By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
Tyler Groat is just a freshman. And after Friday night’s home opener at the Fieldhouse ice rink, he might have become the most popular freshman on campus.
Groat’s third-period heroics captured the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team’s fifth win of the season — an important 4-3 victory over rival Oakland University, with Friday being the first of a four-game season series.
“It was great obviously to get a win, in front of a nice big crowd like that, the students were great,” Groat said. “And personally having a good game just adds to the top of that.”
After two periods of play, each team found the back of the net only once. Physical play and penalties dominated the first two periods with the two teams combining for 14 penalties in the first 40 minutes of the game.
Just under a minute and a half into the third period, Oakland took a roughing penalty that brought out the Wolverines power play.
That’s when the Groat show began.
After receiving a pass, he made his way past two defenders and ripped a shot over the goalie, hitting the open net to give his team a one-goal lead.
Teammate Tyler Dalton called it a type of play that “a special player makes.”
Just 95 seconds later, Groat would redirect a shot fired by Ryan Urso into the back of the net, extending the lead to two. Urso contributed with two assists on the night.
Unfortunately for Oakland, Groat wasn’t done.
With 6:15 remaining in the third period, Groat completed the hat-trick on what would ultimately be the game-winning goal.
Oakland would score twice before the game ended, including their last one with just 37 seconds left, giving the Wolverines a bit of a scare.
“They just kept firing. Just one more shot and it’s a tie game,” UM-Dearborn head coach Chris Haltinner said. “We got out of there lucky to get the two points, and not get scored on at the end, they brought it, you can’t stop playing.”
Andrew Palushaj recorded a goal and an assist, while Marcus McSweeney attributed an assist.
With the home opener coming against the Wolverines’ biggest rival, they were expecting an intense game.
“It was fast, it was physical, it was everything that we thought it would be, a little bit chippy and that’s what we expected,” Dalton said. “We expected a lot of guys to go out there and get a couple of bumps and bruises, I know I got a couple.”
The underclassmen have been impressive early on in the season and did not disappoint in their first showing in front of the home crowd.
“They did good I’m pleased with them, obviously there is always room for improvement,” Haltinner said. “They worked hard and I’m happy with them. They’re really pushing, they’ve bought into the system and it’s good we have a great group of guys here.”
Even though he is one of the younger guys on the team, Groat isn’t afraid of the spotlight. He said he enjoys the pressure and is ready to accept the role of being a leader on the team.
“I’m expected to be one of the guys to do that role, the games on the line you got to go out there and perform,” he said. “Tonight I was able to do it, some nights it might be someone else but we just feed off of each other.”