4B - The Michigan Daily - Faceoff 2002 - Thursday, October 10, 2002
Forging ahead: CCHA Commish looks toward future
The Michigan Daily - Faceoff 2002 -
In his four seasons as commissioner of
the Central Collegiate Hockey Associa-
tion, Tom Anastos has seen a CCHA
team in the Frozen Four in 1999, 2001
and 2002; CCHA tour-
expansion; the addition
of two new confer-
ences; and the most-
attended game in the ...
his tory of the sport.
Looking forward to con-
tinuing the growth of
college hockey in the Anastos
future, the commish
talked with Daily Sports Writers Bob
Hunt and Courtney Lewis.
The Michigan Daily: Can you talk a little
bit about the growth of college hockey in the
four years that you have been here?
Anastos: Well, there has been a lot of
change in the fact that you have two new
leagues that weren't here five years ago in the
MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
and the CHA (College Hockey America). The
evolution of those two leagues has really
helped our effort to push the expansion of the
NCAA Tournament, which is a real benefit to
all of college hockey. I think college hockey -
Lonsidering how regional the sport is - has
organized itself in a way to help try to push the
sport's growth as much as we can, because we
are regional. We don't have teams in Florida, or
in Texas, or in Utah, or in California. Hey, it
would be great to have a Pac-10. But by and
large the evolution of the new leagues has been
a real big thing.
TMD: Players leaving early for the NHL
seems to be a growing trend in the CCHA. Do
you think anything can be done to keep them in
Anastos: I think it's just that you have to deal
with it. They're leaving programs that they love.
Most times players aren't leaving because they
don't like their setting. I look at it a couple dif-
ferent ways. You have a college experience and
you have it once in your lifetime. And it's hard
to appreciate it now. It's hard to appreciate how
fun it is and how good you're benefiting from
your experience today. It takes a great maturity
to do that, which most of us don't have at any
point in our lives. But we all go to school to pre-
pare for life after school. If I am an engineering
student and Chrysler came and offered me a
million dollars a year for three years, and I'm a
sophomore, it's hard not to say OK. I hate to see
guys leave, but that's selfish. I love to watch
Mike Cammalleri play. He was one of my
favorite players. Komiserak was unbelievable.
Ryan Miller was terrific. But that's just college
athletics - to prepare people for the next step.
TMD: Is this the most balanced the CCHA
has been during your tenure?
Anastos: That's hard to say. I'd have to
wait. I'm not a big prognosticator. I like the
preseason polls because it's fun to do and it
generates interest. It's one of those things
where you're only as good as your last game.
There is so much balance within the league
that if the teams picked to finish six-seven
finished one-two, I can't say that I would be
TMD: What can college hockey do to contin-
ue its growth?
Anastos: We just have to continue to fight
for more publicity. It's a terrific sport. It's
entertaining to watch. Most of the teams are
playing in full buildings; it's a great atmos-
phere. (But) it's very difficult to fight for space
in the papers and on television. When you're an
NHL fan, you're focusing on the whole league.
While you might be focusing on one team, you
are focusing on the whole thing. Here, fans
watch their team and the league, but if we
could get them to focus on what's happening in
college hockey it would benefit the sport. But
it's hard to get that kind of publicity.
TMD: To get more coverage of other
regions, would you consider having more non-
Anastos: The challenges with that in our
league is that other schools would have a hard
time finding enough teams to play nonconfer-
ence games, particularly in their building. We
have talked about having 24 conference games
instead of 28 because that frees up four more
games. For every school that could easily get
those games, like Michigan, there are the
schools that would be opposed to that. But it
See ANASTOS, Page 11B
16-team tourney opens new doors
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
Last season Alaska-Fairbanks
thought it had hit the jackpot. After
being picked to finish last in the
CCHA for the second-straight year,
the Nanooks were just one game
away from making the NCAA Tour-
But the Nanooks lost to Ohio State
in overtime of the CCHA quarterfi-
nals, dropping them to what they
thought was the tournament's final at-
large spot. But the next night in the
ECAC Tournament Championship
Harvard stunned Cornell giving the
Crimson an automatic bid and taking
away the Nanooks shot at glory, as
Cornell received an at-large bid
ahead to them.
This year however, teams like Alas-
ka-Fairbanks will have a better chance
as the NCAA Tournament has expand-
ed from 12 to 16 teams. While the new
College Hockey America Conference
- which includes Air Force, Alaba-
ma-Huntsville, Bemidji State, Findlay,
Niagara and Wayne State -- has
received an automatic bid, that still
leaves three teams from each of col-
lege hockey's four major conferences
- CCHA, WCHA, ECAC and Hock-
ey East - with a shot at playing in
April as an at-large team.
