By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey head coach Chris Haltinner had his interim tag removed on Wednesday, according to the University’s athletics website. The decision was made by Dr. Ann Lampkin-Williams, interim Director of Athletics.
“It’s nice to kind of have some breathing room,” Haltinner said of the decision. “I can really go out and recruit and that’s what I’ve done.”
Haltinner took over the Wolverines on an interim basis after head coach Bobby Clouston stepped down prior to his third season at the helm. Since the 2009-2010 season, Haltinner has been a fixture on UM-Dearborn’s bench. Originally a member of former coach Dave Debol’s staff, he served as an assistant coach for four seasons.
In his first season as head coach, Haltinner’s Wolverines finished with a 20-22 record. A strong finish and wins over powerhouses Adrian College, Oakland University, and Davenport University highlighted the season. UM-Dearborn’s 11-6 record from the start of December to the end of the regular season helped the team make the GLCHL Playoffs. A blowout win over rival Eastern Michigan in the opening round marked the program’s first playoff win since the 2011-2012 season.
Even after coming off a moderately successful season, Haltinner guarantees next year’s Wolverines won’t resemble the Wolves of yesteryear.
“You’re going to see a completely different team next year. The team that we have now, it’s not going to be the team of this next season,” Haltinner said. “We’re gonna have a team that is going to be expected to win and win big. The games against Adrian where we go in and just hope to get one [win], I want to get a sweep.
“We’re trying to win a national championship here and to do that, you have to bring in the right staff and right players. I feel with the players we have coming in — we’ve signed a lot more since we last talked — but we’re just getting better and better, deeper and deeper.
Haltinner has already plucked several signees from junior league teams, including Austin Stevens and Lucas Hart (Powassan Eagles), Donnie Nagle (Toledo Cherokee), Jeff McFarland (Springfield Jr. Blues), and Collin Flynn. Competition is expected as he enters his second season as head coach.
“We’re going to have kids, who in practices and in games, are going to be fighting for ice time, so there’s not going to be a day off here,” Haltinner said.
A 12-win season welcomed Haltinner at the beginning of his career at UM-Dearborn. A pair of 15-win seasons followed before two straight 20-win campaigns.
Leading the Wolverines to a national championship caliber, though, will require rebuilding the program from the bottom — something Haltinner quickly addressed on the recruiting trail. His rebranding takes a business approach, holding players to much higher standards.
“It’s going to be treated like an NCAA Division-I program and that’s how we’re running it,” Haltinner said. “We’re going to be very disciplined and if players don’t like it, they can go. I’m not playing for feelings, I play for wins. That’s why I’m here and if you want to play for feelings, go play in your local men’s league team.
“This is a serious business for me. It’s a job and I’m passionate about it. I want to be here for the kids who want to win and have that same passion and drive.”
Staff reporter Michael Holzman contributed to this article.