Umberger admits it. He listened to the hype. He believed he
could get by on reputation. He was wrong.
The Ohio State
forward was named 2001 CCHA Rookie of the Year after scoring
37 points in 32 games. He entered his sophomore season looking
to increase those totals and justifying his status as the
16th overall pick in the 2001 National Hockey League Entry
Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. He did score 39 points,
but for Umberger, it wasn't enough.
year I thought I slowed down a little and didn't play nearly
as good as I should have," the 6-foot-2, 202-pound
Pittsburgh native said recently. "I figured that things
would come easy. There were a lot of expectations from myself
and everybody else."
into the 2001-02 season, Umberger had 11 goals and 10 assists.
The Buckeyes got hot late with six wins in their last nine
games, a run which ended with an overtime loss to Michigan
in the CCHA playoff semifinals. Over roughly that same stretch
Umberger exploded, tallying seven goals and 11 assists in
the end of the year and in the CCHA playoffs, we found out
how to play as a team," explained Umbeger. "From
the beginning of this season, that was our goal –
to play like that the entire season."
Ohio State has made significant progress toward that goal.
The Buckeyes boast a 15-4-2 overall record, are tied for
second in the CCHA with Michigan and own an eight-game unbeaten
streak, the second longest of its kind in the nation. Not
coincidentally, Umberger's strong finish last season has
carried over to this year – he leads the conference
with 17 goals and five game-winning goals, and ranks fourth
in the league with 29 points. He's also in the midst of
an eight-game scoring streak – suprise! – during
which he's racked up 11-7—18.
biggest change this year is my work ethic," said Umberger
when asked about the differences between his sophomore and
junior seasons. "It's like the draft never happened
and I've got to prove myself. I'm more confident. I know
how I want to play, what I want to do and where I should
to a strong junior class – besides Umberger, fellow
forwards Scott May (24 points) and Paul Caponigri (18 points)
and goaltender Mike Betz (11-3-2, 2.10 GAA, .912 save pct.)
are all in their third years in Columbus – and contributions
from freshmen Ryan Kesler (21 points) and Dan Knapp (18),
the Buckeyes harbor hopes of winning a conference championship
for the first time in school history and earning their first
NCAA Tournament berth since 1999.
more mature," Umberger said, who was speaking about
the team as a whole but could have just as well been referring
to himself. "We're on the same page."
the guy not own a cell phone?” – Talk
show host Ed Shultz, after North Dakota coach an was
unable to conduct a previously arranged interview
on KFAN-AM in Minneapolis Friday due to other commitments.
on the demographics of Munn Arena, you could get the
crowd fired up by playing Frank Sinatra” –
MSU hockey radio analyst Joe Blackburn, commenting
on classical music playing over the arena’s
speakers and the gentrification of Spartan hockey
all the things that have been going on the last couple
of weeks we've been trying to get some different combinations...we've
been kind of forced into some different combinations,
and I thought they were smart with the puck and made
some pretty smart plays” – Bowling Green
coach Scott Paluch, who booted two players from the
squad and suspended five others earlier this month,
after Friday’s win against Northern Michigan.
The Falcons swept the Wildcats with a victory the following
Umberger struggled to live up to expectations last season,
Minnesota defenseman Paul Martin has thrived this year while
after being singled out by coach Don Lucia as the heir apparent
to 2002 Hobey Baker Award winner Jordan Leopold, now a regular
with the Calgary Flames.
After last weekend's
split with North Dakota at Mariucci Arena, Martin had amassed
24 points in 23 games and playing a key role on the Gopher
power play. Kind of like ol' number 3, wouldn't you say?
really look at it like me trying to be like Jordan Leopold
or trying to do what he did," Martin says. "Once
someone like that leaves, (the coaches) expect the younger
players who might have the same...style of play to step
up and become the next one down the line. That's tough to
Tough, yes, but
Martin is pulling it off, and his duties on defense haven't
suffered, either. The junior from Elk River, Minn., who
drew raves for his play in his own zone at last year's NCAA
Frozen Four, has been even better this season and is making
a name for himself as quite possibly the best all-around
rearguard in the college game today.
in as a freshman, my goal has always been to not let (the
opponent) put the puck in the back of the net," Martin
says. "Defense comes first. As long as you take care
of defense first, the offense comes later.
important to have offensive defensemen – they need
to get the puck to the net and they need to join the rush.