"Every year you see teams at 13,14
and 15, and you wouldn't want to
play them," Michigan assistant coach
Billy Powers said. "I think they were
missing teams, and now after 16 it'd
be pretty hard pressed for a team to
say we should have 20. 1 think 16 is a
great number and a good number for
While the CCHA has not had a
team other than Michigan or Michi-
gan State represent the league in the
NCAA Tournament since 1999, it has
always had teams ranked in the Top
15, most of which have fallen just
short of getting in.
"There is a possibility that (the
expansion of the tournament) might
favor the CCHA among all other
leagues right now," Alaska-Fairbanks
coach Guy Gadowsky said. "We have
had those two perennial leaders get
there in the past, but now the door is
wide open. I think there are several
teams now with the 16-team tourna-
For Northern Michigan and Alaska-
Fairbanks, the 16-team NCAA Tour-
nament might have come a year
late. Both of those teams would
have likely made the tourney last
season after this year's rules. Here
are what the NCAA Pairings could
have looked like last season under
the new format:
Denver vs. Wayne State
Michigan vs. Saint Cloud State
Minnesota vs. Northern Michigan
Michigan State vs. Colorado College
New Hampshire vs. Harvard
Cornell vs. Massachusetts-Lowell
Boston University vs. Quinnipiac
Maine vs. Alaska-Fairbanks
ment that have a great chance of
making it, which will benefit the
Along with Alaska-Fairbanks,
Northern Michigan appeared to be a
candidate for the tournament as the
Wildcats had a better record than the
"It really, really benefits our third
and fourth team, who I think deserve
to go," said Michigan State coach
Rick Comley, who coached at North-
ern Michigan for the last 26 years. "It
helps schools justify their programs
and the money they are putting into
Another advent to the tournament
is the addition of two new regionals.
Instead of having two six-team
regionals, there will be four four-
team regionals. Like the NCAA bas-
ketball tournament, teams will have
See NCAA, Page 10B
down to discuss
Frozen Four run
Much has changed since last
season for the Michigan hock-
team. Key players from last
year's squad have graduated and others
have left early for the pros. Four-year
starting goaltender Josh Blackburn was
replaced by a 17-year-old. Heck, even
the P.A. guy at Yost is a newcomer.
But with the changes in the program,
there is still the rock who remains as
Michigan's base: Captain Jed Ortmeyer.
His second season as the team leader
begins with emphasis on the positive, as
the incoming freshmen have the hype
and look to erase all doubts of being
able to replace their predecessors.
Still, the captain feels the pains of last
season, beginning with last year's finale.
"It's been eating away at me"
At practice Ortmeyer takes plenty of
shots at an empty net. Even during
sprints around the rink he'll fire errant
pucks on the ice through the pipes.
Now he hits almost all of them, but
he will always remember the one he
missed last April.
With the second period of the NCAA
semifinals coming to a close, the
Wolverines found themselves down 2-0
to eventual champion Minnesota.
Then, a momentum-swinging shot
landed right on Ortmeyer's stick.
Eric Nystrom and the junior captain
had a breakaway toward the net. Min-
nesota goalie Adam Hauser made the
initial save against Nystrom, and the
puck bounced right back to Ortmeyer.
But the captain couldn't take advantage
of Hauser being out of place as the shot
went right back at the goaltender's body.
Ortmeyer got a Frozen Four goal late
in the third period, but it was too little,
too late. Michigan lost 3-2 and Min-
nesota advanced to the title game.
"It's definitely been eating away at
me a bit after missing a wide-open net,"
The loss still lingers in the captain's
mind, but even in his disappointment,
there is a silver lining that covers up all
those bad feelings.
"I think the (Frozen Four) experience
stuck with the team in a positive way,"
Ortmeyer said. "We knew we were that
close. If it takes running the stadium
one more time or doing a little extra in
dry-land or a little extra in the weight
room, I think that the guys have the
mind set that we have to give that much
more to make up that one goal."
This year's sophomore class embod-
ies that desire to do the extra, and it is
one group that brings out a smile in the
Captain's face even when talking of last
"Our sophomore class this year is
going to be a big part of our team with
11 guys," Ortmeyer said. "All of them
obviously worked hard this summer.
They got a taste of spring term at the
end of the season to put on some
strength and add some speed. And I
think just one more year of experience
is what is going to help them out more
All seemed to be clicking for the
Wolverines when the players went
home for the summer, as a great
spring gave much hope to completing
what the 2002 team nearly did at the
One week changed all that.
"It was a last-minute decision"
On July 22, Ortmeyer still had sopho-
more Mike Komisarek, the CCHA's
best defenseman, on his team. And the
captain still had the team's most prolific
scorer in junior Mike Cammalleri.
By July 26, those two teammates
were signed, sealed and delivered to
their respective NHL teams. Komis-
arek to Montreal and Cammalleri to
Los Angeles. Both have been sent to
the minors since then.
The two early-departures hit every-
one by surprise, as both had hinted they
would stay. It also left two more large
holes on a team that was already trying
to fill the void created by the graduation
of goalies Josh Blackburn and Kevin
But the losses haven't deterred Ort-
meyer. He has 25 other players to con-
cern himself with.
