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December 14, 2004 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-12-14

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 13
'M' looking to return to GLI glory
----- ,,

By Gabe Edelson
Daily Sports Writer
From 1987 to 1997, the Michigan hockey team
compiled a 20-game winning streak in the Great
Lakes Invitational, a holiday-season tournament
held in Detroit every year since 1965. The Wolver-
ines won nine straight GLI titles from 1988 to 1996.
But Michigan hasn't taken home the tournament
trophy since the final year of its improbable streak.
It's been seven fruitless years, but Wolverines coach
Red Berenson hopes to turn things around when No.
3 Michigan (11-1-0 CCHA, 13-4-1 overall) faces
Michigan Tech (1-13-0 WCHA, 1-14-1 overall) on
Dec. 29. The following day, the Wolverines will
play either Michigan State or No. 6 New Hampshire.
Michigan tied New Hampshire, 4-4, at Yost Ice
Arena in October. In mid-November, the Wolverines
earned their first win at Michigan State's Munn Ice
Arena in nearly five years and completed their week-
end sweep two days later.
"A few years ago, it was our tournament to lose,"
Berenson said of the GLI. "Now it's our challenge to
go in there and try and win that tournament - espe-
cially for the seniors."
If Michigan finally comes away victorious this
year, it will have to do so without some key ingredi-
ents to the team's success thus far. Forwards Kevin
Porter, Mike Brown and T.J. Hensick will accom-
pany defenseman Matt Hunwick and goalie Al Mon-

toya in North Dakota and Minnesota to represent the
United States in the 2005 IIHF World Junior Cham-
pionship from Dec. 25-Jan. 4.
"We're losing one line," Berenson said. We're los-
ing some key players but we'll have 'a good team.
We're the only team to lose players, (but) I still like
our chances."
Junior goalie Noah Ruden will step in for Mon-
toya as he did last year when Montoya was backstop-
ping for the U.S. team. Ruden allowed four goals in
a loss to Boston College a season ago but rebounded
nicely in Michigan's 6-2 victory over Michigan Tech
in the second game of the 2003 GLI.
Despite Michigan Tech's lowly record, Beren-
son refuses to take the GLI opener lightly. It will
be Michigan's first game in more than two weeks,
and players may find it tough to jump right back into
full-speed hockey after taking a holiday break.
"The first game is the toughest game because of
conditioning," Berenson said. "Even if you skate
every day when you go home, it's not the same as
being on the ice with these players and these coach-
es. You never know what you're going to get when
(the players) come back."
Berenson and his coaching staff have scheduled
a final practice today and open ice for indepen-
dent skating until Friday to shorten the physical
layoff as much as possible. The players will begin
leaving for home tomorrow, but will be back at
practice on Dec. 26.

"We're practicing to stay sharp and to work on
some things that we need to do better," Berenson
said. "When we get back together, we don't need a
lot of dialogue about what we have to do and how we
have to play."
The Wolverines have been hot lately, sweeping
conference opponents Notre Dame and Bowling
Green in back-to-back weekends. But with so much
time before the team's next game, Berenson is con-
cerned that any competitive advantage will be nulli-
fied in the interim.
"Everybody starts off on a clean slate when you
go to the GLI," Berenson said. "Your record really
doesn't matter that much. You've been off the ice for
two weeks. Your players come back, and they're all
fired up. So it's not like they're looking over their
shoulder at losing the last two weekends or winning
the last two weekends. They haven't played the last
two weekends.
"They really don't have a lot of momentum one
way or the other, and I think that can hurt a team
like us. Michigan Tech could go down there and save
face for the first half of the season by beating Michi-
gan."
NOTES: Sophomore forward T.J. Hensick and
sophomore defenseman Matt Hunwick both received
CCHA Player of the Week honors yesterday. Hen-
sick was named Offensive Player of the Week, while
Hunwick completed Michigan's awards sweep by
taking home the defensive honor.

RYAN WEINER/Daily
Michigan hasn't won the Great Lakes Invitational since 1996. The Wolverines
will play Michigan Tech in the first round on Dec. 29.

