December 6, 2005
POleRTS igat ail
By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
Though December has long been known to Mich-
igan hockey fans as the month of the Great Lakes
Invitational, supporters of the Maize and Blue have
become accustomed to another tradition over the past
decade. While most of the Wolverines will suit up in
for the GLI like any other year, a select few will pull
red, white and blue sweaters over their heads.
Freshmen Jack Johnson and Mark Mitera will
suit up with sophomore Kevin Porter for the World
Junior Championships in Vancouver, B.C. Yester-
day morning, the three were named to this year's
United States squad.
"It's a great thrill and a big accomplishment," Mitera
said. "It's definitely really memorable when you get to
play for your country. It has been a goal of mine - espe-
cially coming up through the national team system - to
put on the sweater one more time."
Over the past few years, Michigan players have made
their mark on the tournament. Junior Matt Hunwick and
former Wolverine Al Montoya led the United States to
its first-ever gold medal two years ago.
All three of Michigan's representatives are opti-
mistic about the United States' chances, but they
agree that the team's success hinges on how well the
group bonds over a short period of time.
"I think we're definitely a contender," Mitera said.
"Over these past few years, we've definitely been a
gold medal contender. If we come out and play our
game and everyone is playing together and clicking,
we have a chance to come out pretty successful."
Johnson said he believes playing with two of his
teammates will help make his adjustment less dif-
ficult, especially during the holiday season.
Michigan coach Red Berenson was pleased to see
three of his players receive the honor of representing
their country. He expected Porter and Johnson to be
selections all along, but Mitera's inclusion came as a
"I think Mitera surprised them," Berenson said.
"I don't know that he was on their radar screen as
much as he is now. I think Johnson and Mitera, by
the way they have played here, have really helped
The downside is that the trio will miss the GLI,
where Michigan will face off with No. 4 Colorado
College and either Michigan State or Michigan Tech.
But Berenson said he believes that his players can
gain a lot from playing internationally.
"I've always tried to support not just USA Hockey,
Forget the Alamo?
This time, it's OK
e1 , at least San Antonio is a
fun city. Or so I've been told.
W Unfortunately, that's about
all there is to look forward to because
what happens in the Alamodome on the
night of Dec. 28 (a.k.a. four days before
New Year's Day) won't
mean a thing.
And I'm not saying that
because I think Michigan
will beat Nebraska easily.}
The Wolverines played aA
tougher schedule, but both
teams have 7-4 records. In
fact, I have a feeling the
game will be close even:
though Michigan will be a
big favorite - often times SHA
in second-tier bowl games,M
teams with more motiva-M
tion come out on top. Well, Mattu
it looks to me like all the
intangibles go to the Corn-
huskers: They didn't make it to a bowl
game last year, and their supporters
are about as rabid as Michigan fans are
But in the end, no matter the result,
the Alamo Bowl will be a meaningless
game, there's little we'll be able to learn
about Michigan from the contest.
While watching Saturday's games
under the impression the Outback Bowl
was the Wolverines' destination, the
thought of Michigan going up against a
quality SEC team was positively fright-
ening. But it would have been exactly
what the team needed.
The Wolverines are no longer a
bounce or two away from contending for
the national title year-in, year-out - even
if Michigan coach Lloyd Carr thinks so.
Though the Wolverines haven't fin-
ished a regular season with four losses
since 1994, the wait for another down
year might not be that long. Next season,
with trips to Notre Dame and Ohio State
on the schedule, it's more likely Michi-
gan finishes with three or four defeats
than one or two.
Sooner or later, Carr will have to
realize the Wolverines need to reload,
not retool. It could have happened last
winter, after mobile quarterbacks tore up
Michigan's defense at will. After losing
to Ohio State on Nov. 19, Carr seemed to
admit that bigger changes were needed.
But until they're implemented, it's hard
not to believe he'll err on the side of cau-
tion and do too little.
Because Carr has proven to be more
reactive than proactive, I almost find
myself hoping for Michigan to get beat-
en so badly that the need for wholesale
changes becomes undeniable. Of
course I root for Michigan, but I use
that argument to convince
myself that it wouldn't be
so bad if a demoralizing
loss ever happened.
Had the Wolverines
played in the Capital One
or Outback bowls against a
team like Louisiana State,
Auburn or Florida, there
would've been a chance to
see a game like that. But of
RAD course - probably because
CTU Michigan's fans aren't
fast expected to migrate south
Fuos, this year (no lottery for
students this year, we can
buy as many tickets as we
want!) - the Outback Bowl chose Iowa
over Michigan, even though both teams
had identical records and the Wolverines
won in Iowa City.
But instead, bring on the Cornhuskers.
I'm already hearing people say things
along the lines of, "This year sucked, but
at least we're not Nebraska."
Well, I'm not sure that would be so
bad. In 2003, after a 9-3 regular season,
Athletic Director Steve Pederson fired
coach Frank Solich and hired Bill Cal-
lahan, who had just been fired by the
Oakland Raiders. Pederson sensed that
Nebraska might continue to be a good
team under Solich but would never be
great. Pederson was criticized for act-
ing so swiftly, and people pointed to
Nebraska's struggles last year - includ-
ing a 70-10 loss to Texas Tech - as proof
of his cluelessness. Hiring Callahan
hasn't worked so well thus far, but it still
seems to me that Pederson knew what he
was doing. He didn't play things safe; he
wanted Nebraska to be the great program
it once was, and he went for it.
Carr has said that, since the creation of
the BCS, Big Ten titles and Rose Bowls
aren't good enough anymore, and that all
anyone cares about are national champi-
onships. Well, if Carr wants people talk-
ing about Michigan again, it'd be wise to
avoid San Antonio.
- If you see Manu Ginobili in San
Antonio, tell him Sharad Mattu can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freshman defenseman Jack Johnson was selected to represent the United States at the World Junior Championships.
but support the experience that a kid can have on a
world stage," Berenson said. "I think that experience
is really good. If your experience at Michigan can
help catapult you to that elite level for a few weeks, it
will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we should
In addition to the three American selections, fresh-
man Andrew Cogliano was invited to the Canadian
National Team camp. He will depart Ann Arbor after
this weekend's series with Nebraska-Omaha to com-
pete for a spot on the final roster.
"I think I have a pretty good chance (to make the
team)," Cogliano said. "I think I started off well
here and had a good summer camp, so they know
who I am. I went in there in the summer and coach
(Brent) Sutter really didn't know who I was coming
out of juniors, but I think he has a good idea of what
I can bring (now)."
Although Cogliano's numbers certainly jus-
tify his candidacy, he might find himself fighting
an uphill battle against major junior players from
"I don't khow the competition as well," Berenson
said. "But I know the kid. And if he gets a fair shot,
the chances are good. I think, competitively, he has a
leg up. I think, politically, he may not. All the man-
agement of the Canadian team will be major junior
coaches and so on. You're a player that turned your
back on major juniors to come to college, and now
you're trying for a team that is 99 percent major
The Canadian team has overlooked future NHL
stars, including former Michigan players Brendan
Morrison and Marty Turco, in the past. But Cogliano
said he hopes his impact at this summer's camp has
entrenched him in Sutter's mind. Cogliano believes
that Sutter will take Canada's best players, regardless
of what league they play in.
Should Cogliano make the Canadian team, it
would add another enjoyable dimension to the Michi-
gan players' experience when the United States and
Canada meet on New Year's Eve.
"There'll be a little bit of bragging rights, but it'll
be kind of fun," Johnson said. "Hopefully, I'll get to
line up against (Cogliano) and say 'hi' to him in the