November 8, 2005
By Mark Gannotto
Daily Sports Writer
Not only is Michigan wing Tyler Swys-
tun 17 years old, but he also happens to be
the youngest player on the Michigan hockey
He doesn't turn 18 until January, but that
hasn't stopped him from making his presence
felt early and often in the first nine games of
Time and time again this year, Swys-
tun has had good opportunities to notch a
goal, but he hasn't been able to convert his
chances. His lone point this season came
on a second-period goal against Merri-
mack on Oct. 16.
But Swystun hopes his luck will change
now that he is on a line alongside seniors
captain Andrew Ebbett and alternate cap-
tain Brandon Kaleniecki. Earlier this season,
Michigan coach Red Berenson shifted Swys-
tun around from line to line. But all the mov-
ing around seems to have been beneficial for
the Cochrane, Alberta, native now that he has
found a more permanent line.
"I've gotten to play with a variety of dif-
ferent guys," Swystun said. "You get to see
what kind of guys you can play with, and you
get to learn to play with each and every one
Being on a top line like the Ebbett/Kale-
niecki line would suggest high point totals
for the members of that shift. But so far this
season, Kaleniecki has struggled, collect-
ing just two points in nine games. Including
Swystun's two points, the line has totaled 13
points, representing the Wolverines' worst
offensive line. Despite the low point total, the
play of the three forwards has impressed the
"I think that line has played well," Beren-
son said. "Swystun has played better than his
youth would suggest. He's made some good
plays coming out of our zone, and he's gotten
better every week."
not a problem for Blue
'm sure a few of you opened up the newspaper Again, I don't want to read into Harris's struggles
yesterday, saw the eight-point differential in the too much. Everyone has off days, and although Harris's
ichigan men's basketball team's open- performance on Saturday was particularly
ing exhibition game against Division II brutal, the exhibition season is the time
Grand Valley State and immediately broke to work out these kinks. The Wolverines
into your best Chicken Little impression. will aim to get him more involved in the
"The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And offensive flow during their final exhibition
Michigan is headed for another horrendous against Northern Michigan. A successful
basketball season!" game could give him some confidence
Before you go hit up the message boards heading into the games that count.
and announce to the world how terrible - And, while the turnover situation and
you think Michigan basketball is, I recom- Harris's play left much to be desired,
mend you count to 10 and take a few deep Michigan looked sharp in number of
breaths. It was an exhibition game. Just a MATT other aspects of the game. Senior Daniel
measly exhibition game. Feel better now? SINGER Horton, for one, was simply brilliant in his
No, Michigan's 77-69 victory at Crisler return to the Maize and Blue. In Horton's
Arena wasn't the prettiest basketball I've Spitting Fre first appearance since Jan. 22, he notched
Freshman Tyler Swystun scored his first goal of the season against Merrimack on Oct. 16.
Unlike other freshmen forwards like Zac
MacVoy and Brandon Naurato, Swystun has
played every game this season. The coaching
staff has confidence in the youngster, evident
by his spot on a veteran line.
"I think the line I'm on right now with
(Kaleniecki and Ebbett) definitely has some
chemistry," Swystun said. "We have wheels,
and we have shooters. So we have a little bit
Teaming with the senior captains has
paid off for Swystun because he can draw
on their experiences and take his game to a
"A key thing they have said is that you
need to work hard and get pucks on the net,"
Swystun said. "They tell me where to be on
the ice in certain situations so I can comple-
ment them best."
Because Michigan has been on the power
play or the penalty kill so much this season,
Swystun's ice time has decreased, which has
been a big factor in his low offensive output.
The coaches do not have enough confidence
in the 17-year-old yet to put him out there dur-
ing special teams' play.
"The games are so much about the penalty
kill and power play right now that I only get
out on the ice for a couple even-strength shifts
a period," Swystun said.
In order to get more ice time, Swystun
needs to be out on the ice during special teams
situations. Right now, Michigan's penalty kill
and power play have been playing great with
mainstays Ebbett, Kaleniecki and junior T.J.
Hensick leading the way. But Swystun knows
what he needs to do to in order to receive
more playing time.
"I really have to minimize the mistakes
and make more smart plays that are team-
oriented so I can build a reputation up with
the coaches," Swystun said. "I know I've had
some ups and downs in my play, but I just got
to keep playing."
ever seen. No, that type of performance won't cut it
against Big Ten opponents. But final scores in pre-
season matchups are like Tigers games in September
- they don't matter.
But it is true that some potentially disturbing trends
reared their ugly heads. The Wolverines played an
incredibly sloppy game featuring almost every variety
of turnover: passes off big guys' knees, balls dribbled
off feet, lazy passes on the perimeter and miscom-
munications on backdoor cuts. The stat sheet doesn't
lie: 25 turnovers is an unacceptable total, and it is
especially worrisome given the Wolverines' turnover
problems last season.
But don't lose perspective. Any team will have some
rust to shake off in its first intersquad matchup of the
season. It's unreasonable to expect Michigan to be com-
pletely in tune its first time out.
And more than a few of the Wolverines' turnovers
were directly attributable to Grand Valley State's
unique style of play. Michigan's three primary post
players - Graham Brown, Courtney Sims and Chris
Hunter - combined for 13 turnovers, an uncommonly
high proportion for big men. The Lakers - who had
only just three players taller than 6-foot-4 - swarmed
the post with three or four small players each time a big
man received the ball on the blocks. Michigan's post
players were clearly flustered by this method, but few
Division I teams will utilize such an aggressive strategy
under the basket. In my mind, the real worry is turn-
over-prone play from the ballhandlers, and the Wolver-
ines didn't play horrendously in that respect.
Dion Harris's performance was also a potential cause
for concern. Michigan's ironman played a team-high 32
minutes in the exhibition opener but left without scor-
ing a single point. The junior was an afterthought in
Michigan's offense; he missed all five of his field goal
attempts and never found his way to the free-throw line.
a team-high 23 points, including a 4-for-7 performance
from downtown. The point guard also ran the fast break
effectively, dishing a game-high five assists.
Horton's triumphant return was just one positive
coming out of Michigan's first exhibition. With junior
Brent Petway out for the nonconference season due to
academic ineligibility, 6-foot-6 sophomore Ron Cole-
man got his first minutes as a collegiate power forward
and looked fairly comfortable. Granted, against the
Lakers, Coleman faced 6-foot-4 opponents. But in
his first effort in the post since high school, Coleman
displayed nice instincts around the basket. In just a few
minutes at the four position, he converted a put-back
bucket and just missed on a pretty baby hook attempt.
In addition, freshmen Jerret Smith and Jevohn Shep-
herd showed significant potential in their first outings
in Michigan uniforms. Smith displayed a quick first
step, driving past Laker defenders on a number of occa-
sions. Shepherd didn't make much of a contribution in
10 minutes of play but displayed his impressive verti-
cal leap while grabbing two boards. Neither freshman
played perfectly, but it's clear they have the raw talent to
contribute off the bench for Michigan this year.
Despite the final score, anyone who actually attended
the game (far fewer than the 7,959 the athletic depart-
ment claimed) would know that the Wolverines domi-
nated the Lakers for most of the exhibition. Holding a
24-point lead with 8:13 to go, Michigan lost its focus
in a game that simply didn't matter. If the Wolverines
do the same thing in a real game, I promise, I'll get on
But until then, I advise all those Chicken Littles to
stop their screaming. For now at least, the sky isn't
- Matt Singer can be reached at
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