AtRiL 5, 2002
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Writer
Pain of losing should
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Michigan
trailed last night's NCAA semifinal
game against Minnesota 1-0 in the
second period when the Wolverines
were called for a "too many men on
the ice" penalty.
Just 38 seconds later, the Golden
Gophers gained possession in the
Michigan zone. A pass found its
way to Minnesota defenseman Jor-
dan Leopold at the point, who fired
a wrist shot toward the net.
Forward Grant Potulny was sta-
tioned all alone in front of Michigan
goalie Josh Blackburn and managed
to redirect the puck through the net-
minder's legs to give the Golden
Gophers a two-goal cushion en
route to a 3-2 win.
Though the Golden Gophers fin-
ished just 1-for-8 on the powerplay,
the lone goal was enormously
important. Blackburn was in the
midst of a stellar game and had pre-
vented Minnesota from cashing in
on several even-strength chances.
The same situation was unfolding
on the othef end of the ice, with
Minnesota goalie Adam Hauser
standing on his head. Due to
Hauser's brilliance, the Wolverines
desperately needed their dangerous
powerplay unit to jumpstart them in
the same way that Potulny did for
But the Golden Gophers' penalty
killers extended their pressure out
wide instead of packing themselves
into the middle of the ice, and they
were relentless in stymying Michi-
gan. They held the Wolverines
scoreless on six powerplay opportu-
"They had pressure all over the
ice and didn't give us a lot of time
to move the puck around," Michigan
forward Eric Nystrom said.
Michigan was unable to get many
shots through to Hauser from the
point against the Golden Gophers'
aggressive penalty kill and was also
unable to execute any centering
passes from deep in the zone, as
Minnesota repeatedly blocked
T. PAUL, Minn. - Michigan
freshman Milan Gajic could-
n't bear to watch. He put his
head down and placed his hands on
his knees as the Golden Gophers
celebrated just 50 feet away after
clinching a shot at their first
national title since 1979. It was def-
initely not a feeling he wants to stay
you just want
to go away," a
somber Gajic ..$
going to stay
with us (fresh-
men) for the JOE
rest of our SMITH
careers. If we
get to this The one
point again, and only
and I think we
can, we'll remember this."
And next time, expect this young,
yet seasoned group of Wolverines
to cash in. They're too talented and
have been through too much not to.
Gajic and the rest of the 11-mem-
ber freshman class have been
through a lot of adversity this sea-
son. They started the year 2-4-1 and
played 11 of their first 15 confer-
ence games on the road. They
played without star center Mike
Cammalleri for 15 games.
"We didn't expect a national title,
but we expected to put ourselves in
a chance to win it," Michigan coach
Red Berenson said.
But with two uncharacteristic
turnovers by freshman Eric Werner
and junior John Shouneyia leading
to two of Minnesota's goals and a
dismal 0-6 performance on the
power play, Michigan didn't give
itself a golden opportunity to
advance to the title game.
It was the first time this season
Michigan had its back against the
wall and didn't come through when
it needed to. It was the first time
that Michigan's top players - such
as Cammalleri and Shouneyia -
couldn't capitalize on their chances
and inspired play by senior netmin-
der Josh Blackburn couldn't save
It was the first time this season
that Michigan felt the emptiest feel-
ing - the kind you never forget.
This holds true especially when
' next year
nobody- except the Wolverines
themselves - expected Michigan
to get this far. Just one of 25 CCHA
media members picked Michigan to
win the CCHA regular season title.
And Michigan proved all the critics
Nobody expected theeWolverines
to win 15 of their last 18 games,
grab their first sweep of the CCHA
regular season and CCHA Tourna-
ment titles since 1996 and take the
Mason Cup away from the Spar-
But the freshman-laden Wolver-
ines did all of that. And how much
consolation did they take out of
their second straight Frozen Four
"Not much," Cammalleri said.
"It's great to be here, but this team
came in with the mentality that it
wasn't just great to be here - it's
only great if we win."
Nobody takes losing harder than
Cammalleri, who is the heart and
soul of the Wolverines. The Los
Angeles Kings' second-rdund draft
pick last year insisted that he'll
return for his senior season, and he
wants to be in this same spot next
April, closing in on a national title.
He'll have at his side a hungry
sophomore class - which account-
ed for six of Michigan's 11 goals in
the NCAA Tournament this year -
with a chip on its shoulder and an
unbearable empty feeling inside.
