The recent success of Michigan hockey has been built on the strength of three standout goaltenders: Steve Shields, Marty Turco and Josh Blackburn.
One of the strengths of this year”s squad is its veteran tandem between the pipes.
But when Blackburn and Kevin O”Malley graduate this spring, the Wolverines will need to depend on an unknown freshman at the most important position in the game in 2002-03.
The early signing period for hockey is fast approaching (Nov. 14-21), and it is not clear if the Wolverines have found a capable replacement.
“It”s a bit of a dilemma, but that has been the story of the Michigan hockey program for the last 12 years,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We”ve had pretty much one starting goalie play all four years.”
Shields started as a true freshman. Turco took over in his first year after Shields graduated. Blackburn was thrown into the fire as freshman starter as well.
“We”ve been fortunate,” Berenson said. “Our goalies have survived it early on and carried the torch admirably.”
Blackburn had a very impressive freshman campaign. After opening his career with a 2-0 shutout against Lake Superior, he posted a 25-10-6 record with a goals against average of just 2.28 the fourth best in the nation that year.
“It”s an amazing opportunity to play right away at a program like Michigan,” Blackburn said.
But there is no guarantee that that opportunity will be an easy process.
For example, Turco gave up seven goals in his first Blue-White intrasquad game.
“Everyone looked around and said “Gee, that is going to be our starting goalie,”” Berenson said. “But I had a lot of confidence in Marty that he would do fine, and he did.”
Turco went on to become arguably the best collegiate goaltender of all time. He finished his career as the all-time record holder in NCAA wins (127) and CCHA wins (82).
One of the most sought after recruits in the country is skating right here in southeast Michigan: Tim Roth
The Wolverines got a close look at Roth, the starting goalie for the U.S. Under-18 Development team, in an exhibition game this fall.
But Roth, who scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of his SAT, was speaking with a Harvard scout after the game.
“I”m not really looking at Michigan right now,” Roth said. “It”s a good school and a good program, but I haven”t made any choices.”
But Berenson remains confident that he will have a strong freshmen in the net next season.
“If I were a top-notch goalie, I”d be knocking the door down trying to get into Michigan,” Berenson said. “I”m sure we”ll find someone good.”