Frozen Four Preview: Michigan guns for 10th national title in St. Paul

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While the buzz continues to circulate around the Michigan men’s basketball team as they enter their second trip to the Final Four in six seasons, they are not the only athletics program from that university with a shot to win a national title.

Here’s a fun nugget for you. This is the sixth time ever that a school has a team in both the Final Four in basketball and the Frozen Four in hockey in the same season.

The Wolverines’ men’s hockey team swept through the Northeast Regional of the NCAA Division I Tournament this past weekend, outscoring Northeastern and Boston Univ. 9-5 to get back to the Frozen Four for a remarkable 25th time in program history, matching Boston College for the most all-time.

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For those who have followed along with our weekly roundup pieces throughout the college hockey season, you know that Michigan (22-14-3) really came on strong over the second half of the season to put themselves in talks for an at-large bid. This is a team that was sitting under .500 (9-10-2) through its first 21 games, coming off a sweep at the hands of arch-rival Notre Dame; 3-7-2 in their first 12 conference games.

But something clicked after that home-and-home with the Fighting Irish back in early January. Michigan quickly responded with two impressive series sweeps against top-15 Big Ten rivals, at Minnesota and home to Penn State. That mini four-game winning streak jump-started a strong finish to end the season, picking up wins in 13 of their final 18 games.

The biggest difference? It simply translates to improvements in offense, defense, and goaltending.

GOALS OPP. GOALS
FIRST 21 GMS 3.43 3.19
LAST 18 GMS 3.77 2.77

Team Info | USCHO

The Wolverines this season have had an adequate number of players chip in, in terms of production, but none more so than the tandem of senior Tony Calderone and junior Cooper Marody. Calderone leads the team in goals (24), while Marody leads in assists (34). Together, they have accounted for 93 points on the year.

Both Calderone (Trenton) and Marody (Brighton) come from cities in Michigan with hockey-rich traditions. Marody, in particular, is already property of the Philadelphia Flyers, a former sixth-round pick back in 2015.

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It certainly has been an impressive run for first-year head coach Mel Pearson, the former Michigan Tech head coach who took over at Michigan for long-time head man Red Berenson last April when Berenson called it a career. The Wolverines took a considerable step back last season when they collected just 13 wins. That came one year after the team, featuring the famed ‘CCM’ line of Kyle Connor, J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte, led them to 25 wins and an Elite 8 showing in the NCAA Tournament.

But Pearson has inherited a team that features veterans alongside young players with upside long-term. Now, they have a shot at a 10th national championship.

Michigan is part of a Frozen Four this year where three of the four teams hail from the Big Ten; Ohio State and Notre Dame being the others. Minnesota-Duluth is also back in the Frozen Four. The Wolverines will play the Irish for a fifth time this season in their semifinal. After dropping both games of the first home-and-home between the two, Michigan rebounded with a sweep of the golden-domers in mid-February.

And if we’re talking program pedigree, it’s Michigan and everybody else in these national semifinals (numbers include this season).

MICH ND OSU UM-D
TOURN. APP. 37* 10 8 12
FROZEN FOUR APP. 25* 4 2 6
NAT’L TITLES 9** 0 0 1

*T-most all-time | **Most all-time

SCHEDULE

All four teams will have nearly two weeks off before the national semifinals get underway on Thursday, April 5 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

  • NATIONAL SEMIFINALS
    • Game 1 | Minn-Duluth vs. Ohio State | 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2
    • Game 2 | Michigan vs. Notre Dame | 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
  • NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (April 7)
    • Winners of two semifinals | 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN