February , 2004
Even in youth, forward
could always fire away
Cagers need road wins
to earn tournament bid
By Sharad Mattu
Daily Sports Writer
Even as a kid, when he was just
beginning to learn about the sport of
ice hockey, Michigan sophomore Jeff
Tambellini was always good at firing
slapshots at any part of the net.
"Right from the get-go, the one
thing I could always do was put the
puck over the goalie's shoulder,"
Tambellini said. "When the goalies
are seven years old and can't even
reach the top of the net, my thing
was always to try to put it over their
head. It's something I've had from
Today, the goalies that he faces are
bigger, but his rocket slapshot (when
a player brings his stick back as a sort
of windup before shooting) and even
better wristshot (where a player push-
es the puck at the net with a flick of
the wrist) continue to be the main rea-
sons he is an elite player.
It is easy to see why Michigan's
opponents fear him, especially on
the powerplay. With the man-advan-
tage, Tambellini is usually posi-
tioned at the blueline or near the
faceoff circle. When he has the
puck, if he so much as moves his
stick back to begin a slapshot, the
defender will quickly sprawl along
the ice to prevent the puck from
ever reaching the goal.
For Tambellini, the slapshot and
the wristshot were strengths at an
early age, but it has taken hard
work and endless practice to keep it
"You have to have be in control
and be able to shoot in stride," the
Port Moody, British Columbia,
native said. "We don't get to stand
still and let the puck loose. You've
got to be able to move and control
the puck at the same time and have
it in the right spots so that when you
release it, your whole body is mov-
ing in one motion."
Time in the weight room also
Tambellini said: "It's all about
power from your legs. It also involves
surprising the goalie, so you have to
have quick wrists and put all your
strength into it."
Accuracy is essential, and it
requires timing and coordination.
"It's a learned art to be able to read
the goalie and look down, and then get
your head back up and find your tar-
get again," the forward said. "There's
a lot of deception involved in it."
Snipers also have to learn how to
deal with and overcome slumps. Tam-
bellini has been sitting at nine goals
since Nov. 8 and had scoring chances
throughout last weekend's series
against Lake Superior State.
"I get to watch guys like (Detroit
Red Wings forward) Brett Hull," Tam-
bellini said. "Hull went through a 20-
game slump. I've just got to keep
shooting the puck ... and sooner or
later it's going to start going my way."
Michigan coach Red Berenson
shares his optimism for the coming
"I think he's a marked player,"
Berenson said. "Last year he slipped
between the cracks because he wasn't
"With the way our team is develop-
ing, it's going to be hard for other
teams to pinpoint him when we've got
(other lines) playing well."
Garden State of Mind
The Michigan basketball team has
yet to beat a good Big Ten team
on the road. It will have to do that
soon in order to give itself a chance for
an NCAA Tournament berth.
Don't give up hope just yet.
Michigan sits at 3-4 in the conference
and will have a hard time catching 5-1
Wisconsin atop the Big Ten. But the
Wolverines are entering a stretch of the
season with a home stand and some
apparently easier road contests that may
help spring them up in the standings.
A second- or third-place finish in
the Big Ten - still very much within
reach - would mean an almost-auto-
matic NCAA Tournament bid, some-
thing Michigan hasn't earned since
1997. Something which would make
this season a success.
Now, it's up to the team to capitalize
on that opportunity by winning away
from Crisler. Michigan's four remain-
ing road games will come against
opponents (Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana
and Northwestern) which are a com-
bined five games over .500. That's a
much easier stretch than Michigan just
endured, featuring games at Michigan
State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Illi-
nois - teams that are a combined 21
games over .500.
Michigan will probably need to win.
on the road at Minnesota and North-
western (11th and ninth in the confer-
ence, respectively) and then at either
Iowa or Indiana to have a good shot at
Last year, the Wolverines proved that
they could handle a good team in its
own building when they knocked off
then-No. 24 Purdue 78-67 on Feb. 19.
That win was one of four Big Ten road
wins last season.
And looking at the conference road
games that this year's squad has played
so far, how many of those games should
Michigan really have won?
One -just as many as they did win.
It's tough to say that a young Michi-
gan team should have beaten Michigan
State on the road. The Spartans were
ranked as high as No. 3 in the preseason
polls. It's true that Michigan State lost
tough games early, but playing six of
your first 12 games against teams
ranked in the top 20 is going to put a
dent into any team's record, regardless
of how talented that team is.
To make matters worse, Michigan
had to travel to East Lansing and the
Breslin Center to take on their in-state
rivals. This is the same Breslin Center
that has been regarded as one of the
toughest places to play in college bas-
ketball by Sports Illustrated, and the
same place where only one Michigan
player (Bernard Robinson) had seen
significant action before the game
three weeks ago.
The Kohl Center in Wisconsin is
just as intimidating. Since Bo Ryan
took the reins as coach of the Badgers
more than two years ago, Wisconsin is
23-0 in Big Ten home games.
