ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan will introduce Mel Pearson as its new hockey coach Monday, marking a new era in the program.
Pearson replaces Red Berenson, who announced his retirement earlier this month after 33 years at the helm of the Wolverines. Berenson was one of college hockey’s most successful and most notable coaches, but Pearson doesn’t take over the program as a nobody.
Pearson coached at Michigan Tech for the last six seasons. He was an assistant coach at Michigan from 1988 to 2011, and helped the Wolverines forge their place as a power in what is sometimes viewed as a niche sport.
Michigan will introduce Pearson at a press conference at 2 p.m. ET Monday in Ann Arbor. Here are five things to know about the Wolverines’ new coach.
From worst to first
Michigan Tech was in the college hockey doldrums when Pearson took over the program in 2011. The Huskies were 4-30-4 in 2010-11 and hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1981 — Pearson’s senior year at Michigan Tech.
In Pearson’s first head coaching job, the Huskies made the NCAA Tournament twice (including this season), and won a Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championship and a WCHA tournament championship.
Pearson leaves Michigan Tech with a record of 118-92-29; the Huskies finished 23-15-7 (15-7-6 WCHA) this season. They lost to Denver, 5-2, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pearson is a 1981 graduate of Michigan Tech, which is located in Houghton — 8 1/2 hours north of Ann Arbor. He was recruited by Michigan to play hockey. He majored in business administration, but made a career in coaching college hockey.
In four seasons at Michigan Tech, Pearson scored 21 goals and had 25 assists. His most notable goal came against Michigan in the championship game of the 1979 Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the first year the arena opened. Pearson scored at 2:28 of the third overtime to help the Huskies win the championship — the longest game in the 43-year history of the tournament.
Pearson got his start in coaching as an assistant at Michigan Tech from 1982-88, but was an assistant for Berenson from 1988 to 2011.
During that 23-year stretch, the Wolverines won two national championships (1996, 1998), earned berths in 11 Frozen Fours and won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championship nine times.
Pearson helped develop numerous Wolverines into NHL players, including Carl Hagelin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, former NHL goalie Marty Turco, and former NHL center Brendan Morrison.
Where is that, anyways?
Pearson hails from Flin Flon, Manitoba, a town located near the Saskatchewan border. Flin Flon, like Houghton, is remote; it’s about a 8-hour drive from Winnipeg.
Another Flin Flon product? Philadelphia Flyers executive and NHL Hall of Fame player Bobby Clarke.
Pearson played high school hockey in Edina, Minn., before joining Michigan Tech in 1977 as a freshman.
He’s on Twitter, too
Pearson’s Twitter account, as of Monday morning, had about 1,200 followers — that number will likely surge as he gets settled in at Michigan.
Michigan Tech and BlackHawk great Tony O. He will drop the puck at tonight's NCAA Championship game !!!
Go Huskies pic.twitter.com/j6ebU9KBfa
— Mel Pearson (@mtuhky_pearson) April 8, 2017
Pearson isn’t the only notable Michigan Tech hockey product. He joins Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito, pictured above; 2016 NHL All-Star Game MVP John Scott, and former Pittsburgh and Ottawa left wing Jarkko Ruutu.
Pearson is more in the business of retweeting — many of his retweets are about the Frozen Four coming to Detroit, the Detroit Tigers and, of course, Michigan Tech hockey. (That last one could change, though.)