Big Preview of Things to Come Michigan State and Michigan could well meet again for the NCAA title

October 14, 2001

It was hockey on a Brobdingnagian scale, an oversized, ready-made
epic. Last Saturday night at Spartan Stadium, Michigan State and
Michigan, two powerhouses, played to a 3-3 tie before 74,554
fans, the largest crowd in hockey history. (The previous largest
attendance, 55,000, was for a Sweden-U.S.S.R. match at Lenin
Stadium in Moscow in 1957.) The 238th game of this 79-year-old
rivalry took place on a sheet of ice laid between the 18-yard
lines of the Spartans' football field. Inauspiciously billed the
cold war, it ended in a stalemate after 65 chippy minutes. The
game didn't resolve which school deserved the state's bragging
rights, but it did reinforce the belief that both teams will
contend for the NCAA title.

The crowd, which was more than 10 times larger than the capacity
at Munn Ice Arena, Michigan State's usual home, got its money's
worth: There was Wolverines junior Mike Cammalleri scoring twice,
the first on a breakaway against 2001 Hobey Baker Award-winning
goaltender Ryan Miller, a junior. There was Spartans freshman
forward Jim Slater banging home the tying goal from the slot with
only 47 seconds remaining and the Michigan State net empty.
"Awesome," said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who's in his 18th
season with the Wolverines. "Two top teams, the fans. I thought
I'd seen everything in hockey, but this was incredible."

Although it needed that late goal to salvage a tie, Michigan
State, which lost in last year's NCAA semifinals to North Dakota,
is still the favorite to win the Frozen Four. Built around
Miller--last season he was 31-5-4 with a 1.32 goals-against
average and a .950 save percentage, the last being a
single-season NCAA record--the Spartans allowed 1.36 goals per
game, fewest in the nation. Moreover, Michigan State's four top
defensemen are back; the pairings of seniors Andrew Hutchinson
and Jon Insana and juniors Brad Fast and John-Michael Liles
combined for 81 points and were +71. Three of the Spartans' six
leading scorers are gone, but senior wingers Brian Maloney (15
goals and 23 assists) and Adam Hall (18, 12) will provide more
than enough punch for this stingy bunch. Michigan State will go
as far as Miller takes it, and he's championship material.

Miller's counterpart at Michigan, senior and four-year starter
Josh Blackburn, is no slouch. His 2.29 goals-against average last
season was second in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association
(CCHA) to Miller's, and his nine career shutouts are two shy of
the Wolverines' record. Sophomore Mike Komisarek (16 points,
+17), who was selected seventh by the Montreal Canadiens in
June's NHL draft, is the backbone of the blueliners. Make no
mistake, though, Michigan will make its living on offense, which
is led by Cammalleri (29, 32), who should thrive on Berenson's
top line between newcomer Jason Ryznar and junior Jed Ortmeyer.
"Ryznar might be a freshman, but he plays like a senior," says
Cammalleri. "On my second goal he noticed I was skating on my
backhand, and he put the puck there real soft, so all I had to do
was shovel it in." Strong freshman classes are Berenson's
trademark, and it will only take one or two rookie breakouts for
the Wolverines to challenge the Spartans for the CCHA
championship.

Here are the other top 10 teams, listed in descending order.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) is the nation's
deepest conference--last season it sent a record five schools to
the 12-team NCAA tournament--and if preseason favorite Colorado
College can withstand the bump-and-grind of league play, it will
lead the charge back to the Frozen Four. Hobey Baker shortlisters
Mark Cullen (20 goals), a senior, and Peter Sejna (29), a
sophomore, each scored 50 points last season on coach Scott
Owens's No. 1 line. Ten of the Tigers' top 12 scorers, who
accounted for 77% of Colorado College's goals, are back. Senior
goalie Jeff Sanger holds Tigers career records for wins (55) and
shutouts (nine), but he faces the challenge of working behind a
defense that may have as many as three freshmen playing
regularly. "The one area in which we may be suspect is on
defense," says Owens. "We'll rely heavily on Jeff until those
freshmen adjust to the quicker pace of the college game."

At Minnesota, third-year coach Don Lucia, a crack recruiter, also
has demonstrated a facility for getting the most from his touted
freshmen: The Gophers' 2000-01 rookie class was No. 1 among all
freshman classes in scoring, with 52 goals and 65 assists. Winger
Grant Potulny had a pair of power-play goals in his second game
and never looked back. He led the NCAA with 16 man-advantage
goals on a unit that converted an impressive 25.4% of its
opportunities. Classmates Troy Riddle (16, 14) and Matt Koalska
(10, 14) joined Potulny on the WCHA All-Rookie team, while
another freshman, Jon Waibel, helped the penalty-killing unit
ring up an 88.5% success rate. Minnesota's linchpin, however,
isn't a Lucia import. Six-foot, 208-pound senior Jordan Leopold,
an offensive-minded blueliner who came to Minneapolis under
Lucia's predecessor, had 49 points last season, tying North
Dakota's Travis Roche, who's playing for the Minnesota Wild farm
team in Houston this season, for the most among college
defensemen.

