For the second consecutive year and an NCAA-record 27th time, the Michigan Wolverines hockey team is heading to the Frozen Four. Thanks to Mackie Samoskevich’s overtime goal, the team defeated Penn State, the No. 2 seed at the Allentown, Pennsylvania, NCAA regional, and secured their spot in the semifinals against Quinnipiac, another No. 1 seed, on April 6 in Tampa, Florida.
Michigan’s leading offense, which scored the most goals in an NCAA tournament game since 1961 in Friday’s 11-1 victory over No. 4 seed Colgate, struggled to find their rhythm against Penn State. It wasn’t until the 12:08 mark of the third period, during their fourth power play, that Michigan freshman Adam Fantilli was able to score, tying the game. Freshman Erik Portillo was impeccable in the goal, holding off numerous attempts by Penn State.
Michigan hockey has been ranked inside the top 10 of college hockey all season, finishing No. 2 after beating top-seed Minnesota. They are the youngest team in college hockey, but with a record of 26-11-3, including Sunday’s win, they have clearly not let that status stand in their way.
The Wolverines lost six of their seven top scorers from last season, which included six top-40 draft picks. However, with interim head coach Brandon Naurato at the helm, who was promoted in August following a lengthy investigation of the program which led to former head coach Mel Pearson’s termination, the team has thrived. They are living up to their potential as national title contenders.
Michigan’s success heading into the postseason is attributed to staying out of the box. They will need to maintain this discipline if they hope to bring home the championship trophy.