By MICHAEL HOLZMAN, Staff Reporter
This past weekend, the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team had two crucial matchups in their quest to squeeze into nationals despite the rough start early in the season.
Friday night, the Wolverines took the ice to face No. 25 Colorado State, who was coming off an upset victory over No. 8 Adrian. There was no shortage of goals or hits, as UM-Dearborn would defeat the visiting Rams, 8-3, in an intense matchup.
“Yeah, it was definitely physical,” said Crowley. “A lot of bodies banging around there but I think we took it to them for the most part so it was definitely in our favor.”
Early in the first period it would be UM-Dearborn to draw first blood. Assisted by Jase Paciocco and Nick Crowley, Jeremy Klotz went through the 5-hole of Rams’ goalie Alex Steidler on a backhander to put the Wolverines up 1-0. Eight minutes later, Paciocco would take a shot that would trickle in behind Steidler.
With just over four minutes to go in the first, Derrick Kessler scored from the blue line on the power play, with assists by Klotz and Kyle Horn. Colorado State, however, would get on the board with a goal by Chandler Yoder.
Seven minutes into the second period, Collin Abitz would pull the Rams within one with a goal. With just under four minutes to go in the period, Klotz scored on the power play with assists by Crowley and Kessler to make it a 4-2 game.
Things really got ugly once the final period began. With under 13 minutes remaining, Mike Payne scored right in front of the net after an assist by Jimmy Marchese. Minutes later, Marchese would set up another goal, this time, one by Gino Darin on a breakaway.
With the rout pouring on, that was it for Rams’ goalie Steidler as Peter Gormley relieved him.
Colorado State’s hopes of a comeback were revived after Jamison Wicks scored on a power play to make it 6-3, but then things began to really collapse. In the last 10 minutes of the game, the Rams continued to receive penalty-after-penalty, seemingly more focused on hitting than actually playing defense.
“Yeah, [it was] one of them, the Adrian game comes to mind as well with that, the physicalness throughout the year,” first-year head coach Chris Haltinner said when asked about the physicality of the game. “Yeah, that was a pretty rough game out there at the end.”
With just under six minutes remaining, Jase Paciocco scored during a 4-on-4 and would immediately take a late hit from one of the Rams. Near the end of the game, both penalty boxes were standing room only. Wolverines’ goalie Micah Collier took a shot at the end of a play in the third period. He then got into a fight with the Rams’ player who hit him, resulting in a roughing penalty.
“I was holding his head and me and Kyle Horn were at the blue line and I was jabbing at him,” Collier said. “(Our players) were protecting me all game and so I decide to give it back a little.”
On a 5-on-3 power play in the Wolverines favor, Eric Rosteck netted an unassisted power play goal to round out the 8-3 rout.
Collier said the Wolverines were able to overcome a barrage of penalties in a physical-laden third period. “That’s a give and take. They’re kind of letting it go on both sides which is good, but when you start calling it one way, one team is getting away with more,” said Collier. “It’s kind of hard to bounce back from that. Our guys rallied good today, I’m proud of them and they worked hard and they deserve it, that’s 3 in a row and we’re 5-1 on the new year now and that’s huge.”
After a sluggish start, the streaky Wolverines won six games dating back to the start of December.
“It’s just be disciplined, and we beat a top-20 team last weekend with John Carroll. (Colorado State) was ranked 25,” said Haltinner. “We can skate with the best in the country, it’s just being disciplined, staying out of the box, and playing our game every night. (Playing) a full 60 minutes, we’ll be fine. We do that, we’ll jump back up into the rankings and we have an outside shot at nationals if we start winning out.”
“We’re finally playing a full games, full 60 minutes out there, playing as a team, working harder, so I think mostly we can keep it rolling here,” added Crowley, echoing the thoughts of his coach.
The Wolverines could not keep momentum going into Rochester Hills’ Onyx Ice Arena for a Sunday matinée as they fell 10-5 to No. 18 Oakland.
Senior captain Anthony Olson would get a goal in his return to the ice. Klotz led the way with four points (one goal, three assists). Paciocco, Marchese and Austin Wilson also scored goals.
The Wolverines host Kent State Friday and Saturday evening before rounding out their final six games against Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan.