Michigan, complete with a star-laden roster that includes four of the top five picks in the 2021 NHL draft, dispatched Quinnipiac, 7-4, on Sunday in the NCAA hockey tournament, securing the final bid to next month’s Frozen Four.
The Wolverines, seeded No. 1 overall, flexed their muscle in the Allentown, Pennsylvania regional, eliminating a pair of New England teams, American International, champion of the Atlantic Hockey Conference on Friday, and then the Bobcats of the ECAC on Sunday night.
Michigan will be joined by Minnesota State, Denver and Minnesota in the Frozen Four, scheduled to begin April 7 in Boston. The Wolverines will face the Pioneers at TD Garden, while the Gophers will draw the state-rival Mavericks.
Michigan, the most talked-about team in the sport this season with all of its star power, had some ups and downs during the regular season due to roster flux. The Wolverines, who had players miss time to play in the Olympics and at the World Junior tournament in Calgary, Alberta, finished second in the Big 10, but turned a corner earlier this month in the conference tournament, when they defeated the Gophers to win the title.
In their 39th NCAA appearance, tied with Minnesota for the most of all time, the Wolverines secured their 26th Frozen Four appearance and will head to Massachusetts seeking their 10th national championship.
Quinnipiac, the lone East Coast team left headed into Sunday’s action, fell into a 3-0 hole in Allentown and couldn’t keep up with the speed and skill of the No. 1 seed until the third period when the Bobcats scored four times. Nolan Moyle, Jimmy Lambert and Thomas Bordeleau opened the scoring for Michigan, with Owen Power, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft by the Buffalo Sabres, assisting on two of those goals.
Garrett Van Wyhe added a short-handed goal to give Michigan a 4-0 lead after two periods. Michael Pastujov, Moyle and Brendan Brisson, the No. 29 overall pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 NHL draft, added late tallies to seal the scoring for the Wolverines. Jayden Lee, Wyatt Bongiovanni, Desi Burgart and Zach Metsa scored for the Bobcats.
“The main thing is that we’re on to Boston,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I did not like our third period. But give (Quinnipiac) a lot of credit. They had us on the ropes. But we hung on, we regrouped, and that’s all that matters.”
Earlier Sunday, the Gophers blanked Western Michigan, 3-0, to punch their ticket to Boston. Matthew Knies, a 2021 second-round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Aaron Huglen and Blake McLaughlin scored for Minnesota.
On Saturday, Denver outlasted Minnesota-Duluth, 2-1, and Minnesota State shut out Notre Dame, 1-0.
In a tournament that has lacked offense, the Wolverines lead all teams with 12 goals. It my not be as easy, however, against Denver, a team that has allowed just three goals in its two tournament games.
“We’re going to have make sure we play three periods,” Pearson said, sizing up the Pioneers. “And just not two.”