BOSTAN – Eric Partila turned in the fold, watching as the puck jumped out of the net behind the Michigan goalkeeper. Defender Luke Hughes hit the crossbar with a stick and then broke it in half with a second swipe on the pipe.
That’s how the Wolverine season, filled with dreams of a national championship thanks to one of the most talented registries in the program’s history, came to a sudden and stunning end. The team, which took first place in the NCAA tournament, failed to survive Denver’s dominance as a result of a 3-2 overtime defeat that eliminated UM and extended the drought in the championship to 24 years.
With the loss, serious questions arise, including whether the seven Raamahi elections in the NHL draft in the first round are back and how the program plans to replace a number of key seniors. But there’s nothing more than whether coach Mel Pearson will return for a sixth season – and if he should, then after a controversial season ended without the country’s 10th champion and an empty sense of unbeatable success after wasting so much talents.
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According to the Michigan Daily, the five-year contract that Pearson signed when he was hired to replace Red Berenson in 2017 expires on April 30th.
“I work under the direction of the athletic director and the Regency Council,” Pearson told the Daily Daily recently. “So if they want me back, that’s the plan.”
Asked on Thursday whether he would coach Raamahi next season, Pearson postponed comment.
“I’m glad you take care of me,” he said, “but tonight I’m just going to talk about the game and our team.”
Quietly standing in the back of the room and hearing Pearson’s dismissal after the game at a press conference, UM sporting director Ward Manuel also declined to comment when asked later about the contract situation at TD Center.
“Everything will be fine with him,” Manuel said.
These negotiations are also complicated by two significant situations – the investigation of Chapter IX violations and complaints in the workplace, as well as two situations related to COVID-19.
First, the student paper reported that Pearson and Hockey Operations Director Rick Bancroft allegedly created a toxic work environment for female staff and that Pearson allegedly retaliated against the player for voicing problems under the Raamahi program.
This investigation, which is reportedly being conducted by the law firm WilmerHale, began in October 2021. On Jan. 31, Pearson denied the allegations.
“The truth will come true at the end of the investigation,” Pearson said at the time. “And I feel very confident that the allegations will be proven wrong.”
Along with these allegations, the Title IX investigation also reported that Pearson was accused of telling players to lie in his forms of tracking COVID-19 contacts before the 2021 NCAA tournament, from which Michigan was withdrawn without playing due to a positive test on COVID-19. It is unclear whether the Big Ten or the NCAA could also influence these allegations.
Next comes the situation with Great Lakes Invitational.
The Michigan Tech fan site has received documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act stating that Pearson demanded the cancellation of the game between Wolverines and Western Michigan, scheduled for December 30, summer 2021 due to the planned absence of UM players for World Juniors.
Michigan said Dec. 27 that it could not play against the Broncos “because of health and welfare protocols under the Wolverines program.” On December 29, “Raamahi” was still able to play with Michigan Tech with a score of 0: 0 in a team of 18 people.
This caused a resonance in the sport: Cornell’s coach and NCAA Division I Hockey Committee member Mike Schaefer told the College Hockey News in December that Wolverines used a “loophole” abusing pandemic rules for the absence of COVID-19. He added that “the committee can do nothing.”
“In the future, I guess that’s what we need to address,” Schaefer told the site. “As a committee, we will definitely talk about it. I’m sure we will. And the commissioners, I’m sure, will talk about what happened. Nobody wants that. “
Pearson on Thursday showed his players ’determination to get into the Frozen Four despite a whirlwind of problems.
“This team was as close as any,” he said. “They really got together as a group, no matter how many guys from the Olympics were missing, whatever it was. I mean, they did a lot. “
However, apart from the outgoing senior players Nick Blankenburg and Gareth Van Weich on the podium, Michigan has not made other of its players available after the loss. This did not include any of the 13 players drafted by NHL teams. None of the first-round elections brought a point against Denver; the only drafted player to do so was Thomas Bordela, selected in 2020 in the second round of San Jose, who scored UM’s second goal and tied the score in the third period.
“They’re just incredible teammates, incredible guys on and off the ice,” Van Wye said of his talented teammates. “And they worked it out – I don’t know if I can say it now – but they gave us everything, everything they have. So I’m really proud of them, I’m really proud to be one of their teammates. “
Whether this collection will remain in the draft together remains to be seen, based on both the long-running controversy over the program and the fact that NHL teams may call in the coming days to begin their professional careers. And whether Pearson’s future is tied to this group, or whether their decisions could affect him, also remains cloudy.
Ultimately, instead of celebrating the championship as last time in 1996 and 1998, the Wolverines were left thinking about a missed opportunity, as was the case in 1997 – another extremely talented team was left wondering what had gone wrong.
The big difference: this group goes into the uncertain offseason, not knowing if they will be able to run it together to get their own chance at ransom and a long-awaited return to NCAA glory.
Chris Salari has been covering student hockey since 1994 for several publications.Contact him: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.