But you've got to pick your spots. That all starts on the
defensive end. If you take the body, they may turn the puck
over and we can get some odd-man rushes if we can get them
tied up down low."
this season aren 't just limited to the ice. As assistant
captain on a young squad that has been slowed by injuries
this season, he's also looking for ways to jump start his
have to step up and lead by example," Martin says.
"We have to get more consistency throughout our lineup.
Our biggest challenge has been coming to the rink every
day and competing. We have troubles in the first game of
our series on Friday and then if we lose or struggle, we
come back strong on Saturday."
while the Gophers are a pedestrian 1-2-1 in January, Martin
isn't panicking. Minnesota was 4-4-1 in the first nine games
after the holiday break last season before winning 14 of
16 and an NCAA championship.
"Things are starting to fall into place," Martin
says. "We're getting some guys back and the freshmen
are starting to get into their roles. The second push of
the season is important to put ourselves in position where
we can get in the (NCAA) tourney.
BLAIS MAKES RADIO WAVES
Dakota coach Dean Blais made news last week by engaging
in a verbal tiff with a Fargo talk show host.
incident started when Ed Schultz of KFGO-AM, who was filling
in as guest host on KFAN-AM in the Twin Cities Friday, criticized
Blais for missing a scheduled interview, calling the coach
“bush league.” Blais responded by saying Schulz,
who also serves as the play-by-play voice for Fighting Sioux
football, should be ousted from that position.
North Dakota coach was scheduled to participate in a 1:30
p.m. interview, but UND sports information director Dan
Benson warned show producers Blais was attending the Gophers’
noon booster luncheon and may be delayed. Benson placed
a follow-up phone call to KFAN to see if Blais had been
contacted. When producers said they hadn’t been in
touch with Blais, Benson tracked him down at the team’s
game-day lunch and strategy session and would be unavailable.
delivered the news to KFAN and apologized for the inconvenience.
That apology wasn’t good enough for Schultz, however,
who launched into an on-air tirade against Blais. The coach
boycotted his pregame and postgame radio interviews with
the Grand Forks station that carries UND hockey Friday,
but returned to his normal routine Saturday.
RIPPED FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES
Great Weekend Getaways
Yale vs. Notre Dame at Allstate Arena, Rosemount,
Ill. (Saturday): Granted, this isn’t
really the most stimulating matchup on the slate this
week, as both teams hover around the Mendoza Line.
But the mere curiosity of college hockey in the Chicagoland
area is intriguing. Selfishly, we’d love to
see the game succeed so the Windy City can become
an NCAA Frozen Four site in the future. How great
would that be?
you’re there: Take the day (well, at least the
part prior to the hockey game) off a la Ferris Bueller.
Walk the Magnificent Mile. See the Michaelangelo exhibit
at the Art Institute of Chicago. Take a ride on the
El to Wrigleyville, or better yet, check out Wicker
Park, the hip neighborhood where the "Real World:
Chicago" cast lived. And if you see Abe Vroman,
the sausage king of Chicago, tell him we send our
2. Providence at St. Cloud State:
Both teams are lodged squarely on the INCH Power Rankings
bubble. An interesting non-conference series as far
as the postseason in concerned. Note to area fans:
even if you’re not interested in Providence,
just go to see the Friars’ sweaters, the best
in the college game.
Army at Air Force: Any time two service
academies get together for any athletic event, the
play is always spirited and hotly-contested. On a
totally unrelated note, why doesn’t the Marine
Corps have a four-year institute of higher learning?
Can you imagine what their hockey team would be like?
They’d make the Charlestown Chiefs look like
a bunch of Brian Boitanos.
