(Amber Ainsworth/MJ)

By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief

Ricky Lindsay headshotTyler Groat didn’t have much to say after his Fieldhouse debut Friday.

But that’s OK; his play did all the talking.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team was tied 1-1 with Oakland after two periods of play and needed a boost. It was just their seventh game of the season, the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League opener, but if there was ever a game they needed to win, it was this one.

The Wolverines needed to prove that last year’s season-series thrashing of Oakland wasn’t a fluke.

Groat, a confident freshman from Wyandotte, filled the hero role for UM-Dearborn. He scored three goals — all in the third period — to pace the Wolverines’ 4-3 home-opening win. The goal that sealed his hat trick was the eventual game-winner.

“Anytime you pop one, it puts a little confidence in you,” Groat said. “You get that second one, you feel you just have to get it to the net because you feel like it’s your night. If you get a good look, you don’t want to pass it up… When you’re hot, you’re hot sometimes.”

On a power play early in the third period, Groat split two defenders and ripped the puck over the goalie for his first goal of the game. It gave UM-Dearborn the lead, it’s first of the game.

“That’s the type of play a special player makes,” teammate Tyler Dalton said.

The shots began finding the back of the net afterwards.

Groat added another goal — a redirection in front of the net — 95 seconds later. He capped off the hat trick with 6:15 remaining.

Junior forward Gino Darin flicked the hat trick puck to head coach Chris Haltinner after Groat briefly celebrated the goal with teammates.

“He’s one of our top guys and we’re blessed to have him,” Haltinner said of Groat.

His teammates were elated over Groat’s performance Friday.

“He’s got his whole school here, all the Greek Life, and some freshman from around this area puts in a hat trick in his first home game. That’s something special; that’s really cool,” Dalton said. “I haven’t talked to him too much. I gave him a pat on the butt and said, ‘Hey man, I guess you’re pretty good.’ He ought to feel great. I feel good for him.”

Groat didn’t have much time to celebrate his hat trick. That’s because UM-Dearborn had to take care of business Saturday in the series finale at Oakland.

And the Wolverines did just that. Groat shined again, leading the way with his second-consecutive hat trick in a 6-0 thrashing. As of Sunday, Groat leads the ACHA in goals scored with 11.

Groat’s Fieldhouse debut will be one to remember. A freshman playing in his first home game downs a rival with third period hat trick; that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. But he’s the latest example of UM-Dearborn’s new breed of on-ice product: junior league talents who come in, ready to compete from day one.

“(Groat’s) something else,” Dalton said. “That guy has played at a really high level his whole life and I think it shows with his puck possession. In practice, he does stuff and we’re just kind of looking around like, ‘Did everybody see that?’ It’s kind of nuts.”