"This season is about who's here, it
has nothing to do with who's not here,"
Ortmeyer said. "Those guys were big
contributors to the team, but they left
and we have shoes to fill. We have the
guys that have been recruited to Michi-
gan for a reason. We're going to have to
step up and take care of the business."
For the team, Ortmeyer is ready to
move on, but personally he still strug-
gles with losing his friends.
"Cammalleri, being a freshman
coming in with me, is one of my best
friends on the team," he said. "We
shared a lot of things the last few
years and playing on the line together
all three years. It hurts to lose your
best friend, and it's definitely going to
hurt our team. But there's not much
you can do about it now."
What was most shocking to Ortmey-
er was how quickly things changed,
especially with his best friend.
"It was a little more of a surprise,"
Ortmeyer said of Cammalleri's depar-
ture. "I mean, he was pretty honest with
me. There were a couple of things that I
didn't know that went on. But from
what it sounded like he told me, he was
going to come back. And then it came
down to a last-minute decision. I hadn't
talked to him in a couple of weeks, so I
didn't really know what was going on.
He called me the day that he signed, and
he wanted to let me know before I
found out from someone else. He was
professional about that, as a friend, to
let me know what was going on."
But even though Ortmeyer left the
phone call on good terms with Cam-
malleri, there was no avoiding the
hole that the future pro left in Michi-
"It's a lot of pressure"
On Sept. 5, coach Red Berenson did
what everyone expected, naming Ort-
meyer captain for a second season.
With that, the senior added his name
to a short list of seven Michigan cap-
tains who served back-to-back years.
"It's an honor and it's a lot of pres-
sure," Ortmeyer said. "I just go out and
I try to make sure I do a good job.
Hopefully I've earned some respect
from the guys on the team, and I can try
to lead by example."
Coming into the season, he had to
have a second surgery in as many years
on his knee. So Ortmeyer's summer was
more rehab than it was actual training.
But he is fine now, with his knee "as
close to 100 percent as it can be."
In practice, it looks like he hasn't lost
a step. The same can be said for his
teammates, who are now playing with a
fire that the captain has not seen before.
"Guys are definitely putting in extra
right now - staying after practice,
working on things, working on strength
in the weight room and just trying to get
better," Ortmeyer said. "This is the time
of the season to put a little extra in, and
I think guys have been doing it."
Throughout these early practices,
Ortmeyer and his two alternate cap-
tains, John Shouneyia and Andy
Burnes, have witnessed what the extra
work has produced, especially with the
"We've got a lot of question marks
right now, but after watching a few prac-
tices, people are going to be pleasantly
surprised by some of the additions with
our goalies and some of the freshmen
we have coming in," Ortmeyer said.
The goalies "have been working
hard. I think it's been different this year
with the level of competition in practice
between the three new goalies. You can
tell when you're shooting on them that
they don't want to get scored on ever.
Last year, we knew that Blackburn was
going to be our starter and O'Malley
kind of realized that too, so there wasn't
as much competition. This year we
don't know who is going to be the
starter and it definitely shows in how
hard they've been working."
Whoever starts in goal will have a
tough season to look forward to, as the
CCHA is predicted to be pretty even
from top to bottom. But the starting net-
minder can take comfort in knowing
that he has a captain who knows what to
expect and who also has a little bit of
momentum to carry the team into and
"Our toughest games are always
going to be Michigan State because of
that rivalry," Ortmeyer said, "It's my last
year to play against them and I'd like to
go out on top against them."
Ortmeyer knows that any champi-
onship banner to be raised in Yost will
go through the Spartans. Michigan or
Michigan State have won the past six
CCHA regular-season titles.
"He's a foundation for a team"
The captain comes into his final sea-
son confident that the Wolverines can
add "2003" to the banner of national
championship teams that hangs above
section 21 ofYost Ice Arena.
"I think if we catch a few breaks here
and there, keep working hard through
the season and if the team comes
together like I think it's capable of, I
think we've got a great shot," he said.
And even with all the losses that the
team endured in the offseason, Michi-
gan still has their captain back, and that
means a lot.
"That was a big reassurance in hav-
ing him back," sophomore Jason Ryz-
nar said. "He's a great leader and is
definitely a foundation for a team."
When Jed Ortmeyer steps off the
ice for the final time as a Wolverine,
whether it happens at Yost Ice Arena,
Joe Louis Arena or HSBC Arena in
Buffalo - the site of this year's
Frozen Four - he hopes that his
legacy will not be as an individual
performer, but as a teammate to a
great class of seniors.
"Hopefully, when they look at our
class they can look back at a class that
has been successful in this program and
look up at the banners that this class
was able to represent for the University
of Michigan," Ortmeyer said.
Through everything he has endured,
Ortmeyer and his class have represented
Michigan like champions.
NCAA banners or not.
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