BY ERICK LEHMAN, MANAGING EDITOR
The wacky not-so-Michigan-like weather this winter finally caught up with the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team.
The Wolverines were slated to face off against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies for the third consecutive year at Clark Park in Detroit.
And much like the previous two scheduled meetings, the game was canceled, this time due to inclement weather, like last year. The temperatures reached as high as 50 degrees on Saturday, and rain was in the forecast, so the teams decided to cancel the game.
“It’s unfortunate, but we aren’t going to play a game that will jeopardize us winning,” head coach Chris Haltinner told Michigan Journal sports editor Jeramy Stover after Friday night’s win.
Two years ago the game was also canceled due to high temperatures, as was last season’s game. However, last year the game was pushed back a day, and the Wolverines and Grizzlies met on a blistery cold, snowy evening.
With a team consisting of 11 freshman, the Wolverines had a bevy of players who have not participated in a competitive outdoor game.
“It’s pretty disappointing, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” freshman forward Tyler Dalton told Stover Friday night. “There’s a couple things you look forward to in the season, like that you definitely mark down on your calendar, and this is one of them so it’s pretty sad to hear the news.”
The Wolverines were also preparing to unveil new uniforms for the game as well, much like they did in last season’s Clark Park Classic, which led to a little bit more disappointment from the players.
“Everyone was real excited that it was outside. We have the new jerseys. It was pretty disappointing when coach Chris told us it was going to be canceled,” Tyler Groat said.
However, with the disappointing determination of canceling the game, the Wolverines are able to take an extra day of rest to prepare for their upcoming showdown next weekend.
The Wolverines will play a home-and-home series against the Adrian College Bulldogs.
Adrian has been a national powerhouse and perennial Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League winner the past few years.
The Wolverines are vying for a spot in the ACHA Division-1 national tournament this year, and have Adrian standing in their way.
“We’ll be good. If we stay healthy (and) work hard, we should be fine,” Haltinner said. “They got a good team down there… just excited to see what’s going to happen.”
The most recent ACHA Division-1 rankings came out on Dec. 16, and the Bulldogs were ranked sixth in the nation at that point, while the Wolverines were at number 13.
A win or a sweep from the Wolverines could catapult them into the top ten in the nation heading down the stretch, and they could find themselves playing in Chicago for the national championship, but beating Adrian is a tough task.
“It’ll be a big test; they’re a real good team. We got to come out and prove ourselves,” Groat said. “We got to come out hard and can’t take them lightly because they’ll hurt us if we do.”
The Bulldogs have a current record of 15-2-1, have the sixth highest point scorer in the nation and have a very talented goalie tandem with two goalies with a goals against average of 2.20 or less.
The task at hand for the Wolverines is difficult, but they have the talent and depth offensively to steal two games from the Bulldogs.
“We’re going to give them a good game; it’s going to be a solid weekend overall,” Wolverine captain Ryan Urso said when asked about the showdown with Adrian.
Coach Haltinner did not want to say much about the upcoming series and what a sweep would mean for his Wolverines, simply telling Stover that “a sweep against Adrian would be nice.”
A sweep would be much more than nice for the Wolverines — it could be season-turning and provide momentum going into the final stretch of the season.
It goes without saying that this is the most important weekend of the season for the Wolverines to this point, and it is going to be two very entertaining and action-packed hockey games.