Cagers'

season has plenty of upside despite youth

MATT SINGER
ON WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Weeks before the Michigan women's basket-
ball season began, coach Cheryl Burnett set the
bar extremely high for her young team.
"Our expectations will always be - and con-
tinue to be - get into the NCAA Tournament,"
Burnett said. "That's what our program will
have. We won't go above that. We won't go below
that."
For Burnett's squad, there would be no excus-
es.
Playing in an extremely difficult Big Ten con-,
ference?
Didn't matter.
Coming off a 14-17 season?
Didn't matter.
Returning just three players?1
Didn't matter.
Now, with almost a third of a season in the1
books, the early returns are in. And while a 4-4
record might not have been exactly what Burnett
envisioned at the beginning of the season, one
thing is clear: At the very least, these Wolverines1
can hang with the big dogs.I
From the get-go, Michigan embarked on anI
early-season schedule that would be daunting1
for any squad - no matter how experienced. Of
Michigan's first eight opponents, six played post-
season ball last season and three are ranked ini
the top40 of the current RPI ratings.I

The Wolverines began their sea-
son in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they
L took a tough Alabama team to over-
time before suffering a two-point loss.
Michigan's first win came against Washington,
which was fresh off a victory against a team that
reached the semifinals in last year's NCAA Tour-
nament . There was no opportunity for relaxation
on Thanksgiving weekend, as the Wolverines
flew out to the West Coast and broke UC-Santa
Barbara's 12-game winning streak in the Thun-
derdome.
Even Michigan's biggest losses - a 13-point
defeat at Charlotte and a nine-point loss to East-
ern Michigan - were far from blowouts. Despite
their ups and downs on the offensive end, the
Wolverines' defense has kept them competitive
against any opponent. Burnett preaches a tough
man-to-man defensive strategy, and Michigan
buys into it. The evidence: Opponents have shot
only 38.4 percent from the field, including a gro-
tesque 24.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Of course, more than just good defense is
needed for wins - Michigan needs to put points
on the board. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines
have turned to tried-and-true scorer Tabitha Pool
to lead them offensively. At 6-foot-1, the senior
forward is an impressive athletic specimen. She
has the height to take on most post players, the
athleticism to play on the perimeter and the jump
shot to be a serious threat from the outside. Pool
is almost averaging a double-double, scoring 15.6
points and pulling down 9.4 boards per game,

both team highs.
While Pool's scoring numbers have been
remarkably consistent - she's scored between
11 and 21 points in every game this season - the
rest of the team's offensive output has fluctuated
wildly. Too often, the Wolverines look lost on
the offensive end, dribbling the ball around the
perimeter until the dwindling shot clock forces
them to hoist up a low-percentage shot or rush
into a turnover.
In situations like these, the onus is on Mich-
igan's few experienced players to make things
happen. The Wolverines are at their best when
Pool and sophomore Kelly Helvey are using their
athleticism to penetrate and draw defenders into
the lane. When its offense sputters, Michigan
should be looking to get the ball to these two,
who must be aggressive and take the ball to the
rim. If the Wolverines want to compete with its
Big Ten foes in the coming months, they must
avoid falling asleep at the wheel offensively.
Although the offense still has kinks to work
out, Burnett's first recruiting class is filled with
outstanding ballplayers. Becky Flippin is an
excellent ball-handler who has emerged as a trust-
worthy pass-first, shoot-second point guard and
a strong on-the-ball defender. Freshman Krista
Clement is a natural leader who has shown an
uncanny touch from beyond the arc. Katie Dier-
dorf and Ta'Shia Walker provide a strong pres-
ence in the post, while Janelle Cooper's slashing,
hustling play has carried Michigan through some
rough offensive stretches.

With such an impressive nucleus of young
players, the Wolverines undoubtedly have a bright
future ahead under Burnett's leadership. But the
question remains: Is the future now?
Against a tough non-conference schedule,
Michigan's inexperienced roster has endured a
trial by fire. And the Wolverines have not been
overwhelmed. Regardless of the competition,
they have hung right with their opponents. But
by dropping close games to Alabama and Drake,
Michigan wasted early-season opportunities to
bolster its resume. Now, with the Big Ten season
fast approaching, the margin for error will only
decrease.
It remains unclear how the Wolverines' young-
er players will react to the grind of a 27-game
regular season, and the possibility of an injury
looms large for a team with just 10 players on
the roster. Despite Michigan's outstanding tal-
ent, quite a few questions remain. Finishing the
season with a record above .500 and earning a
WNIT berth would be an impressive accom-
plishment for this year's Wolverines.
But Burnett set her sights high, and she doesn't
plan on lowering the bar for her team.
"Going by experience, we have had teams
accomplish things that only the coaches and
players thought were possible," Burnett said
before the season. "I am a dreamer. I believe
anything is possible and you do not limit your-
self. I feel that if you work hard, it pays off. So
yes, every year I believe we should be and could
be in the NCAA Tournament."

ALEXANDER DZIADOSZ/Daily
Even with a 44 record, Michigan coach Cheryl
Burnett expects to end up in the NCAA&Toumament.

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