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January 18, 2006 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-18

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Wednesday
January 18, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

PRTSiotgn Bailq

9

Blue shut
out by
Spartans
By Daniel Levy
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - Michigan State alter-
nate-captain Colton Fretter sent Michigan for-
ward T.J. Hensick head over heels with a vicious
I hip-check early in the second period of last
night's game between No. 6 Michigan and No.
19 Michigan State. But the biggest blow to the
Wolverines came a few minutes later.
Trailing 1-0 at Munn Ice Arena, Michigan
looked to get back into the game on its power
play. With the face-off in the Spartans' zone,
Michigan State forward David Booth slapped
the puck back to Spartan
defenseman Jared Night-
ingale. Instead of clearing 12110GA .9 MR
the puck all the way down
the ice and forcing the
Wolverines to reset their offense, Nightingale
lobbed the puck over Michigan's defensemen,
and forward Bryan Lerg had snuck open at cen-
ter ice. Lerg skated in all alone on Wolverine
goalie Noah Ruden, faked a shot to freeze him
and then flipped the puck past him for a short-
handed score.
"That's the turning point in the game right
there," Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said.
"You can battle all the way to the end one goal
down, but when they score short-handed, you
have to get two now. With the way they were
playing defense, it made it a lot tougher."
With his cousin Jeff Lerg stopping 31 shots to
shut out the Wolverines, Lerg's goal proved to be the
icing on the cake in Michigan State's 2-0 win.
Michigan's (8-5-1 CCHA, 13-8-1 overall) best
opportunity might have come just a minute into
the game, when forward Chad Kolarik found
freshman Tim Miller wide open on the oppo-
site side of the net. The Wolverines appeared

Chemistry needs
to improvet Icers
want NC A bid

TREVOR CAMPBELL/Daily
Forward Bryan Lerg put the game away when he beat goaltender Noah Ruden to extend the lead to 2-0.

poised to take the early lead, but Lerg slid over
to make the save from point-blank range. Mich-
igan State's defenders did a great job limiting
Michigan's scoring chances after that, and on
those rare occasions when the Wolverines did
get a good shot on net, Lerg was there to make
the stop.
"They did a great job clogging the middle and
forcing us wide," Ebbett said. "He had a lot of easy
shots to stop. We didn't get much traffic on him."
The game got off to a slow start, with both
teams trying to get a feel for their opponent as
well as the officiating. Once the players real-
ized the referees were letting the play go, the
hitting picked up and so did the action. Both
goalies were put to the test early, but it was
Michigan State (7-5-4, 13-8-5) that controlled
play for much of the first period.
"We've been talking about getting off to good starts,
and now we have to stop talking and do it," Ebbett said.
"We haven't had a (good) first period in a long time"
Michigan survived the early pressure thanks
to Ruden, but then shot itself in the foot with
two unnecessary penalties. Late in the first
period, Wolverine forward Jason Bailey was
called for contact to the head, elbowing while

trying to make a play in the offensive zone. On
the delayed penalty against Michigan, Wolver-
ine alternate-captain Matt Hunwick was whis-
tled for cross-checking, resulting in a two-man
advantage for Michigan State.
The Spartans capitalized on the game's first
penalties. Michigan State defenseman Corey
Potter found captain Drew Miller open right
next to Ruden. The goalie made the save, but
the puck came loose in front of the crease.
In the resulting scrum, Fretter was quickest
to the rebound, and he banged the puck in to
give Michigan State a 1-0 lead. The goal was
reviewed, but ultimately stood.
"We nearly got through (the 5-on-3 power
play)," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "We
got through one minute and 20 seconds, and
then they scored. That was a huge goal in the
game."
Michigan State continued to dominate play in
the third period, and the final score could have
been more lopsided.
"We weren't good enough to win this game the way
we played start to finish," Berenson said. "They were
the hungrier team, they got the lead and they were the
better team."

