BY ERICK LEHMAN, MANAGING EDITOR
Things have changed in one year, and I’m not talking about the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team, per say.
The Indiana Tech Warriors played their first ACHA Division-1 hockey game last season in Dearborn.
They lost that first game by a score of 9-2, and came back Saturday night giving up another nine spot, losing 9-3. The first two games in program history surrendered 18 goals to a team that looked far more superior.
The Warriors came back later that year for the Great Lakes Showcase, going 1-2 in the tournament.
Last season, they finished the year with a record of 8-26. A crowd-pleasing .235 win percentage.
But in just one year, they began to turn things around.
Just 20 games into this season, the Warriors have won four more games than they did in all of last year and sit with a record of 12-8. They’ve earned three wins over ranked opponents, including a victory over UM-Dearborn in the Great Lakes Showcase championship game Sunday night.
In what was a hard fought game, the Warriors came out on top scoring an overtime goal.
Jarrett Pfeiffer notched a game winner just three minutes into overtime, beating UM-Dearborn netminder Nate Ferris to seal the Warriors victory.
Tensions ran high, as they do in any game the Wolverines play. However, this game had a different feel to it.
The Warriors are a GLCHL member, and have defeated UM-Dearborn arch rival Oakland University once this season. They also hung around with third-ranked Adrian, only losing by one goal.
With the constant back and forth between the two teams fighting for the Showcase championship, they were also fighting to prove themselves in both the GLCHL standings, and the ACHA Division-1 rankings.
UM-Dearborn head coach Chris Haltinner played down the possibility that a new rivalry was born this weekend, stating that the two teams had not played each other enough to warrant a rivalry.
I respectfully disagree, coach.
The Wolverines were clearly not happy, and neither was head coach Chris Haltinner after losing the tournament that they host, and had won for only the first time ever last season.
Body language tells a big tale, and the body language received from the Wolverine hockey team and coaches clearly showed their unhappiness.
The next time these two teams face off will likely be a very fast, very high effort game from both teams.
From Indiana Tech’s side, they should almost use the Wolverines as a measuring stick.
UM-Dearborn is a team that has hung around the middle of the pack in the GLCHL and are nationally ranked in the Top-25 every week in the ACHA standings.
On top of that, the Wolverines struck the Warriors into college hockey reality last season in the first two games in program history.
On the Wolverines side, after last season’s mangling of the Warriors, they likely felt far more superior to the Warriors, and that this game would go much like last year did.
I understand Haltinner playing down this potential rivalry as the two teams have only met three times, and the Wolverines took two of those three in blowout fashion, but a team coming into your barn and playing spoiler to your back-to-back tournament victories could be just enough to spark up a new league rivalry, especially when they should have won the game Sunday night.
So as of right now, although coaches and players may not necessarily call this a rivalry, it will soon become one.
The Warriors travel to UM-Dearborn on Jan. 29, and the Wolverines will travel to Indiana Tech the next day.
After that series, this subject will surely be revisited, and I would expect the narrative from players and coaches to be completely different.
I presume both teams to be pinpointing each other on the schedule in the very near future.