Worcester, MA- After missing the 2017 NCAA Tournament, legendary Head Coach Red Berenson retired from his post atop the winningest program in collegiate history. In his place came Mel Pearson, an assistant with Berenson for ten Frozen Four appearances and two National Championships in 1996 and 1998. Pearson did not intend to rebuild. Instead, he retooled his team and geared up for another trip to the Frozen Four. The Wolverines stumbled in the first half.
After being swept by Notre Dame on January 5th and 7th, Michigan sat at 8-10-2 and were stuck in neutral. Since then, the Wolverines have righted the ship and despite losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Semi-finals, they earned a spot in the NCAA tournament and drew Northeastern in Worcester.
Despite being underdogs essentially playing a road game, Michigan’s top line of Dexter Dancs, Cooper Marody, and Tony Calderone matched the ballyhooed Northeastern top line and pulled an upset win. Marody scored the late goal to end the Huskies’ dream run. On Sunday afternoon, the Wolverines met the Boston University Terriers and fought for a trip to St. Paul. The two hottest teams in the nation staged an ugly, gritty game that evoked battles of old between these two storied programs.
The first period showed the skills of both sides. Michigan got the first blow. The Wolverines won a puck battle in BU’s defensive corner, and Michael Pastujov passed the puck to Quinn Hughs at the left point. The talented freshman fired a shot that beat Jake Oettinger and put Michigan ahead 1-0. The Terriers battled back.
After the halfway mark of the period, Brady Tkachuk spun free of a defender and got the puck to Jordan Greenway. The Olympian unleashed a powerful wrister to tie the game 12:26 into the frame. However, BU dug themselves another hole. Nikolas Olsson took an interference minor and Michigan capitalized on the opportunity. A great cycle from the top line led to Cooper Marody with the puck along the half boards. The junior saucered a pass to Tony Calderone and the Michigan captain gave the Wolverines a lead before the intermission.
The bounces continued to go Michigan’s way early in the second period. Josh Norris fired a puck off the glass behind BU’s net and the puck bounced into BU’s crease. The puck careened off Oettinger’s back and rolled free. With the Terrier netminder out of position, Brendan Warren cleaned up the mess and gave Michigan a 3-1 lead. BU was not phased. The Terriers trailed UConn, Boston College, and Cornell in their playoff run and specialized in comebacks.
The Terriers started their comeback with incredible effort. Just after the eleven-minute mark, Patrick Curry took a backhander on a wraparound to cut the lead to one. BU outshot Michigan 9-7 in the period but did not get the equalizer before the intermission.
BU again claimed momentum early in the third. Jordan Greenway forced a turnover and found Drew Melanson for a backhander through Michigan netminder Hayden Lavigne only 3:30 into the frame. The momentum and the crowd were on BU’s side. But an untimely mistake and a bad bounced changed the momentum permanently. BU turned a puck over at the blue line, and Jake Slaker played the puck at the line. He fired a puck that caught Cam Crotty’s shin pad and deflected into the puck three minutes after BU tied the game.
BU continued the assault on Lavigne in net, outshooting Michigan 9-5 for the frame and 27-22 on the game. Lavigne held firm and did not give up the lead again. He got help from his forward to put BU away. Michigan ran a perfect break that ended with Nicholas Boka’s first goal of the season and a 5-3 lead with 3:42 left. BU pulled Jake Oettinger, but Nick Pastujov fired a near 200 foot shot into the empty net to close Michigan’s 6-3 victory and 25th Frozen Four trip.
The All-Tournament Team consisted of BU’s Jordan Greenway and David Farrance, and Michigan’s Cooper Marody, Tony Calderone, Quinn Hughes, and Hayden Lavigne. For his two goals and three points for the weekend, Marody was selected as the Tournament’s MVP.
The loss ends a great run for Boston University. The Terriers went from 8-11-3 on January 6th to Hockey East Champions and their second consecutive Regional Final on Palm Sunday. BU closes their record at 22-14-4. The team was deflated, especially captain Brandon Hickey. The Senior from Leduc, Alberta, was emotional after the end of his Terrier career.
“These were the best four years of my life,” Hickey said. “Every team was different but every team was just as tight as the first one. It was the first time living on the opposite coast and in another country away from my family. I couldn’t thank Coach Quinn enough for giving me the chance to play at Boston University.”
Along with Hickey, John MacLeod, Nikolas Olsson, and Chase Phelps depart with two Hockey East Championships, two Conference Regular Season crowns, a Beanpot, a Frozen Four appearance, and four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Graduate transfer Drew Melanson joined for the final Conference crown and NCAA tournament run. The Terriers will regroup in the offseason and await what Jordan Greenway and Dante Fabbro determine to do regarding potential jumps to the pros.
David Quinn kept optimistic after the game but was still disappointed.
“That’s a good team we lost to tonight,” Quinn said. “These games come down to bounces. Tonight’s game certainly did, but you make your own bounces. We looked nervous early. We got the energy on our side. Then, unfortunately, a puck went off a shin pad and it’s in our net. This is tough. This is the hardest part of the season and my job. We went on such a great run and have such good kids.”
The victors from Ann Arbor extend their record to 22-14-3. The Wolverines will play their ancient rivals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Frozen Four in St. Paul. Michigan Coach Mel Pearson was proud of his team’s performance after the game.
“We were picked to finish sixth in the Big 10,” Person said. “The resilience we showed to stick with it. We got lucky tonight. But we were good and lucky. We’re looking forward on getting back to the Frozen Four. I told the team at the start of the year we were not rebuilding. We set our sights on the Frozen Four and now we’re there.”
Puck drops at the Xcel Energy Center at 6 pm Central for the first game between Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State, and 9:30 for the game between Notre Dame and Michigan.