CCHA Tourney Title Sponsor: The CCHA has reached
an agreement with sporting goods chain Galyan's to serve
as title sponsor for the league's postseason tournament
for the next three seasons. The conference playoffs will
now be known as the CCHA Super Six Tournament Presented
Minnesota Medical Update: Golden Gopher forward
Matt Koalska is expected to miss four games after undergoing
hernia surgery Monday. A junior, Koalska had never missed
a game, appearing in 109 straight contests before sitting
out last weekend’s series with North Dakota. Team
doctors expect the St. Paul native to return in time for
the team’s two-game set at Colorado College Feb. 7-8.
The injury-plagued Gophers have lost 56 man-games to injury
this year, 22 of them by Grant Potulny, who hopes to return
to the ice for Minnesota’s series against Minnesota
State University, Mankato Jan. 24-25.
Erickson Departs: Staying with the Gophers, sophomore
forward Mike Erickson left the team earlier this week to
join the United States Hockey League’s Des Moines
Buccaneers. A high school standout at Eden Prairie, Minn.,
and a third-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in last year’s
NHL Entry Draft, Erickson contributed two assists in 16
games this season. He has a goal and two helpers in nine
games as a freshman before a broken foot ended his season
Rally Broncos: One night after enduring a 10-3
pummeling in Ann Arbor, Western Michigan salvaged a series
split with Michigan, scoring three third-period goals to
turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory. For the Broncos,
it was their first win this season when trailing after two
periods – WMU was 0-10-0 when behind at the second
intermission. The loss continued a disturbing trend for
the Wolverines, who have allowed three third-period goals
in each of their last three losses and are 0-5-1 this season
when giving up two or more goals in the final frame.
Breaking Beavers: Bemidji State plays its first
contests since Dec. 27-28 as the Beavers travel to Alabama-Huntsville
for a key College Hockey America series. Neither the Chargers
nor the Von Braun Center have been kind to BSU recently
– the Beavers have dropped four in a row to UAH and
have lost six straight in Huntsville. The Chargers, meanwhile,
enter the weekend with the nation’s longest active
unbeaten streak at 11 games (9-0-2).
State University, Mankato: The school with the
most unwieldy name in the history of college athletics ran
its unbeaten streak to seven (5-0-2) with a sweep of Michigan
Tech last weekend. The Mavericks, third in the WCHA standings,
travel to Denver this week.
Emerson: The longtime NHLer and leading scorer
in Bowling Green history was honored by his alma mater Friday
for his contributions to the recently completed renovation
of the Falcons’ hockey facilities.
Michigan: The Wildcats were swept by Bowling Green
last weekend, the first time that’s happened since
1984. Since improving to 9-5-1 with two wins against Michigan
in Marquette Dec. 6-7, NMU is 1-4-0 with losses to Michigan
Tech, Wisconsin and Bowling Green – teams with a combined
record of 17-38-8.
James’ critics: Everyone is piling on this
kid, and there really is no reason for an 18-year-old to
be driving a $50,000 Hummer H2. But James is a lock to be
the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The day he
officially announces his intentions to turn pro, he’ll
probably sign a $25 million agreement with adidas or Nike.
You don’t think he’s good for the loan money
on the ride?
WEEK'S NHL TRANSACTIONS
Ducks of Anaheim:
Recalled forward Rob Valicevic (Lake Superior State) from
Cincinnati of the American Hockey League.
Atlanta Thrashers: Assigned forward J.P.
Vigier (Northern Michigan) to Chicago of the American Hockey
Predators: Assigned forward Wyatt Smith (Minnesota)
to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
York Rangers: Recalled defenseman David Karpa (Ferris
State) from Hartford of the American Hockey League.
Philadelphia Flyers: Assigned forward Andre
Savage (Michigan Tech) to Philadelphia of the American Hockey
Bay Lightning: Acquired goaltender John Grahame
(Lake Superior State) from the Boston Bruins for a fourth-round
pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft; placed defenseman Dan
Boyle (Miami) on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 4;
assigned right wing Brian Holzinger (Bowling Green) to Springfield
of the American Hockey League.
MINOR LEAGUE TRANSACTION OF THE WEEK
Sea Wolves (ECHL): Acquired defenseman Sean Peach
(Michigan) from the Baton Rouge Kingfish for forward Dwayne
Blais (Alabama-Huntsville) and defenseman Curtis Menzul.