In the week leading up to the Michigan hockey team’s NCAA Regional in Worcester, Mass., Mel Pearson has three words to describe the atmosphere in the locker room.
“Light, energetic, excited.”
For the majority of the team, any pre-tournament jitters are a first.
With one of the youngest teams in collegiate hockey, well over half of the Wolverines weren’t present when Michigan made its most recent NCAA Tournament run two seasons ago. For most of the team, it’s their first taste of the postseason, their first chance to claim a national title.
Of course, they must first be based off some prior knowledge, otherwise they would have little credibility.
Before the season started, the odds were not in the Michigan hockey team’s favor. After an ugly 2016-17 season, in addition to a head coaching change for the first time in 33 years, the team seemed likely to head into a transition year. In that regard, the Wolverines’ projected finish of second-to-last in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches Poll was a fair one.
At the same time, predictions are, at best, guesses.
Last weekend in the Michigan hockey team’s critical series with No. 17 Wisconsin, there was no shortage of punches thrown from either team. With rivalry games against in-state foe Michigan State on the horizon for the Wolverines, physicality and aggression are likely to play a role once again.
And though not all penalties are avoidable, Michigan coach Mel Pearson thinks his team has been taking too many of what he describes as “selfish penalties.” Given this, discipline has been a major talking point of practice this week.