(Sabrina Gregory/MJ)

By ERICK LEHMAN, Staff Writer

The University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team ended last season on a sour note. The Wolverines were thrashed by Central Oklahoma in their second game of the ACHA National Tournament.

This year, the Wolverines look to build off of what was an overall successful season.

With every key player from last year returning, the Wolverines should have no problem matching what they did last year. That includes qualifying for the national tournament and winning the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League Tournament, which they hosted last year.

The Wolverines will return ACHA All-American Tyler Groat, who missed most of the second half of last season with an undisclosed injury. The Wolverines also return defensemen Ryan Urso, Marcus McSweeney and Troy Saunders, along with forwards Jeff McFarland, Nic LaBurn, Kevin Bechard, Gino Darin, Tyler Dalton, John Barlow, Andrew Palushaj and Andrew Spiegel.

The Wolverines also welcome back junior goaltender Nate Ferris,

All the players returning did not stop head coach Chris Haltinner from adding a few freshman to the roster this year. Haltinner added forwards Andy Carreras, Christian Ramage and Justin Dunn, who scored three goals in the first series this season.

Haltinner also added defensemen Ben McPartlin and Kyle Schnettler. Schnettler is a player Haltinner noted to watch this season.

The Wolverines have an extremely tough schedule ahead of them. The first five series are against ranked opponents, but Haltinner is prepared for the challenge and ready for his team to be prepared each night.

“Our schedule is hard. Every team that comes in here is a national contender. Every night we need to be our best,” Haltinner said. “The success will come if we take care of stuff, and prepare.”

Haltinner expects the returning players to continue to improve and lead his team, but also expects the newcomers to make an impact this season.

The Wolverines are light on defense, as the roster only lists six. The first series saw the Wolverines only dress three defensemen and play forward Kevin Bechard back on the blueline, a position he played last year as well.

The Wolverines are also without a full team to begin the year as McFarland, Saunders and LaBurn all must sit the first four games due to penalties taken during the national tournament last season.