Kornacki: A Conversation with U-M's New Ice Hockey Coach
Pearson Selected to Lead Michigan Ice Hockey Program
Mel Pearson was named the ninth head coach in University of Michigan hockey history on Monday, April 24, 2017.
Pearson returns to Ann Arbor following an impressive six-year stint as head coach at Michigan Tech. There, he led the Huskies to two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last three years while winning a WCHA regular-season title and a WCHA Championship in that span. Pearson registered a 118-92-29 overall record, including a 75-34-14 mark over the past three seasons.
Under Pearson's leadership, the Huskies finished the 2016-17 season ranked in the top 20 for a third consecutive year, all of them featuring 20-win campaigns. Pearson also earned two WCHA Coach of the Year honors in his time at Michigan Tech, which claimed the program's first-ever No. 1 national ranking on Nov. 17, 2014.
Pearson served as a U-M assistant coach from 1988-89 through 1998-99 and as associate head coach from 1999-2000 through 2010-11. He played an integral role in developing the Michigan program into one of the most successful in the country. During his tenure, the Wolverines posted a 667-243-71 record while capturing 11 Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season titles, nine CCHA Tournament crowns, two NCAA championships (1996 and 1998), and making 11 NCAA Frozen Four appearances.
Pearson assisted head coach Red Berenson with on-ice coaching and performed many of the program's administrative functions. He was also heavily involved in the Wolverines' recruiting efforts, helping Michigan land the core of its 1996 and 1998 NCAA champion teams.
After he helped Michigan to the 1999-2000 CCHA regular-season championship, Pearson was awarded the Terry Flanagan Award by the American Hockey Coaches' Association, which honors an assistant coach's career body of work. Pearson also served as a coach with the 1996 United States World Junior Championship team, and helped the Americans to a silver medal, the country's second-best finish at the event.
Perhaps destined to coach with the Wolverines, Pearson's prep (Willard Ikola) and college (John MacInnes) mentors earned varsity letters as goaltenders at Michigan. Pearson was a standout high school player for Ikola (1952-54) at Edina East (Minn.) High School, while playing his collegiate career out at Michigan Technological University under MacInnes (1946-50), one of college hockey's legendary coaches.
As a collegian (1977-81), Pearson collected 56 points (21-35-56) in 97 games, helping Michigan Tech to a third-place finish at the 1981 NCAA Championship. Ironically, Pearson's most "famous" goal was scored against the Wolverines in the championship game of the 1979 Great Lakes Invitational. He broke a 4-4 tie at 2:28 of the third overtime to give the Huskies the GLI title. The game still stands as longest in the 43-year history of the tournament.
After earning his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1981, Pearson remained at his alma mater to serve as an assistant ice hockey coach on the Huskies' staff from 1982-88.
The Flin Flon, Manitoba, native comes from a hockey family. His father, George "Mel" Pearson, played 15 seasons of professional hockey with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and with Minnesota of the World Hockey Association. His brother, Ted, played for the University of Wisconsin and spent time in the Calgary Flames organization.
Pearson and his wife, Susie, have three children -- Kim, Sarah and Paul -- and reside in Saline, Michigan.