By ERICK LEHMAN, Managing Editor
Head coach Chris Haltinner can check yet another goal off of his list after this weekend.
His Wolverines played three consecutive tough matchups in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League playoffs and came away with wins in all three games, capturing the team’s first league playoff championship since the 1998-99 season.
The Wolverines capped the weekend tournament off with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against top-seed Davenport, who finished ranked fifth in the nation in the final ACHA ranking.
Senior Ryan Kelly scored six-and-a-half minutes into the overtime period to give the Wolverines the win. It was Kelly’s final game in the Fieldhouse, as he is one of only two seniors on the roster, and he could not have gone out on a better note.
“It was awesome,” Kelly said.
Kelly did not play in the first half of the season due to focusing on school, making this moment even more bittersweet for the senior.
“It’s indescribable,” Kelly said. “It’s a great feeling; it’s a family feeling.”
The Wolverines jumped out to a lead in the first period over Davenport after Gino Darin scored, and midway through the second period Andrew Palushaj scored to give the Wolverines a two-goal lead.
That would not stand for long though. Just seconds after Palushaj’s goal, the Panthers got within one point, and later in the period tied the game.
A scoreless third period led to overtime, where Kelly pounded away the loose puck to seal the victory.
UM-Dearborn could not have made it far in the tournament with their anchor in net, Nate Ferris. Ferris was named tournament MVP and led the Wolverines on Saturday night in the semifinals against Adrian College.
In the Adrian game, Ferris stopped 48 of 49 shots to lead the team to a 2-1 victory over their league rivals.
Ferris also came in for Thomas Proudlock in relief Friday night after two quick goals in the first period. Ferris played roughly 170 of a possible 180 minutes in the tournament, and only allowed six goals in that time.
“He’s a great goalie. He’s first class,” Haltinner said of Ferris. “You need your goalie to play great at this time [in the season] and he’s done it.”
“I think this just shows if we play a full 60 minutes, we can hang with the best.”
The Wolverines defeated Indiana Tech 8-5 on Friday night in the quarterfinals.
The Warriors had been a thorn in the Wolverines’ side for this entire season, and a high-scoring victory Friday night gave the Wolverines momentum as they headed into the semifinals.
For the tournament, Gino Darin led the Wolverines with three goals and three assists. Palushaj added two goals.
Nic Laburn scored two goals and one assist. Kevin Bechard also had two goals and added two assists. Jeff McFarland added one goal and three assists in the three game tournament. John Barlow and Kelly also each had a goal for the weekend.
Captain Ryan Urso added two assists.