Despite the heartbreaking loss in the Frozen Four, the relationships this team has built will last forever. Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

BOSTON — Pausing in the middle of his opening statement, Michigan coach Mel Pearson’s eyes turned glossy from tears. Collecting himself, he addressed the media after the Michigan hockey team’s overtime loss to Denver. 

“I’ve been doing this a long time. This team was as close as any.” 

The team’s closeness got them to the Frozen Four. But after a tight matchup, it was the Pioneers who scored late and would stay an extra couple days in Boston for the NCAA National Championship final. The Wolverines’ chances to win some more hardware and live up to all of their expectations were over. 

What withstood the negativity of the defeat, however, was the emphasis on relationships built within the team. And it wasn’t just the memories on the ice, but off the ice, that would combat the loss. 

Michigan boasted a young roster this season with 15 underclassmen on their 29-man roster. It wouldn’t be out of line to assume that feuds could erupt and tensions could rise with so many young players entering the locker room. That was anything but the case. 

“They’re unbelievable teammates on and off the ice,” senior forward Garrett Van Wyhe said. “They gave us everything. I’m really proud of them and I’m really proud to be one of their teammates.” 

Sophomore defenseman Owen Power came into this season as the first overall NHL draft pick and immense publicity surrounding his decision to delay his professional career. Power was a key contributor from the start but missed chunks of the season due to the World Junior Championships and the Olympics. 

Yet it’s clear that, through all the pressure, his character made a massive impact on his teammates. Senior forward Nick Blankenburg has been Power’s roommate ever since he arrived in Ann Arbor and had more than a few kind words to say about him. 

“You get so close to someone and care about these guys a lot,” Blankenburg said. “It’s something special, especially with Owen (Power).” 

Power had never done laundry before college and had family members cook him meals. Blankenburg saw him mature first hand from the beginning of his freshman year. 

And just because the team had high draft picks like Power, it didn’t mean they were going to be successful as a group. Reaching the Frozen Four is no easy task, and a lot of teams didn’t achieve it. 

“The friendships that they’ve built are lifelong friendships,” Pearson said. “They really came together as a group. Whether it was missing guys, some controversy or the Olympics. Whatever it might be, they dealt with a lot.” 

The camaraderie is shown by Van Wyhe and senior forward Michael Pastujov throwing a football in the stands before warmups. It’s furthered through sophomore forwards Matty Beniers and Philippe Lapointe playing a game of one touch before practice. And it’s seen through sophomore forward Brendan Brisson rushing to protect sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo when an opposing skater snows at him. 

Pearson has been coaching hockey for 40 years, and it’s clear this group will be remembered after the loss to Denver and beyond. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the young men that I was able to coach this year,” Pearson said. “It’s the most fun I’ve had and I owe it all to them.”