EAST LANSING -
ast night, after freshman
defenseman Mark Mitera was
whistled for a penalty late in
the second period, a Michigan player
lofted the puck down the
ice and into Michigana
State's empty net. At that
point, I cracked a joke
about how sad it would
be if it was all Michigan
could muster against the
Spartans.
Unfortunately, my pre- &
diction came true.
The shot was a sign of
the Wolverines' frustra-JAME
tion on a night when they
couldn't mount more than D
two legitimate chances jam
against Michigan State's
freshman goaltender Jeff Lerg. All
night long, the less talented but more
refined Spartans drove the Wolver-
ines out to the boards, preventing
any easy shots and rebounds, and, in
turn, goals.
In the days leading up to the
game, Michigan coach Red Berenson
warned the media about Michigan
State's chemistry. After seeing the
Spartans dismantle Alaska-Fair-
banks on two consecutive nights last
weekend, Berenson said he realized
his team needed to gel and play in
sync if it was to have any chance of
leaving East Lansing with a victory.
But chemistry and synchroniza-
tion don't occur overnight. During
last Friday's exhibition game against
the U.S. National Team Development
Program, it was clear that many of
the Wolverines were not on the same
page. The nation's top 18-year-olds
jumped out to an early lead that they
surrendered only after the Wolver-
ines notched two power play goals
during a five-minute major penalty.
And, last night, it was apparent
that Sunday's and Monday's prac-
tices were not enough to get the
team back on track. Time and time
again, Michigan failed to establish
a presence on the power play. The
chemistry wasn't any better on the
penalty kill when a breakdown in
communication allowed Michigan
State forward Bryan Lerg to corral
the puck and break in on goaltender
Noah Ruden all alone.
The team has had a rough go since
returning from the holiday break. It
appeared to be in good shape during
its first game back with a 4-0 win
over Alaska-Fairbanks, but the three
games since then have highlighted
serious on-ice chemistry problems.
All would be well if these prob-
lems could be fixed before the Wol-

"E
es

verines suited up for another game.
But having played a Tuesday night
game, Michigan is left with just two
days of practice before a home-and-
home series with Bowling Green,
winners of eight of its last 10.
Having seen how little
two days of practice did
to ameliorate prob-
lems since the exhibi-
tion game, it's hard to
imagine the Wolverines
winning two games this
weekend in a series they
desperately need three or
four points out of.
Once they get through
S V. Bowling Green, things
don't get any easier.
WOn The following week-
On... end, Michigan faces off
against the Spartans
twice - once at Munn Ice Arena
and once at Joe Louis Arena.
Looking at the series' recent his-
tory, Michigan and Michigan State
have been closely matched on every
occasion. Each of the previous three
meetings ended in a tie, and the one
prior ended on an overtime goal by
Michigan State's Colton Fretter.
In a hard-fought rivalry, games
are always close and are often won
or lost with a single mistake. It's dif-
ficult to pin down any one miscue
as the reason why Michigan lost
(although bad penalties immediately
come to mind). The Wolverines'
flaws were more in preparation and
chemistry.
It's hard to say what Berenson and
captain Andrew Ebbett will cook
up to help the team gel together,
but their success in doing so is vital
to Michigan's hopes of earning an
NCAA Tournament bid.
My recommendation: Take a look
at the tape of Michigan's victory over
Boston College back in October. What-
ever went right for the team in the days
leading up to that game made the dif-
ference in a victory over the Eagles,
who are now ranked second in the
nation.
The first period of the game against
Boston College had me excited, because
it looked like Michigan couldn't be
beat. Its passes went tape-to-tape, the
defensemen complemented each other
well and forwards held back with the
blue liners pinched. It was a perfect
example of ideal team chemistry.
This team certainly has the talent
to win. The freshmen's skill sets have
matured enough to contribute on a
nightly basis. Now it's just a matter
of pulling together as a team. Or else.

