Malley earned the 7-4 victory over
the Huskies.
Not every game has gone this way
for Blackburn. His dominance in the
Alaska-Fairbanks series - in which he
gave up just one goal - was exactly
what the team (1-3-1 in the CCHA at
that point) needed to find its way back
into the conference race. .
And this past weekend at Notre
Dame - without four of the team's top
players - Blackburn made the neces-
sary stops to earn the Wolverines a 2-1
victory Saturday. The series with the
Irish was a microcosm of his up-and-
down season, as he squandered a 3-1
lead in the third period Friday night
forcing his team into a 3-3 stalemate.
No one expects Blackburn to be per-
fect in every single game. That's unrea-
sonable. But Michigan is expected to
maintain its perch atop the CCHA.
The team needs Blackburn in order
to secure a spot in the NCAA West
Regional, which it will host this year at
Yost Ice Arena.
He must find the edge that he dis-
played in tough situations down the
stretch.
He needs to make the stop that will
save two points for his team in the
standings. And eventually, Blackburn's
ability to stone the opponent in crucial
situations will be the difference
between Michigan making it to the
Frozen Four in Minneapolis or watch-
ing it on ESPN.
Everyone is counting on him to
bring his game to a new level - espe-

-low
TOM FELDKAMP/Daily
After finishing last season by playing the best hockey of his career, senior goaltender Josh Blackburn has struggled to perform
In key situations this year for Michigan.

cially Berenson, who has seen his
goalie go through some hard times
before.
"This is the time when he should be
at his best,' Berenson said. "He's
played strong in the playoffs, but he's a
senior now and he obviously needs to
be a leader on this team. He's got to do
everything on the ice and off the ice."
Blackburn agrees.
"I need to step up more than I have
this year. I need to step into that leader-
ship role more being a senior."
Making Blackburn's second-half
performance even more important to
him is the legacy that he will leave

behind. The last two Michigan goalies
prior to Blackburn (Steve Shields and
Marty Turco) each started all four years
for the Wolverines, and each has also
made his mark in the NHL.
It's now or never for Blackburn. If he
doesn't improve in his second semester,
his chances of being called up by the
Phoenix Coyotes, who drafted him in
the fifth round of the 1998 NHL Draft,
will be greatly diminished. And his
legacy? People will remember him as
the goalie who couldn't win the big
one. He'll leave Michigan with two
fewer national championship rings than
Turco, which is the true measuring

stick of goaltending success at Michi-
gan.
"How he plays this semester will dic-
tate what people think of him as a
hockey player," Berenson said. "I don't
think he's proven anything to anyone at
this point one way or the other. He
could be a player with a future in the
game or a player without a future."
Said Blackburn: "People remember
the last game that you play. I've got to
play better in the second half."
"Blackie'" as his teammates call him,
came back to Michigan for two rea-
sons: To improve his skills and win a
national championship.

Indiana names former XFL
coach to replace Cameron

BLOOMINGTON - Former Louisiana
and Vanderbilt coach Gerry DiNardo was
named Indiana's new football coach yester-
day, a month after Cam Cameron's firing.
DiNardo has been signed to a five-year
contract paying him $225,000 a year,
Hoosiers athletic director Michael McNeely
said during a news conference at Memorial
Stadium.
DiNardo, who could make nearly
$800,000 a year if he meets performance
incentives in his contract, said he is eager to
put his mark on the Hoosiers' football pro-
gram.
"Our mission is simple: Move the student-
athlete toward championships on the field,
success in the classroom, and success with
people when they leave campus," DiNardo
said.
DiNardo, who coached the Birmingham
Bolts of the XFL last year, was selected by
McNeely after a 34-day search.
Cameron was fired Dec. 5 after going 18-
37 in five seasons with no bowl appearances

and no winning seasons.
DiNardo said he would meet with
Cameron's assistant coaches, but stopped
short of making any commitments to keep
them on his staff.
"I will keep in mind staff chemistry is of
criticql importance," he said.
DiNardo said he would aggressively
recruit in Indiana.
"I personally will be in every high school
in the state of Indiana, whether there's a
prospect there or not," he said.
DiNardo, 49, has a 51-49-1 career record
as a college head coach. At Louisiana State,
DiNardo led the Tigers to three straight bowl
appearances, from 1995-97. But he was fired
10 games into the 1999 season.
DiNardo was-32-24-1 in five seasons at
Louisiana State. DiNardo went 19-25 in four
years at Vanderbilt - their best four-year
span in 25 years.
DiNardo was selected from a group of
four finalists that included former San Diego
Chargers head coach Mike Riley, South

Indiana president Myles Brand welcomes Gerry DiNardo yesterday. DiNardo previously coached
Louisiana State and the XFL's Birmingham Bolts.

Florida coach Jim Leavitt and former Okla-
homa head coach and current Louisiana
State defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.
DiNardo also was an assistant at three

schools: Maine, Eastern Michigan and Col-
orado. He played football at Notre Dame
from 1972 to 1974 and was a member of the
1973 national championship team.

HROVAT
Continued from Page 9
new mentality has given Hrovat the edge he
needed. In the regular season, Hrovat is unde-
feated and his perfection has earned him a No.
2 national ranking. But success has not come
easily for the two-time All-American.
Hrovat was born to wrestle and has done so
since the age of five. When he was younger, he
used to wrestle 200 matches a season, even
traveling outside of Ohio to see tougher compe-
tition.
While out of season, Hrovat maintains a daily
workout routine and wrestles as much as possi-
ble. This past summer, Hrovat competed at the
Pan Am Games, in which he captured the silver
medal at 187.25 pounds. Hrovat was also
named to the U.S. National Team after his third-
place finish at the World Team Trials.
"I think my success just comes from the fact
that I've wrestled so much in my life," Hrovat
said. "It's just become second nature now to do
the moves right, and scramble."
Many wrestlers hope to make the Olympics
one day, but for most, it's just a dream. For
Hrovat, it's a realistic possibility. The senior
hopes to compete internationally in freestyle
after graduation, including the World Champi-
onships and the 2004 Olympic Games in
Athens, Greece.
ft

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