This is the first of four previews for teams playing in the 2022 Men’s Frozen Four this week in Boston. Click here for all of USCHO’s Frozen Four coverage.
Season record: 31-9-1.
How they got to Boston: Won the Allentown Regional by defeating American International 5-3 and Quinnipiac 7-4.
Top players: F Matty Beniers (20-23-43), F Brendan Brisson (21-21-42), D Luke Hughes (17-22-39), F Kent Johnson (8-29-37), F Thomas Bordeleau (11-25-36), D Owen Power (3-29-32).
Top goalie: Erik Portillo (31-9-1, 2.13 goals-against average, .926 save percentage).
Why they’ll win the national championship: It’s definitely a broken record at this point in the season, but Michigan has oodles of talent up and down its line chart. Trying to outscore the Wolverines doesn’t seem like a great game plan for any team, so it’s going to take a tremendous defensive effort to send them back to Ann Arbor without hardware.
Why they won’t win the national championship: It’s hard to be critical of a team that dropped only nine games this season, but Michigan has shown some cause for concern. Even in the regional they won, the Wolverines let an outmatched AIC team hang around and let a four-goal third period lead against Quinnipiac evaporate to one. Lastly, speaking of tremendous defensive efforts mentioned above, one team that was able to keep Michigan in check four times this season was Notre Dame and a team that out-defensed the Irish to end their season could be waiting for Michigan in the championship game.
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It hasn’t always been pretty, but Michigan’s hype train is continuing onto Boston and the Frozen Four.
The Wolverines will advance to the Frozen Four for the 26th time in program history to take on Denver and try advance for a chance to capture their first national title since 1998.
“Obviously there’s been a lot said and written about our team this year with the players we have,” coach Mel Pearson said. “You just have to earn your way there. It doesn’t matter how many draft picks you have or what type of team you have, you just have to find a way to get it done.”
Though there’s the drought since the last NCAA championship, 24 years, and even since the last title appearance, which was 11 years ago, combined with the fact that a lot of the top guns from this year’s squad more than likely will depart the program when Michigan’s season concludes, Pearson doesn’t feel any extra pressure to get the job done.
“It’s become very difficult,” he said. “If you look at the games this past weekend, the regional, the overtime games and the one-goal games. Ohio State didn’t make the NCAA tournament, they were a heck of a hockey team in our league.
“You need to be good, you have to have good players, you need good coaches, good staff and you have to be lucky,” Pearson added. “What’s happened, had happened. We can’t control that, but we have a say in what’s going to go forward and what’s going to happen coming up (this) week.”
However, it’s not like Michigan is rolling into the Frozen Four feeling like it’s playing with house money.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but what is pressure?” Pearson said in Michigan’s media availability last week. “Pressure is a lot of expectations that everyone puts on you, and you’ve got pressure on yourself. But our pressure was just to get better every day and try to have a great year.”
This weekend in Boston, while not a guarantee, was always what Michigan had in mind for this season. Especially when top talents like Power, Beniers, Johnson and Bordeleau decided to let professional hockey wait another year after getting abruptly removed from the NCAA tournament last year.
“That’s why all these guys came back, they came back with a purpose,” Pearson said. “There’s a real purpose and they’ve been driven to do this. It hasn’t been easy, at time there’s been a lot of detours in the road to get where we wanted to go. I feel really good about this team and really good about the experiences that they’ve had.
“We’re prepped for this,” he added. “These guys have been doing their homework and now they’re ready to write the final exam.”
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