By: Phillip Lutz, Sports Editor
The UM-Dearborn men’s hockey team had a historic season as they won the inaugural Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) Championship. They also fell just short of repeating as the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (GLCHL) Champion.
The hockey team has nothing to be sad over as they finished a great season. They finished with a 25-6-2 overall record, and a perfect 7-0 record in the WHAC.
The No. 8 Wolverines also made a trip to Columbus, Ohio to take part in the ACHA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship First Round. They faced the No. 9 University of Colorado-Boulder Buffs. They lost the game 7-2 but played tough and never gave up.
The team was led by coach Chris Haltinner who finished his fifth season with the Wolverines. Haltinner also had a milestone this season as he got his hundredth win.
Haltinner said ”our team was good this season. We played hard and worked hard. He went on to say “the season is long and it is a grind, but we won the first ever WHAC championship. We took another step in the right direction.”
The Wolverines were led by junior Tyler Groat who scored 30 goals and had 24 assists, racking up 54 points for the season. Groat also had 62 shots for the season. He led the team with 10 power play goals and tied for first with seven unassisted goals.
“Tyler is a great player and we are blessed to have him” Haltinner said. He went on to say “he has great players around him that make him better. When you surround a player like Tyler with great players they all get better.”
Sophomore Justin Dunn came in second, scoring 20 goals and 22 assists,and racking up 42 points for the season. Dunn also had 37 shots in 29 games for the Wolverines.
“Justin is a very hard worker and has a very high hockey IQ” Haltinner said. He went on to say “he has been with his linemates for two years and we try very hard to not break them up.”
Junior captain Kevin Bechard made his presence felt as he scored 16 goals and had 13 assists, racking up a total of 29 points on 31 shots.
The welcome addition midway through the season was freshman Billy Brock, who only played in 14 games, but put up huge numbers for the Wolverines attack. He had 10 goals and 15 assists on 20 shots. Brock racked up a whopping 25 points in such a short period of time. He’ll be one to watch next season when he plays a full season. Brock also tied Groat for first with seven unassisted goals.
The contributions from the Wolverines seniors was not to be overlooked as Andrew Palushaj scored eight goals and had 17 assists. Marcus McSweeney had a goal and 21 assists. McSweeney led the defensive effort and will be missed defending for the Wolverines.
Junior Troy Saunders by far spent the most time in the penalty box for the Wolverines in his defensive role, racking up 27 penalties and sitting out for 65 minutes this season. Saunders also was a huge addition on the defense as he cleared out the garbage in front of the net and stopped huge shots by opposing players.
The Wolverines as a team did better than their opponents this season, scoring 151 goals and 210 assists. They racked up 361 points overall, compared to 150 for their opponents in the WHAC. The Wolverines had 1093 shots while scoring 36 power play goals and had 40 unassisted goals.
The outstanding play in the net was a major factor for the success of the Wolverines this season. Junior Thomas Proudlock played the majority of the minutes between the pipes. He played in 24 games, giving up just 44 goals. Proudlock stood tall, making 647 saves for a .936 percent leading the Wolverines. Proudlock ended with a 16-4-2 record with three shootouts. Proudlock stood on his head many times this season keeping the Wolverines in games, especially in the playoffs.
“Tommy is the backbone of our team and probably our MVP” Haltinner said. He went on to say “he is phenomenal, and with a goaltender you need consistency. Tommy has that. He had at least 15 great games and he hates to lose. He comes in with a great attitude and is a fierce competitor.”
Sophomore Adam Ranck made his mark and showed he could handle the load as he played in nine games, giving up only 15 goals for a 1.91 average leading the Wolverines. Ranck made 195 saves for a .920 save percentage and recording a 5-2 record with two shootouts.
“Adam is a great addition to our team and would be a starting goalie for most of the teams in our league” Haltinner said.
The Wolverines had to say farewell to three seniors this year in Palushaj, McSweeney, and Mike Scarpello. The team is returning a very talented core of players and adding in freshman like Brock, and John Ames who already have seen vital in game experience.
The sky’s the limit next season as the Wolverines defend their WHAC title and make their case to go to nationals.
“Next season we will be moving to the NAIA instead of the ACHA with a deeper team and upperclassmen who should take on more of a leadership role with all they have accomplished the past few seasons” Haltinner said. He went on to say “it will be a lot on us to carry over to have great success next season. We will need to be prepared and hold ourselves accountable to work harder.”
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