The blue line crew at Providence in 2000-01 was among the best in
Friars history. It helped produce a 2.70 goals-against average,
the lowest in the 49 seasons of hockey at Providence. That unit,
which again will play in front of stalwart junior goaltender
Nolan Schaefer, returns virtually intact and will be bolstered by
the addition of two standouts from the New England Junior Coyotes
of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL): Jeff Mason and Eric
Lundberg. Mason was named the EJHL's top defenseman after scoring
55 points in 54 games. Junior center Devin Rask, Hockey East's
leading returning scorer (23, 28), leads a deep group of forwards
that features six 25-point scorers, including junior Jon
DiSalvatore, who had six goals for the U.S. at the World Junior
Championships last winter. With defending national champ Boston
College decimated by losses to graduation and the NHL,
traditionally hard-hitting Hockey East is uncommonly weak. Only
two teams besides Providence--Maine and New Hampshire--appear to
have any chance of making the NCAA tournament.

North Dakota's glittering new $100 million Ralph Engelstad Arena
generated controversy (SI, Oct. 8) in the off-season, but what
the Fighting Sioux, the NCAA runners-up last year, lost over the
summer deserves pub as well--forward Jeff Panzer (26, 55), the
nation's leading scorer; goaltender Karl Goehring (16-6-6, .918
save percentage); and Trevor Hammer, a four-year starting
defenseman, all left, while forward Bryan Lundbohm (69 points,
second in the nation) and defenseman Travis Roche left North
Dakota for the farm teams of the Nashville Predators and the
Wild, respectively. "We lose great players every year," says
senior captain Chad Mazurak, a defenseman. "We have a lot of new
faces, and it will take a few games to get everyone going, but
we'll be fine after that."

The Fighting Sioux, winners of four of the last five WCHA
regular-season titles, will lean on Mazurak and senior defenseman
Aaron Schneekloth. A question mark will be goalie Andy Kollar,
who was 13-2-3 as Goehring's backup last year but who hasn't been
tested on a regular basis.

The season opens under a pall at Maine because of the Sept. 24
death of coach Shawn Walsh, 46, from renal cell carcinoma. In 17
seasons with the Black Bears, Walsh was 399-214-44 and produced
two national championships (1993 and '99) and two Hobey Baker
winners (Scott Pellerin in '92 and Paul Kariya in '93). Tim
Whitehead, an assistant under Walsh in '90-91, was brought back
last month after having coached UMass-Lowell for the past five
years. Whitehead will benefit from a soft early schedule: Maine
doesn't play a Hockey East opponent with a winning conference
record until it meets New Hampshire on Dec. 1. Winger Martin
Kariya (12, 24), the Black Bears' leading scorer and third in the
line of Kariya brothers in Orono, is the offensive key.

The third in another band of brothers, Harvard's Dominic Moore,
is the reason the Crimson, 16-15-2 a year ago, will bust into the
top 10. Dominic, a junior playmaking center who followed brothers
Mark and Steve to Cambridge, is on the verge of blossoming into
the best forward in the Eastern College Athletic Conference
(ECAC) after leading Harvard in scoring with 15 goals and 28
assists in 2000-01. Moore is the centerpiece of third-year coach
Mark Mazzoleni's rebuilding project. His strong recruiting paid
dividends last season when the Crimson had its first .500-plus
record in seven years. Goaltending is a concern for Harvard,
which lost the conference's best netminder, Oliver Jonas (.915
save percentage), to graduation. Sophomore Will Crothers, junior
Ben Weiss and freshman Dov Grumet-Morris, who have only 80
minutes of college experience among them, will compete for the
starting job.

There's no such concern between the pipes at Cornell, where
senior Matt Underhill (.928 save percentage, 1.88 goals-against)
is second only to Michigan State's Miller among the nation's
keepers. As with any club built around a superior goalie, the Big
Red thinks defense first; last year its 2.18 goals-allowed
average and 90.3% penalty-kill rate were both second in the
nation behind the Spartans. All 10 of Cornell's top scorers are
back, and coach Mike Schafer believes his team, which was not
included among the top 15 clubs in the USA Today/American Hockey
Magazine preseason poll, is underappreciated. "It's
disappointing," Schafer says of the omission, "but we can use
that as motivation. We'll have to earn respect as the season goes
on."

While it's not in Michigan State's or Michigan's league,
Nebraska-Omaha, beginning only its fifth year of hockey, is a
clear No. 3 in the CCHA. The Mavericks' four leading scorers from
a year ago, including junior captain David Brisson (22, 25) and
senior winger Jeff Hoggan (12, 17), return. Nebraska-Omaha must
improve its power play, which converted only 15.2% of its chances
last season, though All-America junior defenseman Greg Zanon did
his part by leading the Mavericks with eight power-play goals.
The special teams' flip side remains strong--Nebraska-Omaha's
penalty killers ranked 10th in the nation--and goalie Dan Ellis,
who made the CCHA All-Rookie team last season, set school records
for wins (21), save percentage (.911) and goals-against average
(2.48).

Although the Mavericks are not likely to challenge for the
conference's top two spots, they must avoid careless play on the
road to lock up third place. Last season Nebraska-Omaha was 1-7
in its first eight away games, which included getting swept at
less-than-stellar opponents Lake Superior State and Merrimack.

If the Michigan-Michigan State game presaged the rest of the
season, it will be a larger-than-life year. As for a
Wolverines-Spartans rematch in the Frozen Four, history teaches
that cold war clashes tend to flare up again and again.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Round 1 Cammalleri, who lost this duel with Miller, scored twice as the Wolverines and Spartans tied 3-3 before a record 74,554 fans. COLOR PHOTO: CASEY B. GIBSON Player of the year candidate Cullen will lead the Tigers' charge toward a national title. COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Don't expect Ben Eaves of B.C. or Pat O'Leary of North Dakota to meet for the title again.

North Dakota's hopes for an NCAA crown took a blow when it lost
five key players.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)