Bittersweet Goalie Marty Turco was thrilled when he and the Wolverines won the NCAA title, save for one thing: It was his last game at Michigan

April 13, 1998
April 13, 1998

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April 13, 1998

Pro Football

Bittersweet Goalie Marty Turco was thrilled when he and the Wolverines won the NCAA title, save for one thing: It was his last game at Michigan

Surely Michigan senior goalie Marty Turco was ecstatic. There he
was, having just been named the MVP of the NCAA Final Four,
celebrating the Wolverines' national title by dancing little
jigs on a rink strewed with all the gloves and sticks he and his
teammates had tossed into the air. Then he skated from one end
of Boston's FleetCenter to the other, proudly holding a Michigan
flag aloft. Later in the dressing room Turco's voice was loud
and lusty when the Wolverines convened to sing the most
appropriate version of Hail to the Victors they had crooned all

This is an article from the April 13, 1998 issue Original Layout

Yet through all of this rejoicing a frown would sometimes crease
Turco's face, his brow would tense, his attention would suddenly
stray. If you watched him, you would notice that each time he
hugged one of his ebullient teammates, he would hold on very
tight. "This is a great, great win," he said in the locker room
after the game, "but this is also a sad night for me. I mean,
it's all over--the best time in my life. Isn't there some way I
can get another four-year scholarship to Michigan?"

There will be no encore for Turco in Ann Arbor, but the tenure
he completed last Saturday, when freshman forward Josh Langfeld
scored 17:51 into overtime to give the Wolverines a 3-2 win over
Boston College and their second NCAA hockey championship in
three years, was perhaps the most accomplished in the history of
college goaltending. A moderately regarded recruit out of Sault
Sainte Marie, Ont., who was drafted 124th by the Dallas Stars in
1994, Turco won the Michigan starting job as a freshman and led
the Wolverines to four straight Final Four appearances. He
finished his college career with an astounding 127
victories--easily surpassing the NCAA record of 111, set by
Michigan's Steve Shields between 1990-91 and 1993-94. "We've had
some great players in the years I've been here," said senior
forward Matt Herr, "but the one thing that we have always done
is rally around Marty."

Michigan did that in the fast-paced and hard-hitting final last
Saturday. With just 4:09 gone in the first period, Turco allowed
a soft goal by BC's Kevin Caulfield. Instead of showing his
disappointment, he simply took a pull from his water bottle,
lowered his mask and went back to work.

He calmly withstood a three-shot flurry shortly afterward and
gloved a tough backhander by dangerous forward Blake
Bellefeuille early in the second period. Less than two minutes
after that save, Wolverines center Mark Kosick tied the game at
1-1. "Marty has a way of making every save he has to when he
knows the team needs a little life," Michigan coach Red Berenson
said last Friday. "He also makes a lot of saves that keep the
other team from getting any life."

Of the times Turco did the latter, none stood out as much as his
denial of Boston University's All-America winger Jay Pandolfo in
the 1996 NCAA semifinals. Michigan held a 2-0 lead late in the
first period when the defending champion Terriers were buzzing
on the power play. Pandolfo one-timed a cross-ice pass from 10
feet inside the blue line, and everyone expected the lead to be
cut in half. "Marty just moved over and gloved it," says
Berenson. "You could see the whole BU team look around after
that, like, What do we have to do to beat this guy? He made it
look easy."

That was Turco's style all along. At 6 feet and 185 pounds, he
liked to stay on his feet and take advantage of his good glove
hand. However, the asset that makes him a potential NHL goalie
is his ability to thrive in big games. As a freshman he made 52
saves in a 4-3 triple-overtime NCAA semifinal loss to Maine. In
this year's semis he turned away 19 shots and shut out New
Hampshire 4-0. "The biggest thing is that when the game is on
the line, he shuts the door," says Stars head scout Craig
Button. "That's the quality we're most excited about, and I
don't think there's another college goalie close to him."

It was also Turco's good fortune to have the demanding Berenson,
who played 17 seasons in the NHL, bearing down on him. When
Turco and his father, Vince, drove from Sault Sainte Marie to
Ann Arbor in 1994, Berenson grilled Marty for nearly an hour on
his ability to withstand pressure. When Turco had a careless
outing in an intrasquad match as a freshman, Berenson benched
him until he learned to maintain his concentration on the ice.
Just two weeks ago, after Turco allowed two bad goals, Berenson
was openly critical of him. "I don't mind having somebody put
pressure on me," said Turco. "When I have a bad outing, I look
forward to the next time because I know I'm going to do better."

He felt that same confidence in the final stages of Saturday's
championship game. From the moment Kosick scored his second goal
to forge a 2-2 tie with 6:12 left in the third period, Turco
knew the Wolverines were going to win. Those who played with him
when Michigan rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to beat
Colorado 3-2 in overtime in the 1996 title game never doubted
it. No one was surprised when Turco kicked aside a tough
off-balance wrist shot by the Eagles' splendid freshman wing
Brian Gionta 37 seconds into the extra period to keep the
Wolverines alive. "Turco just had such composure as the game
went on," said BC coach Jerry York.

He needed it. The swift-skating Eagles attacked aggressively in
their first championship-game appearance in 20 years, putting 30
shots on net. Forwards Bellefeuille, Gionta, Jeff Farkas and
Marty Reasoner repeatedly got behind the Michigan defense,
forcing Turco to thwart plays either by cutting off the
shooter's angle or making a quick reaction save. When Langfeld
scored the winning goal, Turco's record improved to 11-0-1 in
games in which he had faced 30 or more shots.

Long after all the other players had departed, Turco sat at his
corner stall and slowly peeled off his maize-and-blue number 35
jersey for the last time. "God, it was an honor to wear this,"
he said. Outside, his teammates had gathered giddily, and Vince
and Alma, who had driven five hours to watch their son play
every home game for four years, were eager to see him. But Marty
just sat for a while, skates on, still in his black protective
gear, not hurrying to meet anyone, not thinking about what his
future with the Stars might hold. He adjusted an elbow pad,
rested his forearms on his thighs and sat in that chair as if he
never wanted to leave.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER OVERTIME THRILLER Turco, here diving to knock the puck from BC's Farkas, turned away 28 shots in the Wolverines' 3-2 victory. [Jeff Farkas and Marty Turco in game]