Oct. 31, 2013
By Chad Shepard
As No. 4 Michigan prepares to host Michigan Tech in this weekend, it will be a homecoming for Huskies head coach Mel Pearson and assistant Bill Muckalt. Pearson, who played at Tech from 1977-81 under John MacInnes, coached at Michigan for 23 years an assistant under Red Berenson before returning to coach at Michigan Tech in 2011. Muckalt, who was recruited by Pearson, played for the Wolverines from 1994-98, winning two national championships -- as a sophomore in 1996 and again as a senior in 1998.
Berenson remembers both men well and hasn't forgotten the contributions both have made to the program. "With (Mel's) recruiting and his contributions on the ice he got in on some of our best teams and some of our best years," Berenson said. "Mel had a great time here as a coach, and he was the heart and soul."
Berenson called Muckalt "an impact player right from his freshman year," and said that by the time his senior season rolled around, he was "a dominant player." Muckalt accumulated 226 points during his four years in Maize and Blue, scoring 105 goals and registering 121 assists, which places him seventh on U-M's all-time scoring list. Muckalt also earned All-American first team honors in his final year in a Wolverine sweater.
The Wolverines and Huskies haven't played on either school's campus in some time, before both Berenson and Pearson arrived at Michigan Feb. 17-18, 1984, at Yost Ice Arena.
"It's interesting," Berenson said. "Mel did the scheduling all those years, and he never scheduled Michigan Tech. In the meantime, we've played them every second year, had a chance to play them every year in the GLI. This is the first time since I've been here that we will have hosted (them) or played in their rink."
Berenson acknowledges the strides that the Michigan Tech program has already made under Pearson.
"That first year they took a big step. I know they're happy with the direction they're going," Berenson said.
He also sees the hockey qualities in Bill Muckalt that translate well to coaching, citing the enthusiasm Muckalt played with during his time in Ann Arbor.
"He loved to compete. I think if you're a player for him you're going to sense that competition and try and play really well. He was not an average player. He was well-above average. Expectations are going to be high for his players."
While the Wolverines boast a 20-3-0 record against the Huskies under Berenson, the all-time series is just 120-91-4 in favor of Michigan. Before Berenson's tenure behind the bench, the two schools were within 10 games of each other in the all-time series, and he remembers a time when Michigan-Michigan Tech was a premier rivalry game.
"When I played here in the late 50s and the 60s, (they) won the national championship my senior year, and we had a great rivalry with them."
This weekend's series will mark the 216th and 217th meetings between the two schools; only Minnesota and Michigan State have faced off with U-M more times.