Michigan will get to do this 719 miles from home [Bill Rapai]
The pundits preached patience before the season, but what was supposed to take a few seasons took just one: Mel Pearson and his staff have guided Michigan to an NCAA tournament berth in their first season behind the bench. The appearance will be Michigan’s second in the last six seasons.
Michigan drew the two-seed in the Northeast Regional and will face three-seed Northeastern on Saturday, March 24th at 4:30 PM in Worchester, MA. You can catch it live on ESPNews
Northeastern is Pairwise’s highest-ranked three-seed. Northeastern finished the season with 23 wins, including a relatively impressive (based on the rest of the bodybags on their schedule) home-and-home sweep of Boston University in November, a one-off win at Boston College in December, and wins over both schools in February’s Beanpot tournament. They also took Pairiwse no. 7 Providence to overtime in a home-and-home series in January and again in the Hockey East semis.
Northeastern’s powered by an explosive first line, good goaltending, and a high dose of Michigan’s kryptonite. Their top line of Nolan Stevens, Adam Gaudette, and Dylan Sikura put up 41, 59, and 52 points, respectively. Gaudette and Sikura are also both Hobey Baker top-ten finalists. Goaltender Cayden Primeau has a .932 SV%, including a stellar .936 at even strength and .906 when down a man. Northeastern also features the nation’s third-best power play at 27.2%, which is the highest % power play in the tournament fold and the absolute last thing you want to see if you wear a block-M sweater.
Facing Northeastern in the Northeast Regional is a fairly heavy-handed hint at Michigan’s other opponent: geography. Northeastern’s campus is a brisk 52-minute drive from the DCU Center. Should Michigan advance, they would face either one-seed Cornell (Pairwise #3) or four-seed Boston University (Pairwise #15) on Sunday. Boston University’s campus is an even closer drive than Northeastern’s (by two minutes), and they’ve recently found a way to get all their talent on the same page, surging to a Hockey East title by way of victories over Boston College and eventual two-seed Providence. Cornell may have more overall wins, but considering location, top-end talent, recent results, and the all-important PP%, Michigan might rather face Cornell for a shot at the Frozen Four.