John U. Bacon on Michigan hockey's Frozen Four loss, Detroit's playoff woes, and more
The University of Michigan hockey team's season came to an end Thursday night.
The NCAA hosted the men's college hockey Frozen Four semifinal games in Tampa, Florida. Quinnipiac University beat Michigan 5-2.
In the other semifinal, the University of Minnesota beat Boston University 6-2. Minnesota and Quinnipiac will play for the national title Saturday night.
Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to talk about Michigan's loss, and other sports news.
Doug Tribou: Michigan beat the Quinnipiac Bobcats in last year's tournament, but the Wolverines just did not have enough answers for their offensive attack Thursday night. What went wrong for Michigan?
JUB: Well, the short answer, sadly for Michigan, is goaltending. Erik Portillo is a 6'6" goalie out of Sweden. He's extremely good. He made a lot of great saves last night that kept them in the game, but three soft goals were the difference and that's why they lost.
Michigan's 27 Frozen Four appearances are an NCAA record, but the Wolverines haven't won a national title since 1998.
DT: John, Brandon Naurato had been serving as Michigan's interim coach after replacing Mel Pearson, who was fired after last season. But during the tournament, U of M announced that Naurato has been hired as the head coach moving forward.
This was Michigan's second straight Frozen Four appearance record 27th overall, but the Wolverines haven't had a national title since 1998. How much pressure will Naurato be under to change that?
JUB: Well, the young man is about to find out. You get a guaranteed contract and you get a lot of pressure. They've gotten to two Final Fours, won two Big Ten titles the last two years. But at Michigan, the standards are national titles. So he's going to feel that pressure going forward.
DT: Let's turn to some college basketball news. University of Michigan star center Hunter Dickinson announced late last week that he's entering the transfer portal. That's the system that allows players to switch schools.
Dickinson's been at U of M for three seasons. He hasn't said much about the move, and coach Juwan Howard praised him and wished him well. What do you make of the fact that Dickinson isn't declaring for the NBA draft, but also does not want to stay in Ann Arbor?
JUB: Well, you can't spin that as positive, Doug. There's no way. He's your best player coming back. It tells you two things. One: he's probably after more NIL money. That's Name, Image, Likeness, a way to get paid these days for college athletes. Michigan's behind on that. It's also telling you that he does not think Michigan's going to win next year. And he's probably right.
DT: Michigan is also losing its second leading scorer after Dickinson, Jett Howard, who just finished his freshman season, and also happens to be coach Juwan Howard's son. He has declared for the NBA draft.
John, before I let you go, let's talk pro sports. It's early, but the Tigers are off to a slow start again this year. The Pistons have just 16 wins this season with a couple of games left. The Red Wings were eliminated from playoff contention Thursday night. The last [major] Detroit franchise to make the playoffs — not win a title, but make the playoffs — was the Pistons in 2019. Which team is going to break that dry spell? And I should note here, the Lions did have a winning record last season, John.
JUB: Doug, up is down, left is right, black is white, etc. The best chance Detroit teams have to make the playoffs — and save this clip, Doug — are the Detroit Lions. Yes, I said that.
DT: [Laughing] That is a first in our many, many conversations. John, Thanks a lot.
JUB: Doug, thank you.
Editor's note: Some quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.