Michigan goalie recruit, Jason Bacashihua, decided last week not to join the Michigan hockey team. Bacashihua committed to the Wolverines in the fall, but was recently determined to be academically ineligible to compete next season.

Bacashihua, who for the past two years has played for the Chicago Freeze, a junior “A” hockey team, opted for the NHL Entry Draft instead, to be held at the end of this month automatically forfeiting his college eligibility.

According to Freeze general manager Kevin Rooney, the 18-year-old is projected to be drafted as high as the second or third round.

In hockey, a player can enter the draft after his 19th birthday and remain eligible to play at the NCAA level. If he opts for the draft before turning 19 like Bacashihua he loses his NCAA eligibility.

“If academics were not an issue, Jason would be coming in this fall,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “He put himself in a difficult situation during his first two years of high school. And now he was trying to dig himself out, and he wasn”t quite out of it yet.”

Bacashihua, who lacked the necessary combination of ACT scores and grade point average to be play for Michigan, would have needed to retake some classes next fall to become eligible.

Had he been eligible, Bacashihua would have backed up senior goalie Josh Blackburn, who will be making starts at goalie for the fourth consecutive year. With no other goalie recruits coming in, it was likely that Bacashihua would have become the starting goalie for the 2002 season.

“It won”t really change anything this year,” Berenson said. “Blackburn is still our starter and we have a very capable backup in Keven O”Malley.

“His opportunity to be the starting goalie wouldn”t have happened until the following year.”

Instead, Bacashihua will likely become the backup goalie for the Plymouth Whalers the major junior team that owns his rights next season. With the Whalers, he will not have the burden of schoolwork to worry about, enabling him to concentrate solely on hockey.

“Playing for Michigan was very important to him,” his mother Carol Bacashihua said from the family”s home in Dearborn. “That was his life long dream. From the time he started playing hockey, he had wanted to be a Wolverine.”

If Bacashihua had decided not to enter the draft, the coaching staff was willing to give him a second chance and keep a scholarship open for him the following year.

“Between the full scholarship to Michigan and the chance for him to live so close to home, I think this was a very difficult decision for him to make,” Freeze head coach Guy Perron said. “He sat down, listened to all the people, weighed all of his options and didn”t make his decision until the last second.”

The Michigan coaching staff is not worried about the loss of Bacashihua and is aware they have plenty of time to recruit a goalie for the 2002 season.

“All this means for our team is the following year we have the opportunity to recruit another goalie,” Berenson said. “I think we will get a lot of calls we already have from prospective goalies. This is one of the most enviable goalie opportunities in college hockey to play at Michigan.”

It is not unusual for a Michigan goalie to start as a freshman.

All three of the previous goalies Steve Shields, Marty Turko and Blackburn started for the entire length of their collegiate careers.

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