January 13, 2005
Hobey Hensick?

By Mike Eidelbes

CCHA Notebook
Michigan's T.J. Hensick has 12 points in his last six games.

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It was the type of play that a very good player makes and elevates him to Hobey Baker Award consideration.

Early in the second period of last Friday’s game between Western Michigan and Michigan at Yost Ice Arena, the game is tied and the Wolverines are on the power play. Despite spending the better part of the man advantage in the offensive zone, Michigan is struggling to click – passes aren’t finding the tape, shots are getting knocked down in traffic. Finally, T.J. Hensick takes matters into his own hands.

The U-M sophomore forward gains possession of the puck down low, maneuvers to within 20 feet of the cage and rips a hard shot that leaves a vapor trail as it screams over the right shoulder of goaltender Daniel Bellissimo with eight seconds left in the power play. The goal – Hensick’s second of the game – gives the Wolverines a 2-1 lead en route to a 6-4 win at home.

“I think I’m a big contributor to this team’s offense and it’s always nice to start the team off with a good first step,” Hensick said matter-of-factly following the game.

On a star-studded Michigan team speeding toward the CCHA regular season championship, Hensick is not only its best player but he’s poised to emerged as the conference’s top candidate for the Hobey Baker Award. Coming into the Wolverines’ weekend series with Alaska-Fairbanks, the Howell, Mich., native ranks second in the CCHA and tied for fifth nationally with 28 points, and he’s among the league’s top 10 in goals, game-winning goals and assists.

Not only is he consistent, picking up at least one point in 17 of the 20 games he’s appeared in this season, but he’s dynamic, too, as evidenced by his current six-game point streak, during which he’s scored seven goals and added five assists.

"He went into Michigan last year and over the course of the year was probably their most consistent offensive player,” said a National Hockey League scout. “This year has probably been the same. He's a hell of a player – he can skate, he's smart, he can score.”

Hensick has worked hard to refine the finer points of his game. Prior to joining the Wolverines, he had been purely an offensive threat, but Red Berenson has him focused on the little things that separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Growing up, I had always been the kid who was scoring goals and setting up guys,” Hensick said. “But there’s more to hockey than scoring goals. You’ve got to do the little things in order for [the coaches] to have faith in you and confidence in you out on the ice.”

For example: It’s late in the third period of Friday’s game and Western Michigan trails the Wolverines by one goal. There’s a loose puck in the Michigan offensive zone that Bronco Mat Ponto appears to have a bead on, but Hensick recovers and catches up to the WMU defenseman. Ponto hauls down Hensick with his stick and is whistled for hooking, and David Moss scores on the ensuing power play to give U-M a two-goal edge.

Some of the tweaks and adjustments Hensick aren’t directives from coaches, but are better described as self-improvement. While at the World Junior Championship in Grand Forks, N.D., with the U.S. junior team, he became intrigued by the Europeans and their emphasis on puck possession. It’s a style of play that would greatly benefit Hensick, who likes to come in from behind the play and watch things unfold in front of him.

“Watching some of those games, you notice that they love to hold onto the puck and they don’t move it until the last second,” Hensick said. “They have so much confidence in their teammates getting open. It’s something you try to bring back here and maybe realize you’ve got another second to make a play.”

Based on recent performances, Hensick has had plenty of time to make plays. If he keeps it up, there’s a strong possibility he’ll hear his name called when the 10 Hobey finalists are announced in March.

“I love to help this team in the offensive zone and help to score goals,” Hensick said. “If that gets me nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, then that’d be great. But it’s an individual award. I’m more focused on winning the national championship.”


Official Business: Last weekend wasn’t a good one in the CCHA for the guys wearing stripes.

Exhibit A: Miami thought it had taken 1-0 lead late in the first period of its game against Michigan State Friday when Matt Christie scored on a breakaway with less than one second showing on the clock.

Instead of bringing a monumental confidence boost into the locker room, the RedHawks headed into the first intermission scratching their heads after the goal was waved off by referee Stephen McInchak because of a strange series of events that started with an incorrect call by one of the assistant referees.

The sequence was touched off when Miami was mistakenly whistled for icing with 4.7 left in the period even though Spartan goaltender Dominic Vicari had touched the puck. The officials rectified the situation by moving the ensuing faceoff to center ice.

As McInchak explained his actions to MSU coach Rick Comley, an assistant referee dropped the puck at center ice for the faceoff even though a few of the Spartan skaters weren’t expecting it. The RedHawks easily won the draw. The puck ended up in Christie’s possession, and he put it past Vicari shortly thereafter.

Comley and his coaching staff contended the faceoff shouldn’t have taken place. After a brief discussion, McInchak and the assistant referees disallowed the goal much to the chagrin of Miami coach Enrico Blasi.

