Oakland University club hockey goalie Ian Dvorak gets some work in at a recent practice. After struggling in recent seasons, Oakland is attempting to get the program back to a championship level.

Oakland University club hockey goalie Ian Dvorak gets some work in at a recent practice. After struggling in recent seasons, Oakland is attempting to get the program back to a championship level.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland University club hockey has youth and talent on roster

By: Mark Vest | Rochester Post | Published January 12, 2018

ROCHESTER — Over the past few seasons, there have been times when Oakland University club hockey coach Colin Ronayne said it was tough to go to the rink for a practice in February.

Sometimes reality can be harsh, and Ronayne understood that there wasn’t going to be any American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship tournament berths for the Golden Grizzlies.

Oakland’s history includes winning three ACHA national titles, with two coming at the Division II level, and the other after the program made the switch to D-I.

Things haven’t gone nearly as well recently. The Golden Grizzlies have failed to qualify for the national championships the past three seasons. 

After previously playing for the team and serving as an assistant, Ronayne is in his second season leading Oakland, and getting the program back to its winning ways is a high priority.

“That’s been my No. 1 goal and my thought process since I took over,” Ronayne said. “Playing for the program for four years, I was a captain my senior year. I was pretty well-invested in the program while I was there. To see the tough times it fell on, it was tough. … It’s important that we have success now; that way, we’re setting ourselves up to get some of the higher-end players.”

Ronayne said Oakland had “quite the turnover” after last season, as the program only returned six players. Although this year’s roster is a youthful one, Oakland already has more wins than all of last season and the one prior. At press time, the club was 12-9-1 overall.

“Overall, we’ve got a lot more talent than we have had the past few seasons,” Ronayne said. “I think it’s important for us, trying to find some more depth. That’s what we’re looking for right now. Hopefully, the guys at the bottom of the lineup can start to show out and develop a little bit more into the pieces that you need to contend for national championships.”

Goalie Ian Dvorak has enjoyed being a part of this year’s roster.

“Season’s been great,” Dvorak said. “Last year was my first year. … This has been a completely different team.”

Senior captain Joe Pizzimenti said the new recruiting class that Ronayne and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Matthew Kendziuk brought in has been great. And although Pizzimenti is in his final season as a player, he would like to be a part of bringing in more talent for the program in the future.

“I’d love to help recruit,” Pizzimenti said. “I would love to be a part of that, to help bring in some youth and see it grow. If we can get two more years of recruiting like we did last year, this Oakland team will be a top team in the league for years to come and make the program even better than it already is.”

One of Oakland’s talented young players is Chase Sereno, who is in his first season with the program and was the team’s leading point-scorer after the first 22 games.

“I think we have (a) lot of good talent,” Sereno said. “I think that in the next few years, winning a championship would make everything that much more special for me, the team and the university.”

The improvement the program has made hasn’t escaped the attention of general manager Corey Hagood.

“The program is making progress under the leadership of Coach Ronayne,” Hagood wrote via email. “Our program has (a) real opportunity for recruits in our next class to make a big impact and be a part of something special.”

In the future, the possibility exists that Oakland could be competing for championships at the NCAA level. According to the university’s athletic site last October, Oakland was one of five D-I schools in the nation to be selected by the NHL and the National Hockey Players Association to evaluate the possibility of adding hockey as a varsity sport.

Ronayne said if that does happen, it would be great for the area, but that decision won’t be his to make. What he can control is how Oakland fares at the ACHA level, and from his perspective, the program’s future can be a bright one.

“I think if we can be consistent the rest of the way, we’re (going to) be a force to be reckoned with,” Ronayne said. “I think we’re well on our way to pumping the tradition back up for OU.”


Meet the Golden Grizzlies

Local athletes litter the roster for the Oakland University men’s club hockey team. Here’s a look at the squad and each player’s hometown.

 

Alex Moustakis, Eagle River (Wisconsin)

Cole Helgemo, Commerce Township

Luke Mackin, Warren

Brandon Orth, Flint

Sean Erni, Macomb Township

Benjamin Grudzien, White Lake

Eric Keljo, White Lake

Kyle Nikles, Memphis

Lukas Voglrieder, Fowlerville

Keegan Nolan, Shelby Township

Greg Meuser, Winchester (Virginia)

Gino Mini, Richmond

Joe Pizzimenti, Washington Township

Chandler Gillespie, Bloomfield Hills

Chase Sereno, Waterford

Nate Richards, Flint

Tyler Simon, Ferndale

Christopher Hubbard, Rochester Hills

Luke Novack, Oxford

Tommy Grassano, Bronx (New York)

Ian Dvorak, Rochester Hills

Daniel Trionfo, Towaco (New Jersey)

Spencer Stark, Grand Blanc