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October 2, 2013

Oakland University hockey has national championship ambitions

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Oakland University hockey has national championship ambitions
Players from Oakland University’s hockey team are pictured during a recent practice. Oakland has won three American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national championships over the course of its history.
Meet the Grizzlies

Here are the positions and hometowns of the players who make up Oakland University’s roster. Players from our local communities are in bold.

Corey Hrischuk,  Goalie,  Oxford

David Merkle,  Forward,  White Lake

Austin Accettura,  Defenseman, Novi

Ryan Rotondi,  Forward,  Port Huron

Will Shier,  Defenseman, Sterling Heights

Mike Baker,  Defenseman, Durand

Mike MacKinnon,  Forward,  Troy

Cody Farber,  Defenseman, West Bloomfield

Anthony Colizza,  Forward,  Sault Ste. Marie

Billy Balent,  Forward,  Waterford

Ian Jacobs,  Defenseman Chatham, (Ontario)

Zack Tuchklaper,  Forward,  Walled Lake

James Odom,  Forward,  Saginaw

Patrick Smiatacz,  Forward,  Plymouth

Frank Matyok,  Forward,  Clinton Township

Art Dore,   Forward,  Bay City

Drew Parus  Forward  Clinton Township

Nik Rogers,  Defenseman, Cranbrook (British Columbia)

Matt Stirling,  Forward,  Dexter

Corson Johnstone,  Defenseman, Cranbrook (British Columbia)

Alex Frere,  Forward,  Novi

Tommy Kilgore,  Forward,  Pinckney

Doug Andrews,  Forward,  Macomb

Drew Galasso,  Goalie,  Lake Orion

Anthony Munoz,  Goalie,  Flint

Bill Kocher,  Forward,  Waterford

John Baker,  Defenseman, Waterford

Since its inaugural season in 1999-00, the club hockey team from Oakland University has won three national championships.

The Grizzlies captured two of those titles while playing Division II hockey, and after making the switch to Division I, became the first team to win an American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national title the year after moving up to D-I, winning the national championship in 2007.

In fact, over the last 10 years, Oakland Director of Player Personnel Corey Hagood said there has only been one season in which the program has not qualified for the national tournament.

Hagood, who is in his ninth season with the program, thinks that a tradition has now been established for Oakland hockey.

“We’re a respected team around the league,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there, a lot of tradition. Our coaches teach the players, ‘Play with class.’ Same thing when you’re in the community doing whatever you might be doing, whether it’s going to the grocery store with your OU gear on, going to the movies — conduct yourself responsibly. They take that very seriously — representing the university in a positive way.”

Given all the accomplishments that have been enjoyed since forming more than a decade ago, it may not be hard to understand why Hagood considers Oakland’s hockey program to be in a good state. Aside from all the trips to the national tournament, other highlights include defeating teams from Penn State University, the University of Oklahoma and Arizona State University.

One of the reasons Hagood thinks Oakland’s program has grown over the years is a heightened intensity when it comes to recruiting. A couple of players who have come through Oakland’s program in recent years are Todd Orlando, who received a National Hockey League tryout with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Dustin Hopfner, who signed a professional contract to play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).

Hagood would like Oakland to continue to attract talented players, as he hopes the Grizzlies’ future looks even brighter. Hagood expressed confidence in the stability of Oakland’s hockey program as it moves forward.

“The foundation’s been laid,” he said. “Lot of people know about us; lot of people in hockey know about us. When you look around at some of the other leagues, whether it be the NHL or different leagues, such as the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), there are people there who are aware of the program.”

With a successful past having already been established, coach Gordie Schaeffler, in his first year at the helm after being an assistant for eight seasons, hopes to keep moving forward. He would like to give “Grizzly nation” plenty more to cheer about this season.

“Our primary goal doesn’t change year to year — that’s to win our last game of the year and be national champions,” he said. “That’s always the end goal. Biggest thing is improve throughout the year and work our way into being in that top 10, top 5, and put ourselves in a good position going into (the) national tournament.”

Senior David Merkle would like to see more students and alumni take notice of what is happening.

“It’s extremely important for us to get recognition around school,” he said. “That’s probably our biggest thing right now, trying to make more of a name for ourselves and get more recognition — with the student body and also with the school. A lot of these teams we play, their funding is much better. It’s huge for us, in the present and future, to try to get more recognition around campus.”

Oakland’s hockey program receives support through fundraisers and contributions from businesses, which, according to Hagood, can be used as a credit due to the program’s non-profit status.

At press time, Oakland was 2-0. The Grizzlies are next scheduled to be in action at 8:20 p.m. Oct. 4 in a home contest at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena in Rochester Hills against UM-Dearborn.

To learn more about the Grizzlies’ hockey team, visit oaklandhockey.org.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.