Michigan faces powerful Northeastern line in NCAA hockey tournament

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Mel Pearson

Mel Pearson was hired as Michigan’s coach to consistently get the Wolverines in the NCAA hockey tournament and contend for national championships, like legendary head coach Red Berenson did in past decades.

He’s 1-for-1 on the NCAA tournament now as it was announced Sunday that Michigan earned a No. 2 seed in the Northeast Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass.

The Wolverines (20-14-3) will play No. 3 seed Northeastern (23-9-5) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN News), with the winner facing the survivor between top-seeded Cornell and No. 4 seed Boston University Sunday for the right to move on to the Frozen Four.

Against Northeastern, Michigan will have to deal with the line of Adam Gaudette (30 goals, 60 points), Dylan Sikura (21 goals, 53 points) and Nolan Stevens (24 goals, 41 points). Sikura leads the nation with 13 power-play goals.

Cayden Primeau, a 6-foot-4 freshman goaltender, is 19-7-5 with a .932 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against-average.

“They’ve been really solid the last four or five years, but this year they have maybe the best line in college hockey and the numbers will bear that out in Gaudette, Sikura and Stevens,” said Pearson. “They’re really good and (Jeremy) Davies is a really good defenseman, and they have a young goalie who is playing pretty well. That group of four or five guys really carry them.”

Pearson has done an outstanding job in his first year of guiding the Wolverines, getting them to the Big Ten tournament semifinal game earlier this month and earning an at-large bid into the NCAA tourney.

Pearson became the first coach in college history to lead different programs to NCAA tournament appearances in consecutive years, leading Michigan Tech to the tourney last season before getting the job at Michigan. Pearson was an assistant under Berenson for 23 years, helping the Wolverines win national championships in 1996 and 1998, and another title game appearance in 2011, before taking the Tech job the next year.

“Someone pointed out today that I was the first guy ever to take different teams on consecutive years (to the NCAA tournament),” Pearson said. “So it’s about good players. I don’t score any goals or make any saves or block shots. I’m proud and really happy for the Tech guys. I sent the seniors an e-mail about how happy and proud I am of them.”

Michigan was 13-19-3 last season after losing several players early to the pro ranks following its Big Ten tournament championship season in 2016, when it defeated Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tourney before a regional final loss to North Dakota.

North Dakota failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

The Big Ten sent four teams, including No. 1 seed Notre Dame (East Regional, Bridgeport, Conn.), and No. 1 seed Ohio State and No. 3 seed Penn State (Midwest, Allentown, Pa.).

Notre Dame (25-9-2), which won the Big Ten regular season and conference championships – will face Michigan Tech (22-16-5) Friday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2). Ohio State will play Princeton Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

St. Cloud is the overall No. 1 seed and will play in the West Regional, opening against Air Force Friday at 4 p.m. (ESPNU).

Denver is making its 11th straight NCAA tournament appearance and enter as the defending national champs, the No. 2 seed, playing Penn State.


West Regional

At Sioux Falls, S.D.

Friday, March 23

No. 1 St. Cloud State (25-8-6) vs. No. 4 Air Force (22-14-5), 4 p.m.

No. 2 Minnesota State Mankato (29-9-1) vs. No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (21-16-3), 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 24

Final, 9 p.m.

Midwest Regional

At Allentown, Pa.

Saturday, March 24

No. 1 Ohio State (24-9-5) vs. No. 4 Princeton (19-12-4), 3:30 p.m.

No. 2 Denver (22-9-8) vs. No. 3 Penn State (18-14-5), 7 p.m.

Sunday, March 25

Final, 6:30 p.m.

Northeast Regional

At Worcester, Mass.

Saturday, March 24

No. 1 Cornell (25-5-2) vs. No. 4 Boston University (21-13-4), 1 p.m.

No. 2 Michigan (20-14-3) vs. No. 3 Northeastern (23-9-5), 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 25

Final, 4 p.m.

East Regional

At Bridgeport, Conn.

Friday, March 23

No. 1 Notre Dame (25-9-2) vs. No. 4 Michigan Tech (22-16-5), 3 p.m.

No. 2 Providence (23-11-4) vs. No. 3 Clarkson (23-10-6), 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 24

Final, 6 p.m.


At Saint Paul, Minn.

Thursday, April 5

West champion vs. Midwest champion, 6 or 9:30 p.m.

Northeast champion vs. East champion, 6 or 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 7

National championship, 7:30 p.m.