Wolverines look to race past 'Cats

By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Writer

The Michigan men's basketball team
wants to speed up, but all Northwestern
wants to do is slow down.
The Wolverines not only want to speed
up their tempo against the Wildcats -
they also want to bring their season back
up to speed after a disappointing start to
conference play.
"We're 1-2 (in the Big Ten), we're
not where we wanted to be," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "Obviously,
we wanted to be 3-0 after three games.
There (are) some things that we can cer-
tainly improve on."
Improvement will be key in picking
up a win tonight at Crisler Arena. The
Wildcats enter tonight's game with a 2-
2 conference record and also hold the
momentum in the recent series. Last sea-
son, they defeated Michigan in two of the
teams' three matchups last seasons.
But after facing more typical and up-
tempo attacks in its first three conference
games, the Wolverines must improve
while facing an offensive style that they
rarely get a glimpse at. Northwestern sub-
scribes to the old-school offensive phi-
losophies of its coach Bill Carmody, who
learned the system from
his mentor, former Princ- -
eton coach Pete Carril. The TO
Princeton offense relies on Nort
slowdown tactics, regularly
draining the shot clock until
its waning seconds.
"They have a little bit Cr
different offense, kind of E
an unorthodox gameplan,"
Michigan senior forward
Graham Brown said.
Said senior Daniel Horton: "We have
to come out and be disciplined and
patient on defense and hold them to one

western's slowdown offense, Michigan
also faces a challenge in the early stage
of the game. Recently, the Wolverines
have struggled at the outset, failing to
shoot more than 43 percent in the first
half of any conference contest. Michigan
has not held a halftime lead in any of its
conference games thus far.
"It will be really important for us to get
off to a good start, especially at home,"
junior forward Brent Petway said. "If we
can get off to a good start, then I think it
will get us going and get the fans going,
and it will help us even more."
The fans at Crisler could be a deter-
mining factor. Northwestern plays in
front of a measly average crowd of just
3,778 fans at home, nearly three times
smaller than the conference average. A
large and hostile crowd could cause fits
and overwhelm a team like Northwest-
ern.
But the Wildcats will not lie down for
Michigan. Even though they're entering
tonight's game on a two-game losing
streak, Northwestern won its first two
conference games - including a road
victory against Minnesota. The Wild=
cats' 2-2 conference start has shown that
there's no such thing as an easy win in
the Big Ten.
"We're going to have to go out there
and play as hard as we can and try to get
a victory," Brown said. "Northwestern is
a good team, we can't look ahead."
NOTES: To help promote a Crisler
homecourt advantage, the Michigan
Athletic Ticket Department is offering a
"Buy Two Get Two" promotion for the
Wolverines' Jan. 28 matchup against
Wisconsin. By buying two tickets for
the Wisconsin game, a fan will then be
awarded two free tickets to either the
upcoming Ohio State or Illinois games.
Both games are in February and will be
nationally televised on ESPN.

-Dowd can be reached
atjvdowd@umich.edu

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Junior forward Brent Petway hopes to energize the Wolverines in tonight's game.

shot. (We'll) have to find ways to impose
our will on the game and force the tempo
that (we) want to play at."
Although Northwestern's slow and
methodical offense
results in lower-scor-
NIGH T ing games - it aver-
ages a Big Ten-low 59.9
eigan points per game - the
Wildcats still boast the
conference's leading
SAescorer, forward Vedran
_a_/ENti Vukusic.
"He's a great player
for them,' Brown said.
"He can go inside-outside, he can shoot
the lights out ... It's just something we're
going to have to shut down. We'll have to
do whatever we can to get a hand up on

his shots and prevent him from having
open looks."
Vukusic averages 21.3 points per game,
using a combination of outside shooting
and crafty cuts to create matchup prob-
lems for the defense. Amaker hopes to
employ a variety of defensive looks to
help prevent yet another player from tak-
ing over a game, like Indiana's Robert
Vaden and Illinois' Dee Brown both did
in Michigan's earlier conference losses.
"There's no question about it that he's
a tough matchup for us because of his
versatility," Amaker said. "Certainly,
rotating a few of our guys on him prob-
ably is the best solution that we're going
to come up with to slow him down."
Aside from the challenges of combat-
ing Vukusic and dealing with North-

11,GE1Oto.

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Board for Student
Publications
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The Board is responsible for three publications which

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