He won't have the four-member
senior class that includes Black-
burn, who Berenson said is one of
the best goaltenders he's had in his
18 seasons behind Michigan's
bench. But Cammalleri will have a
top notch freshman netminder in
Alvaro Montoya, who is fast-track-
ing through high school just to don
the maize and blue next fall, just
like Cammalleri did three years
Cammalleri will also have the
"I'm proud of this team," Beren-
son said. "But the bar is still high.
We just have to find a way to reach
If, as expected, all of their play-
ers return next season, don't be sur-
prised if the Wolverines have even
greater success in 2003.
This was about the only time Michigan could contain Grant Potuiny (18). He scored two of Minnesota's three goals in the
Golden Gophers' 3-2 win over the Wolverines yesterday. Minnesota will play Maine for the national title tomorrow night.
Virtually nothing materialized on
the Wolverines' first three power-
play opportunities, and Minnesota's
first good scoring chance came dur-
ing the Wolverines' first powerplay
when Leopold fired a shot through
traffic, forcing Blackburn to make a
Michigan later earned a 5-on-3
with just under eight minutes
remaining in the second period
while trailing 2-0. But again, the
Wolverines failed to light the lamp
and were ineffective in generating
any sustained pressure on Hauser.
"Everyone did their job," Leopold
said. "We were getting down and
blocking shots and (closing) the
Minnesota's penalty kill entered
the game with a solid, if unspectac-
ular, 84.8 percent success rate for
the season. But the Golden
Gophers' shorthanded effort last
night is one of the primary reasons
that Minnesota will be returning
tomorrow to play Maine for the
"We did manage to get some
chances eventually, but they defi-
nitely put us on our heels in terms
of the penalty kill," Michigan assis-
tant coach Billy Powers said. "Espe-
cially early on, I thought they shut
us down pretty solidly."
Joe Smith can be reached at
Costly mistakes doom
Blue against Minnesota
By J. Brady McCoNough
Daily Sports Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Michigan
hockey team knew that there were two
things it couldn't do if it wanted to upset
Minnesota and advance to the national
championship game: Fall behind early
and commit undisciplined penalties.
The Wolverines did both last night,
a hole that was far
too deep to crawl HOCKEY
out of. Notebook
of Minnesota fans
packed into the Xcel Energy Center, the
Wolverines desperately needed to score
the first goal - which they had done in
their past three victories over Michigan
State, St. Cloud and Denver - to steal
the game's momentum at the outset.
"Against a team like Minnesota in this
building on the road, you have to have a
good start," Michigan associate head
coach Mel Pearson said. "You can't play
from behind, especially against good
teams this time of year."
But after fighting through the initial
Minnesota push and controlling much of
the action in the first few minutes,
Michigan committed a costly error in its
Michigan defenseman Eric Werner,
who was one of the Wolverines' steadi-
est blueliners all season, tried to make an
outlet pass from behind the net.
His pass hit the skate of Minnesota
Michigan knew it needed to stay out
of the box to beat Minnesota. The Gold-
en Gophers' powerplay was second in
the WCHA this season, converting on
26 percent of their attempts. But in the
second period, as Michigan was trying
to tie the game at one, the Wolverines
committed a penalty for too many men
on the ice with 16:05 left in the period.
Potulny immediately took advantage,
tallying a textbook powerplay goal -
his second of the game - which put
Michigan in the same situation it faced
last season against Boston College in the
national semifinal, down 2-0.
"We took way too many penalties,"
Pearson said. "For us, the keys were to
not commit the giveaways that we did
and stay out of the penalty box, and we
couldn't do either one of those tonight."
The Wolverines moved into despera-
tion mode early in the third period,
thanks to another huge blunder. Michi-
gan junior John Shouneyia made a lazy
pass at the Minnesota blueline that
resulted in a breakaway for Minnesota's
top goal scorer, Jeff Taffe. The junior
forward deked Blackburn and slipped
the puck five-hole to give Minnesota an
insurmountable 3-0 lead.
"(Turnovers) are crucial, especially
against a team that can really score,"
Pearson said. "The last couple of games
we've limited our turnovers, but tonight,
they scored on those tuwovers. When
you get guys like Taffe and Potulny too
many chances, they're going to put it in
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For most of the game, nothing could get past Minnesota goaltender Adam Hauser,
not even Eric Werner, who ended up hurting himself on this play.'