JULY 8, 2002 11
By J. Brady McColloughl
Daily Sports Editor
After an inconsistent senior season
that finished with a dramatic upswing in
the NCAA Tournament, former Michi-
gan goaltender Josh Blackburn is prepar-
ing himself for the jump to the NHL.
Blackburn, who was drafted in the
fifth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft
by the Phoenix Coyotes, is currently in
Phoenix working with the Coyotes' staff'
at a rookie training camp. Michigan
goalie coach Stan Matwijiw said that the
purpose of the camp is for the Coyotes to
give the players an introduction to the
training the NHL requires and to learn
more about the players personally.
"They're running him through some
aerobics, weight training, and they're on
the ice every day," Matwijiw said. "He's
working hard, losing a lot of weight."
Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers
said that Blackburn is currently in con-
tract negotiations with the Coyotes and
that he will most likely sign with them.
Matwijiw believes that "it's pretty much
carved in" that his student will play for
the Springfield Falcons of Massachu-
setts, the Coyotes' AHL affiliate, next
season. Blackburn and the Coyotes'
could not be reached for comment.
"Do I think Josh is ready to 'trup in
this year? No," Matwijiw sai.. "Do I
think he has the potential to make it to
the NHL? Absolutely, without a doubt.
"I've known him for three years now,
and we've grown to have a relationship,
and I've never seen him as determined
as he is now about the challenge that's
ahead of him."
Former Michigan netminders Steve
Shields (1991-94) and Marty Turco
(1995-98) were able to meet the chal-
lenge - but not without enduring some
struggles. Shields spent two years in the
minor leagues and two years as a back-
up with the Buffalo Sabres organization
before establishing himself with the
San Jose Sharks. Turco spent two full
years in the minors before backing up
Ed Belfour with the Dallas Stars for the
past two seasons. Turco, who won
national championships at Michigan in
1996 and 1998, has been named the
starter in goal for Dallas next season.
"Not a lot of rookie goalies step right
in," Powers said. "Shields and Turco
have found a way to create a name for
themselves, and Blackie's story, he has
to write it, and where it goes, that's up
to Josh. Potential-wise, there's not a big
difference in those kids:'
"I think the kid's a big-time fig htr,
competitor, and that is something that
Safety nets return to
Yost Arena next season
By Charles Paradis
Yost Ice Arena will feature a new
addition next season .- safety nets.
After the tragic death of Brittanie
Cecil, a 13-year-old fan at a Columbus
Blue Jackets' game, the NHL mandated
that teams put up safety nets. Michigan
has decided on its own to install netting
at Yost to protect spectators. Michigan
had nets in the past but removed them
when the 10-foot glass was installed.
"From a preventative standpoint,
after we saw what happened to that lit-
tle girl, we just said we're not going to
take any chances," Michigan Athletic
Director Bill Martin said. "Although the
incidence is very rare, it is not worth the
The nets will be placed in the end-
zone sections of Yost.
"We have a lot of pucks that enter the
stands in the endzones," Martin said.
"They go in the stands before a game
during the practice."
While some fans may worry that the
nets will obscure their view, the fine
micro-mesh material installed at Yost
should not interfere too much with
fans' vision of the game.
Michigan joins many other CCHA
schools who already have netting. Of
the 12 teams in the CCHA, just three
- Ohio State, Nebraska-Omaha and
Michigan State ---do not have nets.
BABY, I GOT YOUR MONEY: The NCAA
recently awarded honorariums to the
schools that hosted the NCAA Region-
als. Michigan did not receive as much of
the profits generated from the event as it
hoped. The University was supposed to
receive 15 percent of the earnings, but
Michigan's share was reduced by 33 per-
cent, due to crowd control issues. While
the athletic department does not know
exactly what went wrong with the crowd
Martin believes it was probably some-
thing he had warned fans about before.
"I don't know specifically (what went
wrong)," Martin said. "We are looking
into that right now, and we want to get
the specifics on it. I believe it was proba-
bly inappropriate language by our fans."
Last season, Martin set out to clean
up the language used at Yost by writing
a, letter to students. Despite Michigan
losing almost $10,000 due to the crowd,
Martin is not sure fans will cease with
the vulgar cheers.
"Well I don't know (if they will stop),
but you can bet that we are going to
have further discussions with our fans,"
Martin said. "We love our students, we
just want them to act in an appropriate
manner and in a Michigan manner and
be respectful to our guests."
Michigan also lost 25 percent of its
honorarium because it turned in the
financial report late. The University's
report was turned in late because those
who serviced the event turned in their
financial reports to Michigan late. For
these two reasons, Michigan was only
awarded $20,615.25 instead of receiv-
ing the full $30,923.30.
Former Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn has been working on his foot-speed
and agility with Michigan goalie coach Stan MatwijIw.
attracted us to him. I think te has that
intangible of desire."
Blackburn struggled throughout
much of his senior season, and the turn-
ing point could have been his lackluster
performance against Michigan State in
a 3-1 loss at Joe Louis Arena on Feb.
16. The four-year starter allowed two
soft goals to the Spartans' Joe Goode-
now -- one of which was intended to
be a dump into the Michigan zone. But
Blackburn bounced back, giving up
1.75 goals per game in the Wolverines'
final four games - weekend sweeps of
Ohio State and Western Michigan - to
lead Michigan to the CC HA regular
"He was not sharp in (the Michigan
State game), but if you look at his sea-
son, you'll probably find two or three
individual games that every goalie
would want back," Powers said. "The
good thing about Blackie was that he
bounced back solid."
Blackburn was always at his best in
the postseason, and last season was no
different. With his collegiate career
coming to a close he was spectacular in
the net at the NCAA West Regional. He
stymied two of the nation's top teams in
St. Cloud and Denver and kept the
Wolverines in the game against Min-
nesota in the national semifinal,
"I think the bottom line is if you look
at his collegiate career, he's proven he's
a money goalie," Matwijiw said. "You
look at the NCAA Tournaments, and he
was our best player over the course of
any of those tournaments. That's some-
thing that NHIIL teams are looking for."
Powers was quick to point out that
Blackburn's game still needs some fine
tuning before he'll be ready to lead the
Coyotes into battle.
"He improved quite a bit playing the
puck as his four-year career progressed
here," Powers said. "He still needs to
get stronger and smarter with the puck.
When he came here, he didn't have any
confidence playing the puck.
"It seems like when Blackie is really
composed in the net, ie makes things
look easy. Hie won't get away with (ath-
leticism) at the next level There are too
many good shooters. He's not leaving
here a finished product"
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