Michigan’s most promising NHL hockey puts pressure on Frozen Four

Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson knows what is at stake when his team freezes on Thursday night in the National Semifinals against Denver in Boston.

The Wolverines are considered a top contender for the national title, with eight of their nine goals in the 2020-21 season and a list of seven NHL draft pickers in the first round of the NCAA record, before losing them in the 2021-222021 season. Was taken.

They have been able to continue their campaign so far, winning the Big Ten Tournament and finishing first in the NCAA. They are one of four teams still standing and need two more wins to win their first national title since 1998.

But Pearson also knows that having NHL talent does not always mean success in the NCAA. Before Michigan this season, only 11 other teams in NCAA history had four or more first-round picks on their roster, and only two teams – North Dakota in 2006 and 2007 – reached the four frozen teams.

Neither North Dakota team won all of these competitions. (The Michigan team had six first-round finals last year but lost the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.)

“Last week we had the challenge of reaching even four frozen groups,” Pearson told reporters last week. There is a lot of pressure, but what is the pressure? Pressure is a lot of expectations that everyone puts on you and you put pressure on yourself. Our only pressure was to get better every day and try to have a good year. That’s why all these kids came back. They returned with a purpose. There was a real purpose here. “They have been driven to do so.”

Related: Meet the top 7 NHL hockey qualifiers in Michigan, an NCAA record

Pearson, 63, was an assistant coach behind the Michigan bench that defeated Boston College 3-2 in overtime in the 1998 Boston Championship game. He has since returned to four frozen teams six times, including once as head coach in 2018, but is still seeking the College Hockey Award.

But Pearson believes that this year the team is equipped to win everything. Michigan’s three main stars – Owen Power, Matthew Banners and Kenneth Johnson – were all in the top five draft choices last July, but preferred to return to Arbor instead of becoming professionals.

Pearson said Michigan added another talented freshman class headlined by other first-round pick Luke Hughes (No. 4 overall) and Maki Samoskovic (No. 24) and has a strong senior leadership team.

Wolverine has remained in the top 10 of the national rankings all year, but has struggled with its fair share. Several of their top players missed a few games to compete in the 2022 Beijing World Youth Championships and Olympics.

The team also lost its last two regular season games to lose the Big Ten title.

Fifth-year-old Michael Pastoyev is the only player to have had NCAA experience before this year, but Pearson believes his players have adapted well to the spotlight.

Michigan jumped to the International College of America with two quick goals in a 5-3 win at the opening of the tournament. In the second round, Quinnipiac took a 4-0 lead in the second round, allowing the Bobcats to close the gap to less than nine minutes left, but Michigan responded with three goals in the final four minutes, 7-4. کرد. Victory.

“Sometimes it has not been easy,” Pearson said. There have been many detours to get where we want to go, such as the World Junior Championships, the Olympics, the reunion, two players with injuries at the end of the season, embarrassing losses – there are many things.

“These guys have dealt with a lot of things. In terms of experience, we had a lot of kids playing big games in big situations, and it was great to get through the big ten playoffs. It gave us a real sense of the NCAA, especially the semifinals and finals, because it was a one-game knockout. Then, obviously, two games was too big for our team. I know we will play better. As soon as I got past those two games, I was more worried about how to do it in Frozen Four because you have that experience. I feel good about this team and I am really good from the experience they have gained.

Michigan played less than 4,000 fans in both of its regional games in Allen Town, Pennsylvania, but much larger crowds are expected for the Frozen Four at the 19580 TD Garden.

However, Hughes, who leads all NCAA defenders with 17 goals and 39 points, said the team is now under pressure to reach the semi-finals.

“This is a very exciting time,” Hughes told MLive. “It’s very difficult to reach one or four frozen people and it is very difficult to win. I think everyone has called and they are really excited.

Everyone on the team has high expectations and we all want to win, but there is no pressure. “We just play the game we like and try to do our best.”

As for Pearson, he says he is not the same coach he was in 1998, but he hopes to achieve the same result.

“Obviously you need to know more about the game and what it takes to get to that point and how to manage those situations,” he said of his evolution as a coach. I was just a young and emotional coach at the time. You still have feelings, but this is where I have grown the most – just feel better and have a better understanding. Much calmer

“I think you’re learning a lot and you’re just getting ready for the week and trying to put aside all the distractions. We’re just trying to put everything aside, so come on (this week), We can only focus on the games and make sure we put our players in the best position to succeed, that’s what we as coaches are trying to do, we understand what happens most of the time, and “We have to try to pass it on to the players.”

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