16 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 26, 2004
Ryan Sosinu Daily Sports Editor
Photo illustration by Trevor Campbell
ast year's abrupt end to the Michigan hock-
ey season has left the class of 2005 with
one final chance to deliver the Wolverines
an NCAA championship. After seeing their first
three seasons end in devastating fashion, the team
feels that the barrier holding it back is a problem
of personal agendas. With the issue identified,
senior captain Eric Nystrom feels that their final
year in Ann Arbor could be their best.
"A few times a couple guys may have been on
their own agenda last season and that hurt the
team," Nystrom said. "We need to get everyone
on the same page and working toward the same
goal to accomplish it.
"(It is) a good opportunity for whole bunch
of guys to go out on top ... One last hurrah here,
and there is no turning back."
In 2001, two days before the Wolverines were
to take the ice in the Cold War game with
Michigan State, the class of 2005 roster was
finalized with the addition of walk-on Charlie
Henderson. Since then, the Michigan hockey
program has come to rely on the 11-member
class as the guiding force for the team.
From the first time they took the ice against
top-ranked Michigan State in front of 74,500
fans screaming in Spartan Stadium, the expecta-
tions were soaring.
"We knew that we would be a huge part of that
team, even in our first season, first game, first
nat, senior aesenseman nranoon Rogers said.
"Once we learned how things worked, the second
half became even more important because we
were counted on pretty heavily."
The group of seniors has, for the most part,
delivered. In his first game, a laid back forward
from Alaska, senior Jason Ryznar, scored a goal
and added an assist en route to a 3-3 tie. Since
then Michigan has seen two trips to the Frozen
Four and a pair of regional victories at Yost to go
with a 85-35-10 record.
"(An NCAA Championship) would be the
icing on the cake," Ryznar said. "I think that's
what you look forward to and expect when you
come to Michigan."
Yet an NCAA Championship has been the one
goal that has eluded one of Michigan's strongest
recruiting classes. Last season was the first year
the class of 2005 didn't make it to the Frozen
Four, bowing out to Boston College in overtime
of the Northeast Regional final. With last year's
captain, Andy Burnes, the only senior with regu-
lar playing time, the season also marked the first
time the class was called upon to truly lead the
team. They had to go beyond leaders on the stars
page, the coaching staff expected them to truly
step up in a leadership role.
"Getting to the Frozen Four is tough," Nystrom
said. "To get (to the Frozen Four) twice and not
even make it to the championship game, I think
(not winning a title) wouto be a disappointment.
Despite having both alternate captains coming
from their class last season in Rogers and Nys-
trom, the group failed to deliver a level of leader-
ship that the coaching staff felt it could.
"We are just asking the seniors that they take
more ownership in this team," Associate Head
Coach Mel Pearson said. "I think when you're a
junior, you don't see the light at the end of the
tunnel and say 'hey, this is it.'"
For Michigan to even consider a run at the
NCAA title, it will need every member of its
dynamic senior class to buy into the program
and play as ateam
"I think we have a pretty strong team heading
into this year," Rogers said. "A lot of special
things could happen if we're all willing to buy
into it and play as a team. If we put the team
before ourselves, I think it will work out."
A tour around the locker room reveals 11 dis-
tinctive characters. From the team jokester Milan
Gajic to Dwight Helminen, a quiet guy off the ice
who lets his game do the talking on it. There is
Eric Werner, who Pearson describes as a "flash and
dash" type player for his offensive prowess from
the blue-line, and Rogers who epitomizes the stu-
dent athlete both in the classroom and on the ice.
The hard working walk-on Henderson, the
steady Nick Martens, the physical Michael Wood-
ford and the gritty David Moss have all proved to
be pleasant surprises tor mte wolvermes. Au four
have been big contributors since their arrival in
Ann Arbor. Reilly Olson rounds out the class but
didn't see any game action last year.
"We have a cast of different characters,"
Pearson said. "I think that's what makes the
group so strong."
Nystrom, who was drafted in the first round of
the 2002 Entry Draft, has been the group's leader
since the beginning and knows how important it
is that the 11 seniors work together not only for
themselves but for the other 15 guys on the team.
"Our class is two totally different classes when
we are working together, when we're working hard,
when we're playing for the team. If we're not doing
that, it's like we are just a bunch of individuals,"
Nystrom said. "That's one thing we need to show
all the younger guys: that we're working together,
we're a big part of the team. If we can get every-
body else on board, it could be a great year."
If history repeats itself, Pearson believes he
will see 11 seniors putting up the best seasons of
their careers. It is a recipe for success that could
find the class of 2005 winning their swan song,
fulfilling the last of the expectations.
"I think this is going to be an awesome
year, but just because we have 11 seniors
doesn't mean we are going to go out and cake-
walk through the season," Nystrom said. "We
have to play."
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