At Frozen Four, Michigan aims to prepare for a losing year

Ann Arbor, Mich.; – Mel Pierson, the University of Michigan men’s hockey coach, pointed his hand to a small box in his office. His voice became louder when he described his players’ hopes of winning the upcoming Frozen Four, the college’s hockey premiere event.

“I want it to be so bad for the players,” Pearson said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they’re such a great kid.”

Pearson was trying to explain that he had made a lot of memories already, but his voice stopped and he burst into tears. He stood up, pulled the tissue from his desk, apologized, shook his head, and started laughing. When Pearson was asked what he was pointing to, Pearson opened a small wooden box, filled with dozens of numbers, all of which were signed by Michigan M. They included two that were reminiscent of national championship teams in 1996 and 1998, when Pearson was his mentor’s assistant. , Red Berenson.

Like Pearson, Michigan hockey has enjoyed its glory. It has won more Frozen Four (26) and won more hockey championships (nine) than any other university. But six of those titles were won before 1960, and no one came in nearly the fourth century.

The current group of Wolverines, a magnificent gathering of high-caliber elites, has never been on a college list – with a back story of frustration and victimization – still to join the Panthers.

As Michigan enters the frozen four against Denver University in their national semifinal on Thursday in Boston, the pressure is on the Wolverines and their gamers on the road. Minnesota and Minnesota State face each other in the semifinals, but none of the other three teams – in fact, no team in college hockey history – shows a lineup as one recruited Pearson.

Michigan receives 7 NHL first-round draft picks, including an unprecedented four picks from the top 20 picks by 2021. It has five more listings than the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Lightning won the last two Stanley Cups.

“It will probably never happen again,” Fresh said Luke Hughes, Select the Devils’ No. 4. “And we all know that we will never play together, and we only have one shot. I wouldn’t say there is pressure, but there is a lot of desire. And maybe a little pressure, too.

That July night, a few minutes before the Devils selected Hughes, Owen Powers, a defenseman from Ontario, was Michigan’s first No. 1 overall pick when Buffalo selected him.

Matt Benners, a lazy player from Massachusetts, was ranked No. 2 by the Seattle Crook. Hughes, whose brother Jack was ranked No. 1 overall by the Devils in 2019 and led the team in scoring this season, was promoted to No. 4, and took Columbus Blue Jackets center Kent Johnson to No. 5. Until now, Alabama football has never been the top five (it came close, with three in the top five in the 1948 NFL Draft).

Watching the proceedings of the house, Pearson’s throat. In less than an hour, practically his entire power play was over.

“It happened very quickly,” Pearson said. “They were interviewing Matt and then getting tired, goes to Luke Hughes’s board and then Bang, Kent.

Later in the first round, the Florida Panthers took on Mikey Simoskovich with the 24th pick. The five were joined by Johnny Becher and Brandon Burson, who were taken in the first round in 2019 and 2020, giving Michigan a surprising seven first rounders.

In college hockey, players are drafted after school, and NHL teams retain their rights. All seven picks, as well as six more lower-round drafts, chose to return to Ann Arbor to play together for one last chance, and one last shot at the national championship.

“When you are drafted first, second, fifth, it’s not easy to revoke an NHL contract,” said Nick Blankenberg, the Wolverines’ senior captain. “Thank you so much and respect for these people coming back.”

As a large, sports-centric university at the Power Fives conference, Michigan has many built-in advantages over small schools, including outstanding facilities, financial strength, and the development of players in a commercially viable business capacity. Includes to-date. Quinn Hughes, the older brother of Luke and Jack, played two years for Michigan and was selected as the No. 7 overall pick by the Vancouver Canucks in 2018.

Former Michigan players have sprung up around the NHL, both on the ice and in the broadcast booth. Billy Jeff, a Boston Bruins NESN analyst, played at Michigan in 1988, the year Pearson started as an assistant. He said it was unusual for a high-draft pick to spend more than a year at the college level.

“All of them say something about the program coming back,” Jaffe said, “and maybe even something that happened with Kodak last year.”

The origin story of this season begins in Fargo, ND, a year ago, as the Wolverines prepare to face Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That’s the part that made Pearson so emotional. As the players wake up from their boyfriend’s game, they find that a text message from Pearson urges them to be immediately assembled in the hotel’s meeting room. The spread was only three hours.

“Once we meet our trainer, we know what’s going on,” Blankensburg said.

Two players were tested positive for the Corona virus, and the NCAA disqualified the Wolverines. Instead of playing that night, the Somber group went to the arena and packed their belongings and returned to the hotel to wait for their plane home. Bemidji defeated Wisconsin on state television who could stomach it.

“It was a disaster,” Benares recalled. “It’s one thing when you lose and the other thing when you don’t even get a chance to play.”

Like the other top draft picks, Benares said he was already inclined to return to Michigan for his sophomore year as he enjoyed his freshman year, and after that unbeaten final in 2021, he realized the vacancy was a decision. Make it very easy During half-draft meetings with NHL teams, including Kraken, the Beningers told officials that if they hoped to join their clubs immediately, they would have to battle their mother over them.

Christine Magillon Benares, a Boston-area lawyer – who also worked on “One Course Line” on Broadway – wants her son to have a full college experience. But the Michigan games that were played were staged on vacant grounds, classes were online and campus social life was limited.

There will always be time to skate against the 33-year-old NHL striker like Pat Marvin and Milan Lusak.

“I don’t know what a great rush to take it to the next level when you haven’t even experienced it yet,” Miguel Benares said in a telephone interview. “Ultimately, it was his decision. But this is the last chance you have to sit down and play with children your age.

But Michigan, with 31 wins, nine losses and a tie, is far behind. It lost its first four regular-season games against Notre Dame before defeating the Irish in the conference tournament, and it nearly ended their 4-0 lead in the third round of the NCAA Tournament against Quinnipiac. Conquest. But the Wolverines reached the program’s 26th Frozen Four, and this time with a team filled with NHL talent.

“Last year ended with such frustration,” Power said. “We all wanted to come back and do something really big.”

Powell, a quiet, 6-foot-5 guard, will likely play for the Sabers in Buffalo, about 90 minutes drive from his home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. Returning to Michigan gave him one last chance to play in a 100-year-old rock, with the band singing the war song, staying with teammates and sharing dreams with those whose initial wish was to get just one offer. General Chat Chat Lounge College.

“It’s important to be a part of it,” said Blacksburg. “I’ll look back in 20 years, when I had a family, and just to be able to say that I played with these guys, and the stuff that we’ve gone through, I will love it forever.”

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