There is no player whose role becomes more important to a hockey team during the playoffs than a goalie. A goalie is capable of catching fire and carrying a team to a championship or slipping up and causing an early exit for his team.
No example is more evident in recent Michigan history than when senior Marty Turco took a struggling team to its last championship when he got in a groove during the 1998 NCAA Championships, in which he allowed just six goals in four games. The Wolverines are looking for senior goaltender Josh Blackburn to give a similar performance this season in his last opportunity to win an NCAA Championship.
Part of the reason for the elevated importance of the goalie in the postseason is the existence of sudden-death overtime – during which any mistake by a goalie can end a team’s season. This makes every save big and every move critical as a team’s season stands on the brink.
If the pressure of being responsible for the team’s season was not enough, Blackburn will also face the task of trying to deny the nation’s other top offenses. But the easy-going Blackburn does not appear anxious about this responsibility nor are his coaches.
“As a goalie, there is no such thing as pressure,” Michigan goaltending coach Stan Matijiw said. “Pressure is either two things – something you put upon yourself or something you allow others to put upon you. With Josh we just try to go out and play every game the same way. Nothing changes come playoff time.”
Matijiw has stopped coaching Blackburn at this point in the season, instead encouraging him to “go with the flow and let him do his thing.” This seems to be the best strategy for the easy-going netminder who traditionally plays his best in clutch situations.
Not only is Blackburn confident in his ability in urgent situations, but he also has the confidence of his teammates, who need Blackburn to be on top of his game over the next month.
“All of the defensemen are confident in Blackie. He always seems to play his best at this time of year,” sophomore Mike Komisarek said. “He has his ups and downs like everyone else, but he pulls it together come playoff time.
“I am not sure if we had the team to go to the Frozen Four last year, but we definitely had the goaltender.”
Blackburn has earned this faith from his teammates with a 2.30 goals against average making him the 12th best goaltender in the nation. In addition, Blackburn has saved some of his best performances for last with a 1.75 goals against average in his last four games.
“I don’t really know what I do out there,” Blackburn said. “I just try and stay focused and pay attention to what is going on in my surroundings and know who is where.”
With Lake Superior State, whom Blackburn has recorded two shutouts against this season, on the slate for the first round of the CCHA Tournament Blackburn will look to continue his stellar play and begin Michigan’s campaign for an NCAA Championship.
Ready for my close-up: Sophomore defenseman Mike Komisarek knew it had to be good news when he received a postcard in the mail from the CCHA informing him to order a tuxedo for the CCHA banquet – he just didn’t know for what. But last night everything became clear when it was announced that he made the All-CCHA first team.
Komisarek, who was Michigan’s only member on the first team, was the top vote getter in the league with 51 total points and 10 out of the possible 11 first team votes. He was the CCHA’s second leading scoring defenseman in conference games with 20 points (7-14-21) and top in plus minus rating with plus-19.
Juniors Mike Cammalleri and John Shouneyia were recognized by being named to the All-CCHA second team, while Josh Blackburn received honorable mention.