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Hope lies between the pipes

Max Collins/Daily
Senior goalie Bryan Hogan. Buy this photo

BY RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Writer
Published October 21, 2009

Marty Turco was all alone.

Ten minutes of overtime had elapsed in the 1998 NCAA Hockey Championship game, and Boston College’s leading scorer, Marty Reasoner, charged toward Turco after evading the Michigan defense. He stared straight at the Wolverines’ senior goalie, who stood calmly between the pipes.

Around him stood a raucous home crowd of Boston College faithful, all standing feverishly at Boston’s legendary Fleet Center in hopes of conquering Michigan – the closest thing college hockey had to a dynasty at the time.

The Wolverines watched breathlessly from the bench as something their head coach, Red Berenson, had told them at the end of regulation reverberated in their heads.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got Turco.”

As Reasoner readied himself for the most important shot of his career, the winningest goalie in NCAA history poked the puck out of Reasoner’s control, halting the threat to the Michigan's second National Championship in three years.

In overtime, Turco watched an Eagle shot soar past him and off the crossbar, and heard another ping loudly off the post. Both were mere inches from deciding the game. But this last save meant something more to a scrappy Michigan team that Berenson knew wasn’t the most talented on the ice that night.

Turco only had to wait eight more minutes for his vindication.

Freshman Josh Langfield curled seamlessly around the net and surprised an unsuspecting Boston College goalie to capture the Wolverines another national championship.

“That was the feeling that year,” Berenson says today. “We’re going to play hard, and we knew Marty was going to hold the fort.”

After his most talented team fell short the year before, Berenson knew how important a goalie like Turco was to the team’s playoff run.

“He took us to four Frozen Fours and he won two of them and he should’ve won the third one,” Berenson said. “I just can’t say enough about the confidence that a good goalie gives everyone else.”

As Turco skated off the Fleet Center ice that night, he took with him one of the most accomplished goaltending résumés in college hockey history.

A benchmark for Michigan goaltending was born. And despite the multitude of capable goalies since Turco, none have matched his playoff savvy.

“We just felt like he was invincible,” Berenson said.

Josh Blackburn, the Wolverines’ goalie from 1998 to 2002, aided in two Frozen Four runs but came home empty-handed on both occasions.

Al Montoya, Michigan most touted goalie recruit since Turco, allowed four straight goals to Colorado College in 2005 and surrendered a 3-0 lead as the team’s national championship hopes slipped away.

After Montoya, the Wolverines were made victims of epic playoff goaltending collapses from Noah Ruden (five goals to North Dakota in 2006) and Billy Sauer (10 goals in two postseason losses).

Eleven years after the 1998 Championship game, Turco’s shadow still looms over the Michigan goalie position. Since then, nearly ever season of excellent goaltending has been tarnished by poor postseason showings between the pipes.

Last year, current Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan filed onto the ice in Bridgeport, Conn. to take on an overmatched Air Force team. Despite seeing just 13 shots, his lowest total in a Michigan uniform, the junior allowed two goals as Air Force upset the Wolverines, 2-0.

“At any position you’re in, you feel like you’ve let yourself down or your team down when you lose a game like that,” Hogan said.

This year, with new hopes of a national championship, Berenson knows that Hogan will be one of the main pieces if Michigan is destined to break its 11-year title drought.

“Somebody told me a long time ago, when you get to this tournament, the team with the best goalie wins,” Berenson said after the loss to Air Force.

It’s just a question of whether Hogan is ready to be the first Michigan goalie to step out of Turco’s championship shadow.

Competitive fire

At 10 years old, Bryan Hogan was already prepared for the intensity of college hockey.

The only problem was that he was still just a Novi Ice Cat.

Hogan remembers one specific video of his Pee-Wee hockey days that epitomized the Highland Township native’s young tenacity.

“I had gotten scored on … and, I swear to God, I went nuts, I hit the post, I almost hit the referee with my stick,” Hogan said.