ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — When you step into the Yost Ice Arena, one of the first things you’ll see are the many banners for great seasons that have fallen just short of a national championship, left as reminders of Michigan’s past.
But it’s a new era for Michigan hockey, with a new man behind it. Brandon Naurato, in his first year as head coach, has his team on the doorstep of a national championship.
“He’s been unreal this year. He’s such a smart guy who knows so much about the game. Some of the things he thinks of are just genius, I think,” said sophomore Mackie Samoskevich.
Naurato took the reins in August from his assistant role, but throughout the season he still had an interim title after the departure of longtime coach Mel Pearson.
On Friday, the University of Michigan officially named him as the head coach.
“He sits in that office and grinds video and watches it, not because he has to, he loves it. I think that’s something that’s really separated us this year, is how well we’ve been prepared,” said freshman Adam Fantilli.
There are other new faces making a difference, namely a freshman class that’s taken over.
“I had a relationship with a lot of these guys even before we were even talking about Michigan and so I think they had a bit of a feel of what I was about, and I think from their perspective and mine we’ve both exceeded expectations,” said Naurato.
The class is led by Fantilli, an 18-year-old who’s leading all college hockey in scoring.
“He’s going to be a franchise player in the NHL one day. Even off the ice he’s such a good guy. When he’s working hard, he earns everything that he gets,” Samoskevich said.
Michigan has struggled to get past the semifinals in recent history. But that’s old news to these new faces. They’re not going to overthink things.
“It’s just playing to our identity. Doing what we do. It’s one game so anything can happen, but just try and control what we can control,” explained Naurato.
Michigan will take on Quinnipiac on April 6. If the Wolverines win, they’ll face off against the winner of the Minnesota vs. Boston University matchup.