By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
The long-awaited pretest has arrived.
But not all of the class could show up.
The University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team enters this season’s Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League tournament facing the worst reality for a team hoping to win it all: a bad case of the injury bug.
Since their six-game winning streak came to an end on Jan. 16, the Wolverines — once primed for a trip to Cleveland for the ACHA National Tournament — sputtered to season’s end thanks to nine injured players in February.
Rather than someone arms ready for awards, the Wolverines look more like a car manufacturer at the Auto Show as the prequel to its treasure looms — they’ve unveiled the next best thing, but the real prize is another year away.
And it’s a damn shame. It really is, because this team came together nicely following a spell of adversity in October.
The Wolverines surprised even myself and, although there were stretches of less-than-memorable moments, this season was one for the ages. At times, it was like the United State’s transition into the Industrial Revolution; something special, something unforetold, was brewing, and fast.
UM-Dearborn obliterated Oakland outdoors at Clark Park and won its first season series vs. the Grizzlies in program history. The Wolverines won the Great Lakes Showcase and topped Davenport on the road the first time in program history as well.
Two freshmen emerged as superstars that could carry the Wolverines to the promised land. And that’s even before the phenom was eligible to take the ice in January.
But with all the good this season brought to UM-Dearborn, what ifs will remain, and they’ll sting. Like the themes in Rascal Flatt’s mid-2000s hit, “What hurts the most.”
Here’s an excerpt from the song’s chorus. It’s a classic country love song, but feel free to replace that theme with the ACHA National Tournament.
What hurts the most was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing what could’ve been
All hope for a bid to Nationals is not lost. UM-Dearborn was ranked 20th in the nation Feb. 13, and as long as it doesn’t fall following a split vs. Eastern Michigan, the hunt remains on.
But at this point, the Wolverines would have to work wonders as a three seed in a top-heavy conference tournament.
Trying to defeat Adrian, who could very well hoist a national championship trophy in mid-March if juggernaut Arizona State departed for the NCAA a year earlier, would be like the United States vs. Soviet Union in 1980. The Bulldogs were near the top of the nation’s pack and lost four games this season, including an overtime defeat to the Wolverines in October.
UM-Dearborn’s goal before the season was to claim a big, national championship ring in Cleveland.
If the road goes through Adrian, it’ll take a miracle.
A thing the Wolverines and 1980 United States team, know all too well.