By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
Ryan Kelly had to watch the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team from behind the glass last semester.
A Biology and Philosophy double major and senior forward for the Wolverines, Kelly did not suit up for the team in the fall because he was focusing on school. He did not want to be a distraction by not being able to follow through with time commitments.
It wasn’t easy watching the team from his new digs.
“I don’t know how to describe it because I want to be there but I also know it’s really not fair for me to be there,” Kelly said. “But I wanted to support however I could, so I came to all the games I could and try to show support that way for the guys. But yeah, it’s hard to watch and not be out there and contributing in whatever way you can.”
Kelly made a return to the Wolverines at the start of the winter semester. In his final game at the Fieldhouse Sunday — the GLCHL tournament’s championship game — Kelly scored one of the biggest goals of his four-year career.
UM-Dearborn was tied with Davenport 2-2 in overtime. Kelly swooped from behind the net and pounded the puck past Davenport goalie Matt Kaludis six-and-a-half minutes into the extra period, giving the Wolverines a 3-2 win. It’s the Wolverines’ first GLCHL playoff title in program history and first conference playoff championship in 17 years.
“It’s indescribable,” Kelly said. “This is definitely my last game ever in this rink. I spent four seasons playing here — [there’s] a lot of memories. To cap it off with something like that — a big team win, first time we’ve done that in a long time — it’s a good feeling. Especially to share it with a group of guys. They’re my family.”
Kelly was an offensive machine for the Wolverines the previous two seasons. He scored a team-high 27 goals in the 2013-2014 season and finished second on the team with 46 points last year. In 11 games this season, he’s scored three goals and dished four assists.
It’s no wonder why Kelly was a welcomed addition this semester.
“He’s a good player,” UM-Dearborn head coach Chris Haltinner said. “He gets our depth just that much deeper and that’s what you need. It helps us out tremendously.”
Haltinner said Sunday’s game-winning goal was a great way to send Kelly off.
“I feel better that he’s a senior and that it was his last home game here and he scored the game-winning goal in the biggest game we’ve had at this arena,” Haltinner said. “That was huge. And that’s just a perfect last treat for him. He’s a great kid, he works extremely hard. He did a great thing tonight and he deserves it.”