"The referee was over talking to me and never waved the play live, and all of a sudden, the guy is going in on the breakaway,'' Comley told Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal after the game. “It certainly shouldn't have counted.”

Exhibit B: A source told Inside College Hockey that assistant referee Tony Molina has been suspended by the league after calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on an Alaska-Fairbanks assistant coach in the third period of the team’s loss at Bowling Green last Friday.

As per the CCHA policy on personnel matters, a league spokesman Thursday refused to confirm whether Molina had been suspended.

An eyewitness to the incident reported that referee Matt Shegos was in a discussion with UAF head coach Tavis McMillan when Molina, standing near the penalty box across the ice from the Nanooks’ bench, whistled Wade Klippenstein for making a hand gesture – one whose meaning was difficult to decipher. The Falcons did not score during the ensuing power play.

According to the INCH source, the league had previously issued a warning to Molina regarding calls he had made. Both CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos and director of officials Brian Hart were in attendance at Friday’s game. Molina was replaced by John Laduke for Saturday’s UAF-BGSU contest.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Nebraska-Omaha at
Ferris State (Fri.-Sat.)
I have to admit, there’s not really any series that piques my interest this weekend. It’s not a knock on the league, but that’s just the way the schedule works out. If pressed, however, the UNO-FSU set seems to be the best of a mediocre lot. The Mavericks are enjoying a nice turnaround and, despite last weekend’s split at Ohio State, the Bulldogs are playing their best hockey of the season.

While you’re there: Don’t feel like sticking around for Saturday’s series finale? Then make the short trip from Big Rapids to Grand Rapids that night to catch the American Hockey League’s Griffins as they host the defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in a game that could feature as many as 15 former collegians.

Stick Salute

My friends at BeerDarts.com recently unveiled a new playing surface honoring the greatest sports franchise to never win a world championship, the Minnesota Vikings. Shortly thereafter, the Purple-Helmeted Warriors of Valhalla thumped the hated Green Bay Packers to advance to the second round of the NFC playoffs. Coincidence? I think not.

Bench Minor

Memo to the city of Ann Arbor – would it kill you to run a plow down your side streets after a snow storm? A good portion of Michigan got somewhere in the neighborhood of six inches of snow in the middle of the week, but as of last Friday the stuff was still prevalent on the city’s secondary arteries. One shouldn’t need a Sherpa to parallel park.


• Judging from a couple of recent incidents, the strange behavior in the CCHA isn’t restricted to officials. Miami goaltender Brandon Crawford-West was benched for last weekend’s series vs. Michigan State for violating team rules. Freshman Charlie Effinger started both games for the RedHawks, and made 34 saves Saturday en route to his first career victory.

Michigan State, meanwhile, has lost the services of Matt Migliaccio for four-to-six weeks after the senior goalie broke his hand in what Comley called an “off-the-ice situation”. Junior Rod Tocco inherits the backup duties behind starter Dominic Vicari.

• Last week, we reported that Notre Dame forward Matt Williams-Kovacs made his way back into the Irish lineup after missing 14 games with a broken ankle. Unfortunately, the sophomore’s return was short-lived – the Calgary native broke his right wrist in the Fighting Irish’s 1-1 tie at Lake Superior State last Friday, and will be sidelined the remainder of the season.

Western Michigan failed in one attempt at ending a lengthy road losing streak, but the get chance to bring a halt a similarly disappointing winless skein in an opponent’s building this weekend. Michigan’s 6-4 win against the Broncos in Ann Arbor last Friday extended WMU’s losing streak at Yost Ice Arena to 14 straight. Western’s last win at Yost was Oct. 20, 1995.

The Broncos make the 90-minute trip to East Lansing Saturday for the finale of a home-and-home set with Michigan State. The last time WMU won at Munn Ice Arena was Dec. 12, 1993 – they’re 0-12-3 since.

• Michigan gave up four goals to Western Michigan Friday, and allowed the Broncos to score five times Saturday, but U-M junior forward Jeff Tambellini must be living right. He posted a plus-minus rating of +5 for the weekend. The Port Moody, B.C., native leads the CCHA in that category at +18.

• Maybe it just seems like every hockey coach has ties to Lake Superior State. The Lakers close out the non-conference portion of their schedule this weekend when College Hockey America leader Alabama-Huntsville visits the Soo. The Chargers are coached by Doug Ross, a member of the 1971-72 LSSU squad that won the NAIA national championship.

• With a little less than half the season remaining, Michigan radio analyst Jim Hunt is the current leader in the unofficial “best comment by a broadcaster” competition. Early in last Friday’s broadcast from Ann Arbor, Wolverines play-by-play announcer Al Randall remarked that Western Michigan’s black jerseys were a marked improvement from the Broncos’ erstwhile brown-and-gold abominations.

“They looked like giant Tootsie Rolls,” deadpanned Hunt, “with ‘My Friend Flicka’ on the front.”

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report

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