No. 4 Michigan’s seniors class of 10 has now won three CCHA Super Six championships to go with their three regular-season CCHA titles and two Frozen Four appearances.
But there is one thing missing from their collective mantle: a national championship.
“[The NCAA championship] has been elusive to us,” senior captain Eric Nystrom said. “We’ve got a big senior class. We’ve got great freshmen, great sophomores, great juniors. We’ve got a great defense and a great goaltender, so we have the makings of a great team.
“But it comes down to playing well in the first game in the regional, then the second game. And if you don’t play well, you’re one and done. So, you really have to put your best foot forward and really go into the weekend flying.”
Despite the Super Six titles they won in their first two years in the maize and blue, this year’s triumph is particularly important to this group of Wolverines.
“The first one was really special because it was our first time at it,” senior Milan Gajic said. “But winning this with all the guys you’ve lived with for the last four years is really special, but also because it’s our last one, too.
“Coming into the year it was one of our main goals just because we didn’t win it last year. We came in with that mindset that it was our tournament and we won it.”
Gajic was a major factor in the championship game, scoring the Wolverines’ first two goals, both on the power play.
Last season, the Wolverines limped to the regular-season championship with three losses and a tie in their last four games before losing to the Buckeyes in the Super Six title game. Their late-season slump was a factor in being sent out East to Manchester, N.H., for the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Boston College, 3-2 in overtime, in the Northeast Regional final.
This year Michigan is riding a 10-game winning streak and is unbeaten in its last 13 games (11-0-2).
“A thing like this really gets morale up and gets practice a little more intense,” Nystrom said. “Guys are on a high note and that’s what you need going into the NCAA tournament — a team that’s rolling with guys that are confident. Tonight was a good way to go out.”
Michigan will have to put this win behind it if the Wolverines hope to write a happy ending by sending their seniors off as national champs.
“We’ve had a good run and three out of four isn’t too bad,” Nystrom said. “It’s good to get it back against a team [Ohio State] that beat us last year, so that was huge. We still have a bigger picture ahead of us.
“This was a nice notch in our belt, but we know what the ultimate picture is.”