Surely Michigan senior goalie Marty Turco was ecstatic. There he was, having just been named the MVP of the NCAA Final Four, celebrating the Wolverines' national title by dancing little jigs on a rink strewed with all the gloves and sticks he and his teammates had tossed into the air. Then he skated from one end of Boston's FleetCenter to the other, proudly holding a Michigan flag aloft. Later in the dressing room Turco's voice was loud and lusty when the Wolverines convened to sing the most appropriate version of Hail to the Victors they had crooned all year.
Yet through all of this rejoicing a frown would sometimes crease Turco's face, his brow would tense, his attention would suddenly stray. If you watched him, you would notice that each time he hugged one of his ebullient teammates, he would hold on very tight. "This is a great, great win," he said in the locker room after the game, "but this is also a sad night for me. I mean, it's all over—the best time in my life. Isn't there some way I can get another four-year scholarship to Michigan?"
There will be no encore for Turco in Ann Arbor, but the tenure he completed last Saturday, when freshman forward Josh Langfeld scored 17:51 into overtime to give the Wolverines a 3-2 win over Boston College and their second NCAA hockey championship in three years, was perhaps the most accomplished in the history of college goaltending. A moderately regarded recruit out of Sault Sainte Marie, Ont., who was drafted 124th by the Dallas Stars in 1994, Turco won the Michigan starting job as a freshman and led the Wolverines to four straight Final Four appearances. He finished his college career with an astounding 127 victories—easily surpassing the NCAA record of 111, set by Michigan's Steve Shields between 1990-91 and 1993-94. "We've had some great players in the years I've been here," said senior forward Matt Herr, "but the one thing that we have always done is rally around Marty."
Michigan did that in the fast-paced and hard-hitting final last Saturday. With just 4:09 gone in the first period, Turco allowed a soft goal by BC's Kevin Caulfield. Instead of showing his disappointment, he simply took a pull from his water bottle, lowered his mask and went back to work.
He calmly withstood a three-shot flurry shortly afterward and gloved a tough backhander by dangerous forward Blake Bellefeuille early in the second period. Less than two minutes after that save, Wolverines center Mark Kosick tied the game at 1-1. "Marty has a way of making every save he has to when he knows the team needs a little life," Michigan coach Red Berenson said last Friday. "He also makes a lot of saves that keep the other team from getting any life."
Of the times Turco did the latter, none stood out as much as his denial of Boston University's All-America winger Jay Pandolfo in the 1996 NCAA semifinals. Michigan held a 2-0 lead late in the first period when the defending champion Terriers were buzzing on the power play. Pandolfo one-timed a cross-ice pass from 10 feet inside the blue line, and everyone expected the lead to be cut in half. "Marty just moved over and gloved it," says Berenson. "You could see the whole BU team look around after that, like, What do we have to do to beat this guy? He made it look easy."
That was Turco's style all along. At 6 feet and 185 pounds, he liked to stay on his feet and take advantage of his good glove hand. However, the asset that makes him a potential NHL goalie is his ability to thrive in big games. As a freshman he made 52 saves in a 4-3 triple-overtime NCAA semifinal loss to Maine. In this year's semis he turned away 19 shots and shut out New Hampshire 4-0. "The biggest tiling is that when the game is on the line, he shuts the door," says Stars head scout Craig Button. "That's the quality we're most excited about, and I don't think there's another college goalie close to him."
It was also Turco's good fortune to have the demanding Berenson, who played 17 seasons in the NHL, bearing down on him. When Turco and his father, Vince, drove from Sault Sainte Marie to Ann Arbor in 1994, Berenson grilled Marty for nearly an hour on his ability to withstand pressure. When Turco had a careless outing in an intrasquad match as a freshman, Berenson benched him until he learned to maintain his concentration on the ice. Just two weeks ago, after Turco allowed two bad goals, Berenson was openly critical of him. 'I don't mind having somebody put pressure on me," said Turco. "When I have a bad outing, I look forward to the next time because I know I'm going to do better."
He felt that same confidence in the final stages of Saturday's championship game. From the moment Kosick scored his second goal to forge a 2-2 tie with 6:12 left in the third period, Turco knew the Wolverines were going to win. Those who played with him when Michigan rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to beat Colorado 3-2 in over-time in the 1996 title game never doubted t. No one was surprised when Turco kicked aside a tough off-balance wrist shot by the Eagles' splendid freshman wing Brian Gionta 37 seconds into the extra period to keep the Wolverines alive. " Turco just had such composure as the game went on," said BC coach Jerry York.
He needed it. The swift-skating Eagles attacked aggressively in their first championship-game appearance in 20 years, jutting 30 shots on net. Forwards Bellefeuille, Gionta, Jeff Farkas and Marty Reasoner repeatedly got behind the Michigan defense, forcing Turco to thwart plays either by cutting off the shooter's angle or making a quick reaction save. When Langfeld scored the winning goal, Turco's record improved to 11-0-1 in games in which he had faced 30 or more shots.