Ann Arbor is known as A2 but maybe this week it should be referred to as A4 – as in Final Four. On Saturday night, the Wolverines defeated Florida State in basketball to earn a trip the NCAA Final Four next weekend. And on Sunday, the hockey team knocked off Boston University 6-3 to advance to the Frozen Four.
Having both the hockey team and the basketball team among four teams standing has happened only a few times with Michigan and some team from East Lansing the only schools to accomplish such a feat.
Michigan will skate into the Frozen Four for the 25th time in program history, tied with Boston College for the most appearances after its win over No. 4-seeded Boston University at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., in the second round of the NCAA’s Northeast Regional. The Wolverines, who advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2011, face Notre Dame at 9:30 p.m., on Thursday, April 5 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Three Big Ten teams made the Frozen Four. Ohio State will play Minnesota Duluth in the first semifinal game on Thursday.
The Frozen Four Championship game is at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 7. The basketball team plays its semifinal NCAA game at 6:09 p.m.
“We were picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten this year so the expectations weren’t very high,” said Coach Mel Pearson, in his first season behind the bench for the Wolverines. “The resiliency to stick with it, the patience with a new coach, and hanging in there and they found a way.”
Pearson didn’t think it was the Wolverines’ best effort on Sunday against a “very good” Boston University team, but as he said afterward, the Wolverines were both “good and lucky.”
“We were fortunate and we’ll take and we are really looking forward to getting back to the Frozen Four,” he said. “We looking forward to having that opportunity and to compete for a National Championship.”
Michigan led 2-1 after one period and 3-2 after two periods. Six different players scored for the Wolverines. Quinn Hughes and Tony Calderone (power play) both scored in the first period. Brendan Warren scored in the second period and Jake Slaker, Nicholas Boka and Nick Pastujov scored third-period goals. Jack Becker had two assists in the win.
The Wolverines have gotten it done this season with depth and determination. They’ve overcome some injuries earlier in the year which allowed others to step in and step up. It’s all come together at the right time for the Maize and Blue.
“We are deep,” said Calderone, whose goal extended his point streak to six straight games. “Our line (the No. 1 line) has been producing but I think sometimes the other lines get overlooked. They’ve been good all year and are the reason we’ve won games.”
Slaker talked about the determination part of their success.
“I think we are the only ones in the nation who expected us to be here at this point,” he said. “We like being the underdogs and I know we will be an underdog against Notre Dame going into the Frozen Four but we’re looking forward to it. I think it’s been motivation for all of us. We’ve had ups and downs throughout the year but the best time to play your best hockey is at the end of the year and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
It will be a rubber match for the Wolverines and Fighting Irish, who split the four games they faced off against each other in the regular season. Michigan swept the Fighting Irish during their last two encounters on Feb. 16 and 18 after losing one-goal games in South Bend earlier in the season.