Mel Pearson enters his third season as Michigan Tech’s head hockey coach in 2013-14 having been named WCHA Coach of the Year in his inaugural campaign in 2011-12 and after guiding the Huskies to their second-best two-season stretch in the last 18 years with 29 wins.
The 2012-13 season saw several highlights including Michigan Tech’s first Great Lakes Invitational Championship in 32 years as the Huskies shutout both Michigan and No. 7 Western Michigan at the holiday tournament. The Huskies’s last GLI title was in 1981, when Pearson was a player.
Tech also knocked off No. 1-ranked Minnesota, No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha and No. 7 St. Cloud State during the regular season before pushing its WCHA playoff series at No. 4 North Dakota to a decisive third game. The Huskies possessed the nation’s 11th-best power play in 2012-13 at 21.0 percent.
The previous season, Pearson led the Huskies to a 16-19-4 record and a WCHA Final Five appearance just one year after the team went 4-30-4. Tech was picked to finish last in the 12-team WCHA according to the 2011-12 preseason poll, but settled in eighth after having a chance to finish as high as fifth in the final weekend of the regular season. Michigan Tech won 11 WCHA games (after winning just eight the previous three years combined) and posted marquee wins over then No. 3 Denver (Oct. 28), No. 2 Minnesota (Dec. 9) and No. 1 Minnesota Duluth (Jan. 28) during the year.
Michigan Tech’s offense has surged in two years under Pearson, averaging 2.86 goals per game compared to 1.88 the three years prior to his arrival. The Huskies have also allowed 1.4 fewer goals per game.
For the 23 years prior to coming to Houghton, Pearson was assistant coach at Michigan helping the Wolverines to a 667-243-71 record, 11 Frozen Fours and two national championships. He earned the Terry Flanagan Award, which honors an assistant coach’s career, and was credited for landing the bulk of the players on Michigan’s 1996 and 1998 NCAA championship teams. He also recruited dozens of All-Americans and several Hobey Baker finalists during his time in Ann Arbor.
Pearson began as assistant coach under Red Berenson in Ann Arbor in 1988 and was promoted to associate head coach prior to the 1999-2000 season. During Pearson’s stint at Michigan, the Wolverines won 11 CCHA regular season titles, 9 CCHA playoff championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament a record 21 consecutive times from 1991-2011.
Pearson, who was born in Vancouver, B.C., moved to Minnesota as a youth and played hockey at Edina High School. He was recruited by John MacInnes and played for the legendary coach at Michigan Tech from 1977-81. A forward, Pearson put up 56 points (21-35--56) in 97 career games in a Black and Gold sweater and also earned a degree in business administration while in Houghton. One of his playing highlights included scoring the game-winning goal in the championship game of the 1979 GLI. The tally broke a 4-all deadlock to beat Michigan in the longest game in the history of the 46-year-old tournament.
In 1982, Pearson was hired as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech. He worked under Jim Nahrgang and Herb Boxer during his six-year stay in Houghton. He was responsible for recruiting many high profile players to Tech including Randy McKay, Scott White, Damian Rhodes and Shawn Harrison.
Outside of the collegiate world, Pearson served as a coach with the 1996 United States World Junior Championship team, which earned a silver medal, the country’s best finish at the event at the time. He has also worked numerous USA Select festivals and Michigan Select festivals as head coach, evaluator and assistant coach.
Pearson and his wife, Susie, have three children-Kim (27), Sarah (24) and Paul (21).