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March 19, 2004 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-19

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March 19, 2004



Mason Cup refill?

The CCHA Tournament is already underway, with
two teams already sent packing last night. Ohio State
and Notre Dame needed overtime before the Buckeyes
pulled out a 6-5 win. Ohio State will play Miami tomor-
row. Northern Michigan shocked everyone by scoring
two quick goals against Michigan State, and the Wild-
cats held on for a 2-1 win.
Michigan will take on
Northern Michigan this0
afternoon at 4:05 p.m. at
Joe Louis Arena, and the<
Wolverines look to win
their third consecu-
tive Mason Cup.
With the Super
Six in full
swing, the >> n
Mic hig a n
Da i ly 's
profes-y: JEFF LEHNERT/Daily
s o r s Michigan's Jason u;3

sively in goals per game - Northern Michigan looks a
bit more formidable. Throw in the fact that Michigan
struggled for most of the weekend against Nebraska-
Omaha and you might even say the Wild-
cats have an advantage.
However, this is the playoffs, and
the Wolverines always seem to be
able to turn it on when they need to.
That makes their offense a hard
unit to bet against.

game. Conventional wisdom says that Northern Michi-
gan will score exactly 2.36 tonight, so it's up to Michi-
gan's forwards to score three goals to advance.
This is the tightest matchup of the weekend - 'bout
as tough to call as Maize-N-Blue vs. Zingerman's for
that post-class, 4 p.m. "lunch." The top-seeded Wolver-
ines enter this weekend ranked as the No. 2 powerplay
unit in the CCHA. But, the Wildcats perfectly counter
Michigan with the conference's No. 2 penalty kill. In
their last five games, the Wolverines have scored just
twice on 29 powerplays. During the teams' weekend
series back in October - which Michigan swept - the
Wolverines scored four powerplay goals.
The Wildcats' powerplay has been average all year,
and they entered the weekend as the CCHA's seventh-
most effective team with the man-advantage - again,
perfectly countering Michigan's No. 7 penalty kill unit.
Like the Wolverines, Northern Michigan has struggled
on the powerplay in its last five games, lighting the
lamp just once in 17 tries.
Everyone knows who Al Montoya is and how valu-
able he is to the Wolverines, but that's certainly not the
case with Tuomas Tarkki. Until March 6, when Craig
Kowalski injured his groin, Tarkki had hardly gotten any
opportunities to shine. But, on the big stage, he's made
himself known. First, he closed out the regular season
with a win over Ferris State. Then, he carried the team

through its grueling trip to Fairbanks
with a shocking two-game
sweep. But he still wasn't
done. He stopped 35
shots yesterday against
Michigan State to keep
the Wildcats alive.
But four games still
pales in comparison
to Montoya's season.
He won the World
Juniors over Winter
Break, allows just 2.27
goals a game and even helps
the offensive attack with his
puck-handling skills (though
this professor thinks he's a tad
too aggressive).
Montoya hasn't been at his
best lately, but may be ready
to have a stretch similar to
one he had in January when
he allowed just six goals in
seven games. When the
Wolverines were down 2-
1 to Nebraska-Omaha in
Sunday's deciding game,
another goal could've
been the dagger,
but Montoya
took care ofN
business.Nrern M

matchups in tonight's game.
At first glance, this seems like a big-time mis-
match. The Wolverines lead the CCHA in goals per
game a with 3.61 average, while Northern Michigan
gives up an average of 2.82 goals per contest. In addi-
tion, the Wildcats have allowed five or more goals eight
times throughout the season, including once against
Michigan when the teams last played in October.
But after its 2-1 victory yesterday over Michigan
State - which ranks second in the conference offen-

defense is high- v
lighted by All-CCHA
defenseman Matt Hun-
wick, and All-CCHA snub
Andy Burnes, perhaps the best defensive pairing in the
conference. The Wolverine 'D' is second-best in goals-
against in the CCHA, allowing just 2.36 goals per

PREDICTION: Michigan 3, Northern Michigan 1

Top-ranked Illinois awaits Blue at Big Tens

By Julie Master
Daily Sports Writer
Last year, the Michigan men's gym-
nastics team finished in fourth place
behind Penn State, Ohio State and
Iowa at the Big Ten Championships.
This season, the Wolverines have
already defeated both Penn State and
Ohio State in hard-fought matches at
home. The question is: Can they do it
"We know we can (beat Penn State
and Ohio State) again," freshman
Andrew Elkind said. "We've been up
and down a little bit, but when we face
top teams, we step it up to their level
and compete above them."
The challenge, though, is that when
the Wolverines travel to the Big Ten
Championships this weekend in
Champaign, they will have to face the
toughest team in the conference. Illi-

nois, a team that Michigan has not
competed against in the regular season,
is ranked No. 1 in the nation and could
be a fierce competitor.
"Illinois has been posting some high
scores, so that's a little bit intimidating
going in there," junior Brian Berends
said. "But in order for us to do well,
we can't really think about what
they've been doing, we just need to
concentrate on what we've got to do to
stay right there with them."
The 2004 season has had good
points as well as bad. There have been
many injuries and inconsistencies,
record performances and close victo-
ries. Michigan coach Kurt Golder is
proud of his team's progress, and
knows that not being at full strength
due to injuries has hurt the team's
score at times.
"A big factor is that we held Justin
Laury out of three events (last week-

end)," Golder said. "So we can defi-
nitely strengthen our line up a little bit.
We weren't able to increase Andre
Hernandez's difficulty, either, due to
his knee problem. But if we can get
these guys back at full strength, they
will be our secret weapons."
The Wolverines finished the regular
season with a respectable 8-5 (6-3 Big
Ten) record, and did so without any
seniors on the team. When it comes to
big tournaments such as the Big Tens
and NCAAs, experience is helpful. But
assistant coach and former Michigan
gymnast Louis Levine believes that it's
the team's leadership that will put them
on top.
"The year that we won the National
Championship (in 1999), we had one
senior," Levine said. "It doesn't matter
how old you are, it depends how good
your leaders are. And I think our lead-
ership is fine.

"Chris Gatti's been here for four
years, so he's a senior for all intents
and purposes. And even our juniors
have a lot of experience. Some of these
guys have even been in USA Champi-
onships, so they know about competi-
The Wolverines will look to the next
three weeks of Big Tens and NCAAs
as the time to show what they've
worked for all season.
"I think both competitions mean a
lot," Levine said. "It's kind of a
stepping stone, one into the next.
These three weeks are what we train
for all year."


Freshman Andrew Elkind and the Wolverines are getting ready for Big Tens.


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