ST. LOUIS — Fifteen years ago, Brendan Morrison and a supporting cast legitimized the Michigan hockey program once again by winning the national title that had eluded the Wolverines for 32 years.
It defeated Colorado College in dramatic overtime fashion and became the champions in 1996, pushing earlier disappointments to the wayside.
Though a few years in the making, Michigan had finally done it.
“Michigan was really back on the map in college hockey,” Morrison said about the program earlier this week in a phone interview. “A lot of the years, we were favored but just couldn’t pull out the big games.
“It was our time. We were due to win. It was a big relief to know, ‘Hey, you know, we can win the big game. We are one of the top programs.’ ”
Press the fast-forward button to 2011, and these Wolverines are headed to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008, following a 2-1 victory over Colorado College on Saturday night.
But with the date in St. Paul, Minnesota in two weekends, Michigan has only one question to answer: Could this be the season it, once again, wins the national title, putting it into the conversation as being THE best program in the country?
And, guess what?
Michigan is due for a national title in the worst way, making this the year an NCAA Championship will finally be brought home to Ann Arbor.
If you would’ve told me that I’d be seeing that back in October, I would have called you nuts.
I grew accustomed to the team’s constant disappointments in NCAA Tournament play. The poor goaltending, sloppy defensive effort and inability to score the big game-changing goal all adds up to no NCAA Championship banners being raised in Yost Ice Arena.
And whatever the case may be for any of the recent sub-par performances in the tournament — giving up four straight goals to Colorado College in 2005 or maybe the 2009 first-round upset at the hands of Air Force — the fact still remains black and white.
Just like it was time in Cincinnati, Ohio back in the mid-1990s.
This year. Right now.
The current group of Wolverines has it in them to earn the title of being called No. 1. Michigan will walk out of the Xcel Energy Center with the national title.
The Wolverines have won games every way imaginable in 2010-11.
The crazy bounces that just cannot seem to be explained (Chad Langlais, I’m looking at you).
The scoring touch from Scooter Vaughan and Lee Moffie that just flat out wasn’t expected this year — the duo has accounted for 21 goals this season.
The eight come-from-behind victories and the refuse-to-quit mentality that this team exhibited all year, with Friday night against Nebraska-Omaha being no different.
And finally, a little luck in late February against Western Michigan to cap off a dramatic two-goal comeback on senior night.
Brendan Morrison knew his team was certainly due for a title.
And maybe, just maybe, the same could possibly be said for current senior forward Louie Caporusso.
“When you win when you’re not supposed to win, I think it’s a sign,” Caporusso said following the overtime win against Western Michigan. “It’s a sign that maybe this is the year for Michigan hockey.”
Believe me Louie, it is.
— Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org