Playing Illinois, a team that lost two
of its first three Big Ten games, may
have been Michigan's best chance to
steal a big win away from Crisler thus
far. But playing in Champaign is no
cakewalk, either. The Illini have gone
47-2 in home games in the past three-
While the Bryce Jordan Center at
Penn State isn't exactly the toughest
place to play a road game, the fans
weren't rooting for Michigan, either.
The fact that the Wolverines won in
State College shows that they aren't
completely lifeless every time they're
on the road.
But winning some road games isn't
money in the bank just yet. Michigan
needs to learn some lessons from its
early Big Ten losses in order to make a
run at the top of the conference.
One thing is clear: The Wolverines
can't go six, eight or ten minutes with-
out putting any points on the board and
expect to win.
In their loss to Michigan State on Jan.
17, the Wolverines led the Spartans 19-
15 midway through the first half and
looked like they could steal a win. But
Michigan went nine minutes without a
field goal en route to its 71-54 loss.
A week and a half later, Michigan
once again failed to play a consistent 40
minutes. The Wolverines hung with
Wisconsin on the road for the entire
first half, but allowed the Badgers to go
on a 20-5 second-half run.
On Wednesday, Michigan shot the
lights out for most of the night against
Iowa - but the Wolverines couldn't hit
a shot during a six-and-a-half-minute
stretch in the first half, when they
allowed the Hawkeyes to run off 15
These are the types of lapses that the
Wolverines can't afford as the Big Ten
season winds down and they prepare for
the gauntlet of "must-win" games that
But it's not time for the Wolverines to
panic, nor is it time to sit back, look at
the schedule and chalk up some easy
road wins, either.
To make this a successful season and
achieve the oft-discussed goal of an
NCAA berth, Michigan will need to
focus on playing more consistent bas-
ketball and allow its talent to shine
No matter where the team is playing.
New Jersey native Daniel Bremmer can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan sophomore Jeff Tambellini used his cannon of a shot to lead the team in
scoring as a freshman last season. He has nine goals so far this year.
Walk-on Bell living every hoopster' s dream
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
While playing basketball at the CCRB or the
fIM building, people may dream that they are driv-
ing by Dion Harris or guarding Daniel Horton.
But Ashtyn Bell is living that dream.
He may not receive playing time, or even be
listed in the team's media guide, but Bell is a
member of the Michigan basketball team just like
Horton or Harris.
He just took a different route to get there.
The sophomore from the western Chicago sub-
urb of Oak Park walked onto the team during try-
outs this year and was placed on the roster
shortly after the season started. Because he has-
n't played yet and wasn't on the team from the
beginning, most fans don't even know Bell is a
A lot of people who don't know him now come
up to him when wearing his team apparel and
ask, "Oh you play for Michigan, what number are
you?" And Bell has to reply "Oh, I'm number 12.
But I don't play."
Coming out of Fenwick High School in Oak
Park, where he averaged 17 points a game his
senior year, Bell received offers from Division II
and III schools. But he felt that it was worth it to
take a risk and attempt to walk on to the team at
Michigan in order to receive a goodteducation.
Bell wants to eventually move on to medical
school and become a psychiatrist.
"Honestly, I felt that I was good enough to
make this team and that I was good enough to
play Division I basketball," Bell said
Bell contacted the coaching staff when he
came to visit Michigan his senior year of high
school. But Bell didn't give up after he didn't
make the team last season. He stayed in Ann
Arbor over the summer to work on his game, and
his perseverance paid off when he made the ros-
ter this fall.
"I knew it just takes time," Bell said. "I had to
be real dedicated just to make it to this point. I
didn't get down on myself. I didn't give up at all.
I just kept working."
Now Bell's role is to work with Horton and
Harris in practice, preparing them for upcoming
Horton, who got to know Bell through mutual
friends last year, has been one of his best friends
since he's been at Michigan.
"He likes to have fun," Horton said. "He not a
guy that you have to watch what you say to,
because he doesn't take everything to heart. He's
just an easygoing guy."
But now Horton has had a chance to really get
to know Bell as a basketball player.
"He loves being here," Horton said. "He's a
great player in practice and he gives us an ele-
ment that we don't have on this team. He can
really shoot the basketball, so it really makes it
tougher to guard him in practice. Coach (Tommy
Amaker) always says that if we can guard guys
like him and (sophomore) Dani (Wohl) in prac-
tice, then we can guard anybody."
The team has also had the chance to enjoy
Bell's passion for the game.
"Ashtyn brings energy," freshman walk-on
John Andrews said. "He's one of, if not the,
quickest guys (around). He energizes the team."
While Bell is thrilled to be on the team, he's
not satisfied with staying in his current role.
"I want to be more than that," Bell said. "I
hope that I can keep working on my game and get
to know the plays, and hopefully, one day, play
and get some sufficient minutes and provide what
Dion and Dan are providing right now."
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