Gophers continue tough November schedule at home

David La

It’s the type of play likely to end up on a tape of hockey bloopers, but Michigan coach Red Berenson was not amused.
Twenty-six seconds into last Saturday’s game with Alaska Fairbanks, Wolverines goaltender Josh Blackburn left the net to give his team a man advantage on a delayed penalty call.
This routine procedure inexplicably backfired when a Michigan shot attempt deflected off the shin pads of a Nanooks defenseman, sending the puck down the ice and into the Wolverines empty net.
The officials allowed the goal, ruling the puck wasn’t controlled by the Alaska Fairbanks player and therefore couldn’t be blown dead.
“I think they need to look into that,” Berenson said. “How can you get scored on by the other team in that situation?”
The Nanooks went on to a 5-2 win — their second against Michigan in 22 games.
For the Wolverines, Saturday’s loss was the latest debacle in a turbulent stretch of games.
After storming out to a 6-0-2 start, Michigan held the nation’s No. 1 ranking until losing to Michigan State.
The Wolverines are 2-3 in their last five games, splitting the series with both Ferris State and the Nanooks — teams with five wins between them.
Michigan plays at No. 12 Wisconsin on Thursday and at No. 2 Minnesota on Saturday as part of the annual College Hockey Showcase.
Berenson is hopeful this pair of games will cure his teams’ problems with consistency.
“It might be the challenge we need,” Berenson said. “It might bring the best out of our team to play two highly respected programs.
“I can’t say that we’re coming into these games with a lot of momentum, but we are capable of playing with these teams.”
The Wolverines return five players who scored 30 points or more last season, including All-America defenseman Jeff Jillson.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior was the first collegiate player selected in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft (No. 14), and his return bolsters the defensive core.
“I coached him and Jordan (Leopold) on that (national-16) team that went to Finland (in 1996),” Lucia said. “Jeff’s a great talent, a big horse and he brings a lot of offense to the table.”
Jillson was the top scoring defenseman in the CCHA last year with 34 points.
Gophers sign six
Minnesota signed six players to national letters of intent for the 2001-2002 season.
Defenseman Keith Ballard of Baudette; forwards Mike Erickson and Garrett Smaagaard of Eden Prairie; center Jake Flemming of Osseo; forward Barry Tallackson of St. Paul and goaltender Travis Weber of Hibbing make up the all in-state recruiting class.

Minnesota’s Stuart Senden (knee) and Ben Tharp (shoulder) will likely play this weekend.
Senden (knee) was lost before the Alaska-Anchorage series in late October, while Tharp (shoulder) missed the second game at North Dakota and the entire St. Cloud State series.
Nick Anthony (wrist) is questionable.
Michigan will be without assistant captain Dave Huntzicker, defenseman Brad Fraser and wing David Wyzgowski. Forward Craig Murray is probable.

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]